How big a factor is resonance in what makes a good electric?

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JamieLFJamieLF Frets: 28
I've been going through the motions of trying to bond with my latest purchase (a Suhr Classic Pro HSS) which in just about every area is an outstanding instrument. The neck is effortless, the SS frets are a joy to play, hardware is obviously top notch, the noiseless pickups are of course Suhr levels of quality, and clearly most important of all, I like the colour.

But it's just not a very acoustically resonant guitar. At all! Compared to my strats (one MIM, one US) and also directly compared to my mates almost identical Suhr, it sounds rather weak and thin when unplugged. It's odd, but it's had a proper setup so I know it's not a "fault", just how this particular guitar is, it seems. I'm also aware that a strat isn't going to be the most resonant of designs, but the difference is still noticeable.

This doesn't really make a difference to how it sounds when amped, and whilst it does have something going on that the Fenders don't (and vice versa) it's a lot closer to them when amped than it first feels before decent volume is added to the mix.

Does anybody else find that a guitars natural resonance really makes a difference for them and how an instrument feels and plays, or am I in the minority?
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  • susbemolsusbemol Frets: 137
    edited September 14
    It definitely does, more so with some types of guitars than others, obviously. I guess it also depends on what type of sound you usually use with it as lots of gain may not clearly show the differences.

    With 335s and archtops, I personally find it makes a very significant difference not only in sound but also in how it reacts to your playing.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 3931
    I think it's one of those questions where you will get some people swearing it does and some people swearing it doesn't. But really, unless anyone's done a controlled double-blind test then they're really just guessing or going by what they experience (which isn't any more reliable).

    So unless you have the time and funds to do a proper test to get a real answer, you'd be as well sticking with ones that resonate acoustically since that's what your own experience has told you. No one will give you a reply that's any more objective.
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 12253
    edited September 14
    My view is its important from a builders perspective as it may influence material and design choices, but players should just play what works for them.   

    Resonance of body and neck can be seen as wasted string energy.   Therefore you expect to lose some sustain from your note.  However, it seems like this resonance in the body feeds back into the string, so rather than reducing sustain, it changes the way the note develops.  Build a guitar with a flexible neck, balanced with truss rod, and a thin or large flappy headstock and this seems to be what you get.  I think its richer and more organic when the balance is right, but it can just sound flubby and unresponsive when its not.  More vintage flavour.

    Some guitars resonate less, but the string is still going, its just not passing much energy to the structure.  You just get an even response from the string and a  even decay to the note.  Build a guitar with a stiff neck and smaller or thicker headstock and this is what you get.  Its more consistent and efficient when done well, but too harsh and clinical when not.  More modern flavour.

    Both approaches have there uses.


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  • More resonance can be helpful in coaxing / controlling feedback. Never a bad thing in my opinion ! Given a choice between two otherwise identical guitars, I'd choose the more resonant one. I don't think it really affects the sustain of the guitar that much, as the internal reflections within a solid body / cavities / trem springs et al can act as dampeners or exciters, but are quite chaotic normally...
    This one goes to eleven

    Trading feedback here
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  • YorkieYorkie Frets: 72
    Body resonance is one of the factors that determines an instrument's voice. Some voices will inevitably convey certain messages more effectively, and some bodies will give you a hip displacement more easily. 
    Adopted northerner with Asperger syndrome. I sometimes struggle with empathy and sarcasm – please bear with me.   
    My trading feedback: https://www.thefretboard.co.uk/discussion/210335/yorkie

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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 6395
    WezV said:


    Resonance of body and neck can be seen as wasted string energy.   Therefore you expect to lose some sustain from your note. 


    This is a common view but... honestly, I don't think resonance has much to do with how long the string sustains for...

    ... because resonance in the body is only part of the story. You have no idea how much of the string energy is being converted into acoustic energy, and how much is being converted into heat through friction in the body. You also have no idea how efficiently any part of the guitar is transferring its own vibrations to another part or the surrounding air - maybe most of the energy is getting reflected at the boundary of the body back into the wood. What's actually happening is a complex series of energy exchanges of varying efficiencies.

    I think the acoustic resonance of an electric guitar does influence the amplified sound, because;

    a; if the body is resonating, it'll encourage the string to produce the particular harmonics the body is resonating at

    b; if the top is resonating, the pickups may be physically moving a bit too, and their movement relative to the strings is just as good at generating current as the string's movement relative to the pickups. This is more a thing on hollow bodies, admittedly...

    I also think that the impulse response of the guitar body influences the shape of the note attack, because in simple terms it is an impulse of energy.

    Finally, and perhaps most controversially, I think solid bodies can break in to a small degree through being played regularly - vibration is physical deformation of a material, and if you deform most material again and again, there comes a point where it gets easier to do.


