Alder vs Basswood - Jemsite
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2010, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
 
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Alder vs Basswood

I was surprised to learn that Evo and the Jem7V are made of alder instead of basswood. Has Vai ever mentioned why he made the switch back in the early 90's?

I'm also curious why the Jem7v uses rosewood for the fingerboard instead of ebony like Evo. Trying to keep the cost down?
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2010, 06:21 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

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Originally Posted by SColfax View Post
I was surprised to learn that Evo and the Jem7V are made of alder instead of basswood.
Why are you surprised?
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2010, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

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Originally Posted by toneboy View Post
Why are you surprised?
I incorrectly assumed that a Jem was just an RG with different pickups and cosmetics.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2010, 09:55 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

Evo currently has a different neck than the one it had when it was first provided to Vai. Evo has gone through at least three different necks, I think. The current neck has a rosewood fretboard. The change to rosewood from ebony was made in 2004 to the production 7vwh to match the change on Evo. Check out the stickied thread "2004 JEM7VWH Spec change" for more info.

No idea why he made the switch. Ibanez will work with an artist and try out different configurations for their signature model. Ebony and alder were a departure, maybe something about that combination on that specific guitar (Evo) spoke to him. He has said things to this effect in the past. The combination that spoke to him ended up being what was in the production model.

Evo:

http://vai.com/Machines/guitarpages/EVO/EVO_index.html

Last edited by RedTiger; 03-14-2010 at 10:05 PM.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 03:11 AM
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

Vai did extensive a/b testing in the early 90s to find "his" sound, different body woods, different pickups, different mountings all sorts of things.

That testing resulted in Evo.

i seem to recall it was nicely written up in Guitar World September 1993.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 05:58 AM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

Well you can hear a big difference in attack and how agressive the guitar sounds, compared to basswood.
I like both woods, they all have their place... Also one guitar is never enough hehe
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 11:44 AM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

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Originally Posted by Tank View Post
Well you can hear a big difference in attack and how agressive the guitar sounds, compared to basswood.
I like both woods, they all have their place... Also one guitar is never enough hehe
I find basswood cuts slightly better and isn't as bright. It's got a slightly choppier sound.
I used to dwell on woods loads, one day it just clicked. I stopped looking at the spec sheets of guitars and just plugged them in and if I liked it I liked it.
I never liked basswood, then bought a guitar not knowing what wood it is. Guitar becamse my favourite, found out I was basswood and I realised I was being stupid, lol.

As far as vai is concerned, he does less of that choppy, edgy stuff, and more of the long sustained, chordy stuff these days, Alder makes sense.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 11:53 AM
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

I like both woods- and I believe the difference is more pronounced with single-coil pickups.

Steve makes a profound statement on the new DVD in the talk-over where he says the body of a guitar resonates at a certain pitch and the neck of a guitar resonates at a certain pitch - the trick is to get a guitar where both body and neck resonate together -not an easy task, but if you succeed the body wood is not as important.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 01:35 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

I like alder a lot -- I find it a bit more midrangey and vocal than basswood. I find basswood can sound a little flatter. I also find that it has more frazzle in the high end.

Wild guess here -- I bet the shift came as he was heading towards instrumental work exclusively, and there was a need for more midrange to give the guitar more midrange to place it closer to where a vocal would sit in the mix. Just a guess though.

Another possibility is that he just wanted a harder wood in the body -- basswood's pretty soft stuff, and Vai isn't exactly gentle with his guitars.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 02:50 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

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Originally Posted by jemaholic View Post
Steve makes a profound statement on the new DVD in the talk-over where he says the body of a guitar resonates at a certain pitch and the neck of a guitar resonates at a certain pitch - the trick is to get a guitar where both body and neck resonate together -not an easy task, but if you succeed the body wood is not as important.
What DVD is that, The Live "Where the Wild Things Are" DVD? Even more reason to get it if it has commentary.

