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Thread: What aspects of the guitar influence in it's overall sound the most?

  1. #1

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    What aspects of the guitar influence in it's overall sound the most?

    After going through the 10th anni JP speculation thread and comparing Music Man JPs with Ibanez JPMs I caught myself thinking too much about this...

    I've been playing for maybe 10 years now... And have had a guitar for about 15, and I've yet to figure out how much each attribute of the instrument actually affects it's overall sound, and how.

    Everytime I make comparisons and start extracting sketches of conclusions I'll find a situation that will contradict what I already have, and I'm back to ground zero.

    Is it the wood combinations? The way/direction the wood is sculpted? The body shape? Neck shape/radius? Bridge choice? Nut? Weight of the instrument? Balance? Finish? Scale? String guage? Pickups?...

    What I have noticed with certain consistency is that different brands sound real different from each other. That is to be expected obviously, but a name alone can't be responsible for the distinction in sound. Something along the way of the production line does the trick, what is it?

    What I mean is... A brand (and I'm talking about decent ones, with personality, not those ripoff ones) will have it's signature sound even on different models, some of them quite different spec-wise...

    Take a regular JP and compare it with a BFR. They sound a bit different but it isn't significant enough as one would expect from totally different woods, changes in body shape, finish, and whatnot... The 'soul' of the sound is essencially the same.

    When pickups are swapped on a guitar I feel a similar experience. You get more/less gain, changes in the EQ , scoop here, boost there and that's it...
    Nothing that you couldn't compensate for in amp setting IMO.

    To make an analogy with HSV color principles... It's almost as if all these changes affected Value or at max, Saturation, but never Hue.

    Let's look at it from another perspective now...
    Instead of changing up specs within a same brand, let's look at different brands making similarly speced instruments...

    When comparing MM JPs and Ibanez JPs (just to be clear, I love both), they are pretty similar spec wise. Basswood body, bolt on neck, rosewood board, dimarzio pickups (based on Steve's Special and Air Norton), position of knobs, pickup selection options. Granted, there are some differences, bridge, locking system, so on... But still, some of these differences are minor compared to how the BFR changed the original JP (atleast my uneducated opinion would think so).

    The difference in sound between these instruments is MAJOR though (IMO also). It's hard to describe, but there's this 'spongy twang' (for lack of a better term) to the JPMs that isnt present on the MMs.

    Similarly, if you hear the different PRS models you could still tell they're PRSs...

    I know it's an art to build an instrument, but there has got to be one or two magic ingredients to each misterious signature sound.

    Hope I'm making some sense exposing what I was daydreaming about. Excuse any of my communication flaws, it's hard to describe what I'm hearing/feeling, plus English isn't my first language anyway.

    I'll let you guys take it from here... Share your opinions and insights.
    Thiago Campos [Guitarist @ Bad Salad and 'VRA! / Split-Screen Covers']
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  2. #2

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    Thiago, your grammar is better than that of most Americans!

    I'm interested to hear BP's take on this topic
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  3. #3

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    I actually think the JPM and the JP6 sound pretty alike. The JPM has, in my memory, a bit more of a mid-dip. It also has the best neck Ibanez ever made imho.

    I also think it's mostly down to magnets, wires and neck construction. All the rest probably mostly nuances.

    Then again, as Pete said above, I'm also really interested in what BP has to offer on the subject.
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  4. #4

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    Brother, the bad news is: I've been playing electric guitars for more than 25 years now, yet still I wonder about all those factors you were mentioning

    But in the end, there's one point, that guitar players need to accept (at least, that's my perspective): All guitars that are to the greatest part made of wood will always have deviances in sound, even if they are composed of the "same" components. Wood is a living thing that, even if cut by robots, covered with paint and attached to a standard electronic setup, will always add a unique sonic quality in each individual guitar....so there will be always a difference between two guitars which are obviously the same.

    Moreover, we better accept that it is ALL compenents of an electric guitar that determine the sound. That's why the search of all of us never ends...the quest for the one sound, we like the most or feel the best with.

    That's my 12 cents, and I better stop before getting to philosophical about it
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by sixtyfour View Post
    I also think the "sum is greater than the parts" deal is true for great electrics.

    Don't forget the most important part: the player. I've been lucky to have seen Eric Johnson a few times and it's eye-opening to hear his tech run thru soundcheck and play some chords and licks and it sounds totally average and even thin and toneless with too many effects...until EJ grabs the same guitar a few minutes later. Unbelievable player...
    Yup, EJ is simply amazing. I remember Vai and Satriani, after G3, saying something like "when EJ started playing it sounded like something out of another dimension, some sort of warpzone"

    Saw Eddie sounding like Eddie on a les paul, and me sounding like crap on a BFR JP6. All in the fingers
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  6. #6

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    Thank you for your input so far.

    But before this becomes a regular 'tone in the fingers' type thread every guitar related forum has from time to time let me clarify a bit more what I tried to say on my first post.

    I'm focusing on the SOUND of the instrument, and not the TONE resulting from PLAYER + INSTRUMENT.

    I know it's hard to separate player and instrument, but what better place to attempt this discussion than a guitar company's forum?

    Try to understand SOUND (defined here for the purpose of this thread) as that particular flavour on the instrument that persists even when played by another person.

