I haven't played that many gypsy jazz guitars, and I'm curious about the influence of the different laminated woods used for the back and sides on the final tonal characteristics.
Maple VS Indian Rosewood VS Brazilian Rosewood
I found this: woods
and more woods
But still I'd like to know your personal opinions.
The top wood makes the most difference - and the back wood does make some difference, especially if it is solid wood; though variance from piece to piece (quality and age of the wood) can make a lot of difference. For instance, most of the East Indian Rosewood you get today is actually Sonokeling... it's the same tree, but grown rapidly on plantations in the Orient. Good Sonokeling is about like average East Indian (true old growth East Indian) and Good East Indian is as good as Brazillian... (blasphemy! yes, I said it... tight dark well quartered East Indian Rosewood is fantastic... but it's also hard to come by - I only know one source for it and every time I can afford it I buy a few sets - someday it won't be around to be bought.)
Books could be written on this subject, but the long story made short - there are tonal differences between back woods and back wood constructions (solid vs. laminated) These differences need to be coaxed out by the builder - it's not enough to just have the wood - the wood has to be used to maximum advantage. But assuming the guitar is built right - you could make some generalizations like: "Hard Maple gives a moderately clear tone with pronounced midranges" and "Rosewoods are punchy and clear" and "Mahoganies and fruitwoods and soft Maples are lush and mellow" and "laminates are punchy and dry"
... but these are just generalizations. It all depends on the guitar - the design and the topwood are the dominant predictors of tone - they're the meat of the meal; whereas backwood / sidewood are "spices & sauces".
Thanks for the info.
You're right, the info on Shelley Park's site refers to solid woods, I just thought it would also apply to laminated.
Interesting to know about Sonokeling / Indian rosewood.
Are there any builders that only use the "true" variety? How to identify a good quality Indian rosewood?
I understand the back/sides woods, especially laminated ones, are secondary to the final sound and as you pointed out will only color the sound and not define it.
The generalizations you mentioned are what I'm after, just rough guidelines about the expected relations back wood / tonal character and how dramatic can they actually be on laminated guitars.
Like if you were to build a laminated Selmer type guitar, What kind of woods would you use for the back and sides for what kind of desired tones?
And how much does the wood choice really influence the final result?
Also what are "hard" and "soft" maples?
Please excuse so many questions, although I really don't know much about this, I find it very interesting.
I'm not an expert, but I think the wood choice for the outer laminate affects the tone little, and serves mainly a cosmetic purpose.
How's everything going? From what I've read, it seems like there were only a few selmers that had solid bodies, mostly consisting of the maple solid peghead guitars. Overall it seems that a 90-95 percent majority were made of laminated sides (back I'm not sure) of east indian rosewood exterior, poplar middle, and interior mahogany.
My question to the guitar guys out there is, if you were building a with solid sides, would you use mahogany or east indian rosewood, which of the three laminates colored the selmer/mac sound, or did they all equally contribute to it?
Laminated woods makes the guitar lighter, but also doesn't absorb the sound as much as solid woods... that's why even with a mahogany back, it doesn't sound that mellow. And that's also why we play gypsy jazz like that, the wrist and forearm far away from the soundboard, and with downstrokes.
It's all about sound, tone and volume
Live life and play music like it's your last day on earth. One day you'll be right- Russel Malone
You just have to ask the luthier if it's Sonokeling vs. EI Rosewood - all the luthiers I know are mellow and honest to a fault. I'd have a hard time imagining any of them misleading people about the wood they used, especially given that there are a lot of people out there who can spot the difference from 10 feet away. In general, the true old growth East Indian Rosewood is fine grained across the width of the back because the trees were large - and the grain is fairly fine and with some interesting bright stripes in it - almost like a Sapele Mahogany's stripes or a Bolivian Rosewood. The Sonokeling is likely to be wider in grain toward the outside of the guitar because the trees are smaller - the striping is not as brilliant because the color palate of Sonokeling includes tan & olive and rust along with the classic blacks and burgundys and purples of a true East Indian Rosewood. In general, the grain of Sonokeling can look a lot like a Walnut or Oak where it gets wider - and with larger pores in the wider grain - it can look a bit more muddy depending on how those pores are filled. A picture is worth a thousand words but I am a bad photographer so I can only offer you a picture that is worth a hundred words... maybe a hundred fifty at the most
Maybe I should record some tap tones of these and post them. I'm pretty pressed for time now trying to finish some guitars for people and to have some to take to DFNW. This has been a good break but I have to get back to it... Today is fingerboard day!
By the way, Sonokeling is a fine wood - it's just not EIRW so it irks me when people don't identify that. I use Sonokeling neck stringers in my Busato style necks because it's darned near perfect. the strength to weight ratio is wonderful for that use and you can buy it in thick enough widths to be able to plane it flat and let it rest and plane it flat again to make sure the stringer is stable without any tendencies to wander over time. However, I don't use Sonokeling for fingerboards because it doesn't hold frets... Honduran Rosewood / Palisander / Ebonies / Bollivian Rosewood etc.. are much better options.
Anybody played his guitars?