I've seen a certain youtube video where he's going over his live rig and he talks about this, but he talks more in terms of the guitar and neck resonating together in a certain interval, 4th, 5th, 3rd, etc. I could swear he starts knocking on the body and neck as he's saying this -- as unscientific as that really is, maybe he's on to something.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 03:59 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

I heard that for the Washburn N4 early build replicas, they actually check the frequency that the various pieces of wood vibrated in comparison to Nuno's favourite N4, in order to build Nuno's personal guitars. One can get pretty scientific about these things if one has the time and inclination.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 06:54 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

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Originally Posted by RedTiger View Post
What DVD is that, The Live "Where the Wild Things Are" DVD? Even more reason to get it if it has commentary.

I've seen a certain youtube video where he's going over his live rig and he talks about this, but he talks more in terms of the guitar and neck resonating together in a certain interval, 4th, 5th, 3rd, etc. I could swear he starts knocking on the body and neck as he's saying this -- as unscientific as that really is, maybe he's on to something.
I've seen the YouTube video you're speaking of. This theory makes a lot of sense to me. Anyone who's ever went to buy a guitar, and tried multiple examples of the same guitar, know that some of them sound better than others. They are all made of the same components, yet one may sound better than the rest. I think this is a theory worth investigating. I'm gonna be doing a lot of knocking on necks and bodies in the future.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 08:28 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

That "theory" as posed by Vai has some basis in science, there is an entire thread on the real theory behind the resonance of guitars, started off that one remark by Steve.
http://www.jemsite.com/forums/f21/ev...tch-10990.html

Knocking on completed guitars does make some sense scientifically, you really can hear resonances.
BTW It just doesn't make sense to look at necks and bodies separately: they form one structure and cannot resonate independently, so you can't really take this into account when building.

Having a guitar resonate, say at perfect G, might not help you much if this resonance makes it difficult to intonate G correctly (pianos suffer from that effect) and it would still resonate reasonably well at Gb or G# anyway.

As for Basswood vs Alder: both are easy to machine woods, soft (easy to dent) and light (s.g. ~0,4).
Basswood is 10% lighter but also 5% stiffer, both have below average strength in absolute terms but are stiff and strong relative to density.
Ash and maple, for example, are 50% denser, but only 20% stiffer and stronger, which is why Parker uses Basswood necks. (!)
As with all woods there are big differences within a species, from tree to tree, batch to batch, type of cuts, origin, curing, etc.
These differences within one species or differences from manufacturing can sometimes be bigger than the difference from one average to the other. So heavy Basswood would overlap with light Alder, and stiff Alder might actually be stiffer than Basswood.

Also note that while from 1993 they offered the VWH in alder, Vai and Ibanez continued to offer Basswood guitars such as the FP and make the later BSB, 10th, 90th, DNA,etc. out of Basswood,
as well as the UV777PBK, DBK, BRMR, and VBK. So there's nothing wrong with it at all.
The biggest difference for building Jems is that Alder still requires a Basswood veneer in order to mask the grains of Alder, which would show through the finish.

The bottom line is that most of the magic behind Evo is feel, voodoo, mojo, whatever you want to call it, very little of it has to do with Rosewood vs Ebony or Alder vs Basswood.

Last edited by eviltwin; 03-15-2010 at 08:33 PM.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2010, 09:23 PM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

BTW, the "unscientific" comment -- what I mean is that there are more accurate ways of observing resonance and determining this mechanically rather than just knocking and listening. Further, knocking on the guitar in different places produces different tones, just like knocking on a wall where it is hollow vs. where there is a support beam. I'm doubtful this knocking is truly a measure of resonance.

Weighing in basswood vs. alder, both sound similar to me. There's just so, so much involved in the sound of an electric guitar that its very hard to narrow down to wood. Even if you just stick to wood...what species? I've heard Vai prefers American, Satriani prefers Asian. Lots of people prefer Honduran mahogany over African.