    Citation of a real world experience; I've recently done a comparison for my own curiosity of a set of pickups mounted first in an Explorer, then a Les Paul. New strings of the same gauge, same setup for my preferences, same bridge and tail piece, same pickup height. In the Explorer, which is the most resonant solid body guitar I've ever played in terms of body in the low mids, they have... more low mids. In the Les Paul they have tighter low mids, more bottom and more snap/ clarity up high... just like the acoustic sound of the instrument.
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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 6395
    edited September 14
    Oh, and if you can get someone to help you, play some open chords and get them to hold the headstock really tightly then let go - hear the change in the acoustic sound of the instrument as the resonance of the neck disappears then appears again. Now plug in, and do it again - it comes through the pickups.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 3931
    If I uploaded a few clips and said they were all recorded with the same Burstbuckers and one of them was with them in a 335 and the rest were in a Les Paul, how confident would you be that you could pick out the 335?

    Then instead of the 335 imagine it was just a different guitar from the same model line of Les Pauls (so any differences in resonances weren't due to the design of the body but only to the differences in the actual guitars) and think how much difference in sound there would be.
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  • timmypixtimmypix Frets: 1024
    edited September 14
    thegummy said:
    If I uploaded a few clips and said they were all recorded with the same Burstbuckers and one of them was with them in a 335 and the rest were in a Les Paul, how confident would you be that you could pick out the 335?

    Then instead of the 335 imagine it was just a different guitar from the same model line of Les Pauls (so any differences in resonances weren't due to the design of the body but only to the differences in the actual guitars) and think how much difference in sound there would be.
    See this is interesting as I've sort of ended up doing something similar to this.

    I've got a PRS SE Bernie Marsden and an Epiphone Les Paul, and both have Bare Knuckle Mules in them. The Bernie is noticeably brighter acoustically and the Epiphone sounds fuller, with more response in the lower midrange. I've recorded both guitars and that acoustic response is reflected in the pickups and the recorded sound - the Mules sound fuller in the Epiphone. 
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 12253
    Cirrus said:
    WezV said:


    Resonance of body and neck can be seen as wasted string energy.   Therefore you expect to lose some sustain from your note. 


    This is a common view but... honestly, I don't think resonance has much to do with how long the string sustains for...

    ... because resonance in the body is only part of the story. You have no idea how much of the string energy is being converted into acoustic energy, and how much is being converted into heat through friction in the body. You also have no idea how efficiently any part of the guitar is transferring its own vibrations to another part or the surrounding air - maybe most of the energy is getting reflected at the boundary of the body back into the wood. What's actually happening is a complex series of energy exchanges of varying efficiencies.


    gave you a wis because I totally agree. 

    It also doesn't negate my point.  My simplified explanation was never meant to cover every variable. It's a basic accessible explanation of my approach to building after making all styles of guitars with many different materials over the last 20 years

    I also kept things simple by referring to sustain.   I should really say ADSR to cover the whole life of the note.  I think the resonance affects each stage, but I lumped it together as "sustain" for simplicity



    The point remains, a guitar that resonates more is doing different things with the energy in the string to one that doesn't resonate much.  




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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 6395
    thegummy said:
    If I uploaded a few clips and said they were all recorded with the same Burstbuckers and one of them was with them in a 335 and the rest were in a Les Paul, how confident would you be that you could pick out the 335?

    You can listen for yourself if you like - 

    Explorer, firebird neck pickup, clean amp;

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uJrcIaHkh-A_0sQWqScPWbmsqH6zE27N/view?usp=sharing

    Les Paul, Firebird neck pickup, same clean amp settings;

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YmDjUdZNXhMYoM7tyBQKSLx0RQk4CwFT/view?usp=sharing



    Excuse the U2 riff...
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 7796
    thegummy said:
    If I uploaded a few clips and said they were all recorded with the same Burstbuckers and one of them was with them in a 335 and the rest were in a Les Paul, how confident would you be that you could pick out the 335?

    Then instead of the 335 imagine it was just a different guitar from the same model line of Les Pauls (so any differences in resonances weren't due to the design of the body but only to the differences in the actual guitars) and think how much difference in sound there would be.

    My 335 is very different from my Les Paul.  Even on a recording, I'd be reasonably confident I could tell them apart unless there was a very large amount gain or other effects.

    I've owned 3 different Custom Shop Les Pauls.  I don't know if I could tell them apart in a recording, especially as you would EQ them differently, but they all sounded different.

    The first one was very light weight, but sounded really thin for a Les Paul.  You could hear it in the unplugged sound.  It was very bright acoustically, and sounded thin and harsh plugged in, even after a pickup change.

    The one I replaced it with was much warmer and fuller sounding both acoustically and plugged in.  That had other issues which led to me selling it.  Gibson QC issues were real - even in the Custom Shop.

