Other Guitars

Body depth and tone

1

I put this here, though it really includes GreTscHes as well. Maybe should be under "General Tech"?

What is the effect of body depth on tone? Is it more or less a factor than body width? Is it a factor that is consistent and can be isolated and explained, or does it all get lost in the mix of all the other variables?

2

Are you talking solid bodies? Or hollow body bodies too? If solid bodies I would agree with the last statement - it's just another of the variables that affect sound. It's more a matter of playability and comfort than tone.

3

At least to a point, body depth in hollow bodies seems to darken the tone and provide more resonance, but other factors like type of wood, pickups, and width also have noticeable impact.

For example, both Epiphone and Gibson made versions of the ES-165, which is essentially an ES-175 with back and sides of laminated mahogany rather than laminated maple. The mahogany version has a noticeably warmer, mellower tone with a bit less acoustic projection.

4

I have to agree with Parabar: "At least to a point, body depth in hollow bodies seems to darken the tone and provide more resonance..." I've taken notice on both 3" deep Gretsches and deeper acoustics that there is more of a "boom" factor.

5

I have DA2000's in a slab jet (5259), 2" thick semi-hollow center block (3140) and 3.5" thick hollow body (3110).

In theory, they would be a good test group. Variations in pick up manufacturing control, pole settings, bridge type/material, etc. may poison the results. Still, I might give it a try.

6

That would be a good test Bob. We could overthink it with the factors mentioned as well as others, but you could get the general good enough results. I'd be curious as to the results.

FWIW, I have been trying something similar with my Falcon and new Gent. Both have TVJ classics. Both 17 inch bodies. Obvious differences include deeper open body with trestle bracing vs closed thinner body, scale and cooper Tru-Arc vs brass TA. So, perhaps not scientific to the original post if trying to maintain as many consistencies as possible, but I believe there is a difference.

7

It would never even dawn on me to address the question of body depth to a solid or chambered solid body. This question has more relevance for an archtop acoustic than for an archtop guitar that's amplified with fixed-to-the-top pups. And for my part of this discussion, a floating pup is more related to an acoustic only archtop. Anyway, body width doesn't tend to be as much of a factor as depth when it comes to the 'performance' of the sound. A thicker body - the common archtop being 3.5" - gives a deeper, more 'woody' tone with more resonance than a shallower body. The other factors affecting the tone portion of the sound on an archtop are, is the top carved or laminate - big difference here - ; is the top wood spruce or another species; style of bracing. Species of wood for back and sides is a noticeable factor too. Hardwoods, such as maple add a brighter, crisper flavor to the tone, whereas cedar or mahogany induce a more mellow tone.

I find on archtops that are amplified, a deeper body - 6120 and the SC/DC, Falcon, et al - imparts a bit of a woody tone that the thin centerblock guitars, like say my Gibson Gent doesn't. A lesser amount of bracing, tends to give a more acoustic flavor, but generally in my experience, for electrics, the bracing affects the tone more than the depth or wood used.

Bernie's Yamaha archtop electrics are the full 3.5" depth with tone bars and have a nice acoustic flavor to their tone.

8

A deep body just increases feedback problems.

9

One experience I have had with two guitars being very similar except for body depth was when I had a Gretsch 6120SSLVO and a Hotrod. They did sound different but I'm not sure how much was down to the minor difference in body depth and how much was because the fingerboards were of different material. The Hotrod supposedly had an ebony board but it clearly wasn't. It looked very different from the SSLVO's and I feel confident in guessing that it was some kind of rosewood. As a result the sound was a little crisper, less round on the high end. So not a great comparison. BUT - I have also noticed in all of the Hotrods I have owned that the resonant frequency is a little higher.

How do I know? They feed back on a different note. My SSLVOs usually feedback most easily at around G, where the Hotrods it was A.

A better comparison was when I had a Gibson ES-175 with dogear P90s and got my current ES-225 RI. They sounded very similar except (a) the 175 would feed back a little easier and (b) the 175 sounded deeper. As in a bottomless low end! For me the 225 is perfect for low end. The is plenty but I never feel the need to roll it off.

I also used to own a '60 ES-125, which was again, almost identical to the 225 but a little thinner. I couldn't quite get the low end I wanted from it, not like I can with the 225. The 125 sounded a lot like a 330. Again, they are similar depths and not quite as deep sounding as the 225.

The 125, 225 and 175 are a great example of the tonal differences body depth makes because they are all virtually identical except for body depth. Same pickups, same materials, same neck pitch, etc. In the examples I had anyway. I like the 225 because it has the best balance for me. It has a similar sound to a 330 but is throatier, deeper. All the same bite and honk, but a fuller sound without getting too deep like a 175 might in a band setting.

10

Yeah. I was really asking about hollowbodies. Apologies for not being clear.

So take a 17" Country Club and compare the regular vs. the rarer thinline versions. Same laminated maple top. Same pickups. Same neck angle and fretboard wood. One would expect the thinline to have a thinner sound? Less bass and lower mids?

11

I'm tending to agree both with Parabar and Billy Z. Their observations match what I've heard.

But it is hard to generalize here. For example, a Peerless Wizard hollowbody w/laminated maple top was very feedback prone. Lightly built, thin top. Thinline, 17" body. My Heritage H575 is maybe half an inch less deep than an ES-175, but pretty solidly built, with a relatively thick, carved maple top. Much less feedback prone than the Wizard was.

In terms of tone and resonance, my Heritage H525 w/laminated maple top seems like another outlier. It's ES-225 depth, 16" body, significantly shallower than an ES-175. Lightly built. Even unplugged, has this complex, clear sound. Plugged in, sounds a lot more like an older ES-175 than I expected. No lack of low end. It's also not nearly as feedback prone as the Wizard was.

Makes me think top thickness and wood type - also p/u choice, body size, how heavy the guitar is and how solidly braced - interact. The best guitars (to me) strike a perfect balance of all these factors. By design. Maybe the 17" body size explains why the Wizard was so feedback prone. Maybe not. MD


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