How long has the wood aged since being made into a guitar? I swear by the old adage that guitars sound better as they age. Also...what about the age of the wood BEFORE it was harvested? Les Paul aficionados discuss this until they're blue in the face. Old growth wood is denser with tighter grain and is widely believed to make a superior instrument. Its also why some believe that they truly "don't make 'em" like they used to. You might find old-growth Honduran mahogany in a '59 Les Paul, buy you sure as hell won't find that in any production guitar.

Last edited by RedTiger; 03-15-2010 at 09:44 PM.
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-16-2010, 06:49 AM
 
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Re: Alder vs Basswood

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Originally Posted by RedTiger View Post
BTW, the "unscientific" comment -- what I mean is that there are more accurate ways of observing resonance and determining this mechanically rather than just knocking and listening. Further, knocking on the guitar in different places produces different tones, just like knocking on a wall where it is hollow vs. where there is a support beam. I'm doubtful this knocking is truly a measure of resonance.
It is a perfectly scientific measure of resonance, have a look at the thread I mentioned: striking something (with a hammer for example) excites ALL resonance frequencies. It's a pretty old trick when designing aircraft. In order for this to work you need to suspend the guitar freely, IE use the strap, but don't let it touch your body.

What you hear by knocking on different parts is a more pronounced excitation of some the higher frequencies, IE the overtones. Unfortunately for us musicians, overtones in structures are rarely, if ever, harmonics. So while a string has resonances at 1:2:3:4 the guitar itself doesn't have these nice harmonic intervals. If you are unlucky at hit it at a node (stationairy point) in one of the lower frequencies which will dissipate the knock. This doesn't mean the guitar doesn't resonate, just that you hit it in the wrong location.
The best place is probably at the headstock, but you might wat to try the neck or the lower bout as well.

Note that I'm talking about the resonance of the structure itself (the box-beam that is the guitar body+neck) not the cavities: we're not talking about acoustic guitars.
Acoustic instruments instruments with a sound chamber (cavitiy) can be built in such a way that one or more of the lower overtones IS a harmonic of the lowest, look at the Stradivarius vs a cheap violin:


But even in this example the 2nd and 3rd resonance frequencies do not exacly correspond to harmonics. (they are at Ab3, Db3 and G4)

Your example of the hollow wall is a combination of effects: the hollow chamber amplifies the sound generated by the wall resonating in front of it, exciting it at midpoint is far more effective than at the edges; compare this to picking very close to the bridge i.s.o. over the pups or even midway on the neck.

Quote:
Old growth wood is denser with tighter grain and is widely believed to make a superior instrument.
The thing is that denser usually means stiffer as well (see my previous post ash/maple vs basswood/alder), so what your doing is shifting the resonance frequency and possibly adding a bit of sustain. If that is your definition of "superior" then yes, it may be beneficial, but for ash bodies, swamp ash is often preferred: the lightest variant available.

If these LP afficionados truly believe heavy, dense and stiff is better, why not do they not rave about guitars made of oak, glassfibre, concrete, aluminium or brass?

Let's look at a table of stiffness over density (an important ratio for resonance)

Carbon fibre reinforced plastics= >40
Steel=28
Basswood= 27
Aluminium=26
Swamp Ash=24
Alder=23
Ash=20
Maple=20
Mahogany (new)=~16,5
Mahogany (old)=~15,5
Glass fibre reinforced plastics=14

Again, it's no wonder Parker is using Basswood for its neck, structurally it is the best material available, even better if you take the geometry into account (cube root of stiffness over density):

Basswood= 5,8
Alder=5,1
Swamp Ash=4,9
Ash=3,8
Maple=3,7
CFRP=3,26
Mahogany (new)=~2,9
Mahogany (old)=~2,7
Aluminium=1,5
Glass fibre reinforced plastics=1,9
Steel=0,8

Last edited by eviltwin; 03-16-2010 at 07:15 AM.
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