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My first "real" guitar was made by a luthier who makes a "sustainium" neck which has a separate headstock attached to a metal rod that is inserted in the neck and then attaches directly to the body of the guitar.

His explanation for this as an improvement is that the bar takes all the neck tension leaving the wood free to vibrate and thus improve sustain.

There's something about that that "seems" backwards. Isn't increasing the vibration of the wood what we're trying to prevent.

Or perhaps we know the wood is going to vibrate anyway - that's not the point. The point is that we want the wood to vibrate because it provides tonal filtering which we've come to appreciate as a good...

But what we want to avoid, is the vibration getting sent to the wood and then lost before it can reach the "soundboard" (pickups and bridge). Is that closer to the core concept here?

Along with that, what are your theories an electric guitars natural acoustic properties vs. it's amplified properties.

I'm thinking of this from an electricity angle. If I design a device to give off light, any heat generated is a waste and efforts are taken to minimize it.

So, wouldn't a theoretically perfect electric guitar (one that would completely maximize string vibration being turned in to electric signal) have a minimum of natural acoustic volume? The added acoustic volume seems to come from the vibration transferring to the body, No?

Any additional insight is much appreciated.

Rick Toone

Nick — Thanks for your questions. I'd be curious to play the guitar you describe. For the purposes of our subjective evaluation we'll consider the question of how efficiently a neck transfers vibration to the soundboard a separate concept.

What we are listening for here is only the effect of neck construction on tone. What seems to have initially emerged is a grouping of tonal properties based on the amount of air in a neck.

Initial prediction is any neck with air within the neck structure will fall into one of the first two categories.

Seth Thomas

In this study you used different bodies for each type of neck construction? In order for your graphs to be accurate you would need to make bolt-on versions of each type of neck and plug them all into the same guitar body. Also, the necks need to be of the same size and shape and woods for a side by side comparison.

Rick Toone

Seth — The objective testing you are describing could be used to verify the results of this subjective evaluation. I would not be surprised, however, if results corroborate.

Ola Strandberg

Your awesome baritone is hard to beat - and probably not a fair apples-to-apples comparison. The carbon fiber tube neck is also wenge/ebony as opposed to maple, and it was mounted on a semi-hollow body. It came out a little undeservingly bad in the comparison...

Rick Toone

Ola — I think your (carbon fiber) EGS guitar is excellent! Lightweight, easily carried, and acoustically loud. The baritone is an altogether different beast by comparison, for many reasons.

It is important to note hollow vs. solid neck construction is NOT a matter of better vs. worse. It is much more a matter of flavor.

As one example, Skele's titanium tube neck has an expressive tonality that I quite like, personally.

I plan to continue to build tube neck constructed instruments, but now feel more informed as I do so. They create a distinctive vibe that some musicians will find quite desirable.

Geoff Humildad

This is interesting data I didn't relize that neck support material made such a difference in a guitar's tone. Did the necks you tested have a finish on them and does that affect tone also?


@Nick: Was your guitar built by Dave Bunker? What you're describing sounds a lot like like his Tension Free Neck design. See http://bunker-guitars.com/articles/tension-free.html

Jonathan Kratz

I had to sell my ATK, so an excuse to build something!

Seeing all this conversation about hollow necks, and wondering about weight, I'm at the drawing board and thinking neck-through headless as a starting place, and for the challenge.

Extremely tight budget; the rest will be scrounged wood and p-bass/j-bass pickups, lever tuners maybe or body-mounted gears.

How do we all feel about Lowe's square steel rod (the hollow stuff for stiffening and sustain (like the original Reverend guitars) had steel and maple blocks in Masonite bodies, and like Martin had steel square tube in their necks...)?

I'm not sure what kind of hollow necks are being referenced in this conversation. Thanks for lending me your time and experience. -- Jonathan

Gaurav Genani

"...because although pickups strongly influence the sound of an instrument, they can only amplify the pre-existing sound of the platform. The tonality of your guitar or bass is initially and primarily determined by the vibrating wood, metal or composite material."

I need some clarification here ... according to my knowledge of physics, what the pickups are picking up is just the vibration of the strings. The pickup is completely independent of the body, making the body theoretically irrevelant. This is not entirely true tho.

The strings are vibrating on the 'platform' which in turn filters or dampens some of this vibration; this filtering is what makes the difference in sound.

I am not sure if you agree with me, but this is what my understanding tells me. Please correct me if I am wrong, I am building an instrument for my thesis and any input would be appreciated.

I really like your approach to building guitars — if others followed this method, people like me (who are all about playing the instrument) wouldn't have to get into building them.

Wade Sutton

I'm in early stages of kit building, having assembled and fiddled with about 13 strat style guitars or so. None of us has all the answers, but I have an observation: when I go to the music store, I tap on the guitar bodys ( electric or acoustic) to see how they sound and to see if I can feel the vibrations in them. If they feel and sound interesting, I plug them in and play them and see how they sound. I strongly suspect that the ones who have resonance in the guitar body and neck are often then ones whose sound I find appealing when the string is plucked. I wish I could tell you exactly why I think that, but for now, it's interesting to me.

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Rick Toone

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