    I have to disagree about JP and JPM sounding similar... Okay, they primarily cover the same tonal grounds, and serve well for the music they were used on... But being the perfectionist I am, paying attention to the slightest nuances in sound (even more so after I got into mixing) I notice quite a difference in sound between both guitars. And it's not the type of difference you can make up for with amp settings or an EQ pedal.

    Pete: Thank you for humoring me, with my English skills.
    Thiago Campos [Guitarist @ Bad Salad and 'VRA! / Split-Screen Covers']
    http://www.youtube.com/ThiagoCamposOfficial
    http://www.facebook.com/ThiagoCamposOfficial

  7. #7

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    Thiago, I think a large reason for the difference in sound between a JPM and a JP6 is the lack of a Floyd Rose-style trem.
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  8. #8

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    I have heard in my guitar circles, and from a few builders the neck plays alot more than people realize in the tone game. Painted, raw, type of wood all make a difference. I can see how it could because the majority of the string is over the wood of the neck and resonates off it as well. I have watched a guy with a Les Paul play it, sand all the finish off it and just oil it and it seemed to my ears it changed the sound of it. Plus I love the feel of a raw neck, such as my Silo special, ad the birdseye EBMM use. So smooth and amazing to me. Then again you have the obvious electronics, strings to the slightest degree too.

    Thats my input!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enc3f4L0 View Post
    When comparing MM JPs and Ibanez JPs (just to be clear, I love both), they are pretty similar spec wise. Basswood body, bolt on neck, rosewood board, dimarzio pickups (based on Steve's Special and Air Norton), position of knobs, pickup selection options. Granted, there are some differences, bridge, locking system, so on... But still, some of these differences are minor compared to how the BFR changed the original JP (atleast my uneducated opinion would think so).

    The difference in sound between these instruments is MAJOR though (IMO also). It's hard to describe, but there's this 'spongy twang' (for lack of a better term) to the JPMs that isnt present on the MMs.
    That, I think has got mroe to do with the overall size than anything. The RG shape is bigger than the JP6, and the guitar's length matters.

    In physics, this results in a longer wavelength of the resonant frequency of the guitar, which i THINK results in a slightly deeper (not lower) timbre of tone. (In the same way, a sonic wave that has the same wavelength as your body height can make YOU sick if it's directed at you).

    The same differences can be heard/felt in a SSS Silo Spec vs a Strat comparison. Same tonal differences. And the common denominator? The guitar size.

    I think that EBMMs, being smaller in size, tend to have a tighter natural tone than most other guitars in the industry.

    P.S. I used to have a JPM and stupidly sold it. I know what you mean about them sounding different. And I agree.
    Last edited by whitestrat; 12-02-2009 at 12:27 AM.
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  10. #10

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    Everything you've mentioned contributes to the overall sound of a guitar. But to me, there is no question that the no. 1 influence on a guitar's sound will be pickups. After that...I'm not sure.
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  11. #11

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    If i remember correctly a luthier told me
    he said that the Neck plays a very important role on this one rather than the body itself..

    @Thiago,
    dude, Pete is right, your english is outstanding hahahaha (LOL)
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    lets wait for BP
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  12. #12

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    Interesting.....

    Hard to say really. Body woods and pups being the same. The neck is a part of it I suppose.

    My only guess would be this....where the strings actually touch. That would be the bridge, nut and tuning keys. Those points can change the "soul" of the guitar IMO.

    The only thing I can think of besides the leprechauns and magic dust they sprinkle in there....j/k....love all my EBMM workers!
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  13. #13

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    The tech spec is just the basic palette of the guitar sound. Equally if not more important is the person standing behind the guitar and the techniques, approach, feel, they use while playing.

    You could say the same re effects plus amps used and the settings on these- they all influence the final sound.

    My own test is to just take the guitar straightout the box as it were all guitar controls full on (vol/tone) into an amp with flat settings (no fx etc)

    Is the basic sound "rich" i.e. full and musical? (for all pickups selection modes)

  14. #14

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    I mean this in the nicest possible, most fun, complimentary way...

    If you scan this thread really quickly it seems like a bunch of young kids sitting around wondering where babies come from - lots of different ideas, lots of imagination and lots of confidence in the ideas. Really interesting! FWIW, here's my baby theory too...

    From largest to smallest effect, I think pickups - body wood - neck wood - bridge - fretboard wood - tone pots and cap values - everything else.

    In solid body electric guitars I'm not sure body 'shape' has a significant effect.
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  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enc3f4L0 View Post
    I have to disagree about JP and JPM sounding similar... Okay, they primarily cover the same tonal grounds, and serve well for the music they were used on... But being the perfectionist I am, paying attention to the slightest nuances in sound (even more so after I got into mixing) I notice quite a difference in sound between both guitars. And it's not the type of difference you can make up for with amp settings or an EQ pedal.

    I agree totally, i don't think the JP and the JM sound similar at all. Used to play a JM, and it doesn't have that little bite in the midrange that all EBMM guitars seem to possess. This is most noticeable in JP and Axis and Axis SS model, they seem to have a midrange cut that's not something you can EQ or dial in with amp settings.
    Like you said, it's hard to verbalize sounds in words, but I totally understand where you're coming from. Great insight, Thiago.

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