Timbre and Tone of the Electric Guitar
One of the most important aspects that guitarists often work hard for, is to achieve the desired tone with their instrument. Most of us are unaware of the factors that contribute to the way our guitars sound and why it sounds the way it does.
Here is the anatomy of the electric guitar so you understand electric guitars better:
Let's start with the most primary source:
- Wood type: This is the foundation of your instrument. The combination of the quality and the types of wood on your body, fretboard and neck determine the tonal qualities, the timbre that your guitar may have. It provides resonance and affects the sustain of your electric guitar. Agathis, Cedar, Mahogany, Walnut, Nato, and Basswood are the most common woods used in the assemblage of the guitar. While Spruce and Nato are largely used for acoustic guitars, Maple, Alder, Rosewood, Ebony are used in electric guitars as they have a balanced tone and deliver a profound dynamic range.
Neck Construction: There are broadly 3 types of neck construction namely, set neck, thru-body neck and bolt on. All of these have a very different effect and play a role when it comes to desirable tone.
The set neck, though mostly seen on acoustic guitars,are also seen on some electric guitars like Gibson and Epiphones as it provides better access to the frets, allows more sustain and brings a warmer tone.
The thru-body necks are more common on bass guitars as it allows easier access to the higher frets and is believed to bring better sustain.
The bolt-on necks are models where the neck is bolted to the body for increased stability, these are seen more on Fender guitars.
Some of the secondary sources:
- Pickups: The choice of pickups are crucial to a guitar’s electronics. Different pickups positions and variation in volume and tone knobs bring the intensity of your tone. Electronic configuration of the wiring of pickups into Humbuckers or Single coils or both will further lead you into a broader frame of tonal discovery. The pickup height also creates significant impact on the desired tone.
Fingers: Your right hand plectrum position does a fair deal into shaping your signature tone. Guitarists who don't use plectrums have to work much harder in order to get more attack. Your right hand placement in accordance with the pickups also affects your tonal output.
And lastly, the external sources:
- Guitar amp: The output of your guitar signal is heavily dependent on what amp you are using. Your tone will vary across different amp models. Different types of amps include tube amps, digital amps, solid state and lastly an emulated or a hybrid state that combines these two.
Guitar pedals/guitar processors/rack units: Most guitarists would use these in order to dial in different types of gain and time based effects. A good trick would be to look for the kinds of effect units that suit your playing style the best. Dial in your patches on the basis of what sounds good to your style of playing and continue experimenting with the sounds. This part of finding the right tone is the icing on the cake and it is entirely in your hands!
To know more about the timbre and tonality of the right electric guitar, visit a Furtados showroom and find the one for you!