    Gibson have made SGs and some Les Paul variants with the 490R/498T pickup combination over the years.  Despite the same pickups, hardware and scale length, the SGs sound different from the Les Pauls.  That's construction as well as wood type, but it definitely makes a difference.

    The most obvious difference I have heard from wood is with a rosewood necked PRS.  If you can get one of them in the same room as the regular mahogany variant, there is a very noticeable difference.
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  • KittyfriskKittyfrisk Frets: 6870
    Cirrus said:
    thegummy said:
    If I uploaded a few clips and said they were all recorded with the same Burstbuckers and one of them was with them in a 335 and the rest were in a Les Paul, how confident would you be that you could pick out the 335?

    You can listen for yourself if you like - 

    Explorer, firebird neck pickup, clean amp;

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uJrcIaHkh-A_0sQWqScPWbmsqH6zE27N/view?usp=sharing

    Les Paul, Firebird neck pickup, same clean amp settings;

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YmDjUdZNXhMYoM7tyBQKSLx0RQk4CwFT/view?usp=sharing



    Excuse the U2 riff...
    Were the clips recorded with the same pickup in two different guitars, or just the same type of pickup?
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  • I've found that super resonant can be bad - for example, my friend has epi explorer that sounds great unplugged but nothing on my les paul - yet plugged in, it has a huge, heavy, meaty tone that completely belies the unplugged sound
    It's possibly a benefit it's not that bright, zingy tone unplugged as it comes through with any pickups (he's swapped a few times but it always sounds huge!). 
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  • Dan_HalenDan_Halen Frets: 1155
    edited September 16
    Unless you're planning on playing it unplugged then does it even matter?

    From the ones I've had there seems to be a vague correlation between having a resonant, lively acoustic tone and it vaguely (but probably in the mind) translating when plugged in. Conversely, I've had a couple that rang like a bell acoustically but just sounded meh plugged in (pickups didn't suit maybe?)... and a couple that sound pingy, quiet and lifeless (like my hefty old PRS SC) but sounds massive into an amp.

    Plug it in, wind it up and see what happens.
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  • With strats,  how much of the unplugged ‘resonance’ is often in fact related to the resonance of the springs?
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  • Dan_Halen said:
    Unless you're planning on playing it unplugged then does it even matter?

    From the ones I've had there seems to be a vague correlation between having a resonant, lively acoustic tone and it vaguely (but probably in the mind) translating when plugged in. I've had a couple that rang like a bell acoustically but just sounded meh plugged in (pickups didn't suit maybe?)... and a couple that sound pingy, quiet and lifeless (like my hefty old PRS SC) but sounds massive into an amp.

    Plug it in, wind it up and see what happens.

    Yes, this! 
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 3931
    timmypix said:

    See this is interesting as I've sort of ended up doing something similar to this.

    I've got a PRS SE Bernie Marsden and an Epiphone Les Paul, and both have Bare Knuckle Mules in them. The Bernie is noticeably brighter acoustically and the Epiphone sounds fuller, with more response in the lower midrange. I've recorded both guitars and that acoustic response is reflected in the pickups and the recorded sound - the Mules sound fuller in the Epiphone. 
    The thing is though, did you do a randomised blind test of the recordings or did you know which ones you were listening to?

    It's really impossible for us to switch off our biases and compare unless we do blind tests. Think of it like an optical illusion like the famous one where the squares of the chess board look so different but are actually the same shade of grey. Even after it's pointed out to you, it's impossible to see the squares as anything other than wildly different. The same goes for sounds - if we know which guitar was used to record a clip then everything we already think about that guitar will genuinely influence how the perception of that sound is created in our minds.

    Don't want to go too deep in to this as, while it's day one basics for psychologists, I don't think the general public have any idea how unreliable our own perceptions are (and I think there might even be some who may desire it to not be true) but it's sometimes worth pointing out when people are looking for advice - how they think they perceive it is pretty much how they're always going to perceive it and how other people are going to perceive the sound is unlikely to have been tested.

    P.S. Big up to the Bernie Marsden with Bare Knuckle Mules club!
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 3931
    With strats,  how much of the unplugged ‘resonance’ is often in fact related to the resonance of the springs?
    Strum your strat and put your hand on and off the strings to dampen it and see how/if the sound changes.
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1969
    I have 2 guitars, ones a Gibson SG which is super loud, bright and resonant unplugged, and a cheap strat copy that sounds dull and cheap even with fresh strings on it. Plugged in the sound of the SG can be a bit dull and strained, really need a boost to get a nice fluid feel and sustain out of it. Although it also depends on the amp and volume it's being played at, the guitar is only part of the equation here. The dull strat feels a lot easier to play and "sings" and sustains more on leads. I do prefer the overall tone of the SG though as it's more mid heavy and Gibson-y.
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