The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    I found the video pretty persuasive. I suspect he's on to something (at least concerning solid-body guitars; it would be hard to do a similar test of two archtops, on account of there being too many additional variables to control).

    My sense is that guitar "tasting" is similar to wine tasting. Blind tests show that even professionals are unable consistently to distinguish expensive wines from cheap ones. Blindfolded ordinary consumers have difficulty even distinguishing reds from whites. That isn't to say that when tasters, having seen the label, prefer the expensive wine, they aren't experiencing something. It's just that what they're experiencing has relatively little to do with the wine itself. Price, reputation, peer opinions, etc. -- and the self-image one holds, or is attempting to create -- these are crucial to how a wine "tastes". A similar dynamic seems to hold among guitar enthusiasts, as demonstrated by many blindfold tests posted on Youtube.

    I'm thinking that, when fantasizing over expensive guitars, I should keep these test results firmly in mind and see if I can be at least a little bit rational about it. Like most people (I presume), I want a guitar that looks great, feels good in my hands and on my lap, and makes me want to pick it up and play it. None of those things needs to cost a huge amount. Nor does the sound of the guitar, apparently, it being largely determined by its easily replaceable electronics. The trick is to avoid succumbing to the purely extraneous factors -- status concerns, reputation, and so on. (Unfortunately, I have not, in general, shown a great aptitude for separating fantasy and reality, but guitar shopping seems like a place where I might be repaid for trying.)


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  3. #2

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    Wood/electronics/construction/bridge/string angle/tension and more.


    If anyone tells you these things don't matter, let's just be nice and say they still need to train their ears.


    Lastly, the Warmoth YouTube channel does an excellent job fairly demonstrating these differences.

  4. #3

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    I've never bought into the tone wood debate. Fundamental design changes make the most difference imo; solid v:s hollow, scale length, humbucker v:s single coil etc..
    Of course on acoustic instruments these things get more detailed but in the world of solid bodies, the woods are to some degree, irrelevant imo.
    Solid body aficionado's will claim there's a difference in the bridge on a tele, or swamp ash over alder and all power to them.
    It's a lot of fun and guitar companies love it because they can keep selling you the same ice cream, in a slightly different flavour and you can enjoy eating more ice than you otherwise would have

    The reason why most Teles sound like Teles, most Strats sound like Strats and most Les Pauls sound like Les Pauls means the type wood has almost nothing to do with it. There is likely more variation within a wood species than there is between wood species. The common factor is pickup, scale length and some element of randomness.
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 01-25-2022 at 08:42 PM.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    I've never bought into the tone wood debate. Fundamental design changes make the most difference imo; solid v:s hollow, scale length, humbucker v:s single coil etc..
    Of course on acoustic instruments these things get more detailed but in the world of solid bodies, the woods are to some degree, irrelevant imo.
    Solid body aficionado's will claim there's a difference in the bridge on a tele, or swamp ash over alder and all power to them.
    It's a lot of fun and guitar companies love it because they can keep selling you the same ice cream, in a slightly different flavour and you can enjoy eating more ice than you otherwise would have

    The reason why most Teles sound like Teles, most Strats sound like Strats and most Les Pauls sound like Les Pauls means the type wood has almost nothing to do with it. There is likely more variation within a wood species than there is between wood species. The common factor is pickup, scale length and some chaos factor.

    I can definitively tell you that both the wood, and the bridge on a tele (top load vs back load) make a difference in the sound. Whether the difference matters to you is your personal preference, but the difference in sound is there.

    Here are some wood difference examples. Notice in each example the mahogany has a robust low end. This is noticeable despite being the only difference in the chain. Same electronics, cable, amp, speaker (probably the biggest single factor), mic, cable, converter, and yet the difference is noticeable.








  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove
    I can definitively tell you that both the wood, and the bridge on a tele (top load vs back load) make a difference in the sound. Whether the difference matters to you is your personal preference, but the difference in sound is there.

    Here are some wood difference examples.
    Whether right or wrong, my opinion is that the difference you hear is based on what you want to hear. It strikes me that the majority of those who claim small changes make a big difference almost never do a blind controlled test to prove it.
    The colour of a plate can have a big influence in how much you enjoy a meal. That has been scientifically proven. Exactly the same food, different colour plate.

    The best sounding Strat I've ever heard was an old Greco Go II 750 that had a through neck and old bakelite pickups on some dodgy tremolo bridge. In a test with 4 other custom shop starts, only 1 could compete in terms of 'that Strat tone'.

    If you want something to be better it will be. Confirmation bias is what drives the overwhelming majority of solid body guitar purchases imo.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    Whether right or wrong, my opinion is that the difference you hear is based on what you want to hear. It strikes me that the majority of those who claim small changes make a big difference almost never do a blind controlled test to prove it.
    The colour of a plate can have a big influence in how much you enjoy a meal. That has been scientifically proven. Exactly the same food, different colour plate.

    The best sounding Strat I've ever heard was an old Greco Go II 750 that had a through neck and old bakelite pickups on some dodgy tremolo bridge. In a test with 4 other custom shop starts, only 1 could compete in terms of 'that Strat tone'.

    If you want something to be better it will be. Confirmation bias is what drives the overwhelming majority of solid body guitar purchases imo.

    Do you not hear a difference in the videos?

    FWIW, I have been doing critical listening for 20+ years, many of those on high end audio equipment in a studio environment and have done more blind a/b tests than I can remember. Confirmation bias has nothing to do with what I hear.


    PS, it doesn't surprise me you liked the Greco, my main guitar is a Greco LP. I like it better that the Gibson LP custom I had. I play it more than my (lefty) holy grail es175. A bad recording below, but you can see it plays crazy well, and has great balance all over the neck.


  8. #7

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    Strings and pickups is a lot of it, but the sum of the rest of the components shape a noticeable portion of the overall character of the tone. In some applications these details don't matter, and some listeners or players don't care, but to say minor details like wood has no effect is false and is misleading to people who pursue tone. I have 1 word for you people who are misinformed: poplar. I once changed only the body of a strat from alder to poplar and the change in tone was enormous. It became swamped with mids to the point that I couldn't tolerate it.

  9. #8

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    Now I want a 2x4 tele!

  10. #9

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    I posted a collection of videos in the thread below. I can hear consistent differences between body woods. I did blind tests too. Even in videos you can clearly hear the difference. The videos posted in the following thread were done by people who didn't think tonewood mattered and set out to prove it. To their surprise even they could hear differences and changed their opinions:
    Tonewood matters for solid bodies

    There are clear differences in the video posted in OP. The differences would've been clearer if the person who did the videos thought about recording clean sounds as well as distorted ones.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 01-26-2022 at 09:53 AM.

  11. #10

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    Confirmation bias always plays a part. But in my opinion, the role of belief and expectation alone cannot adequately cover all perceived differences, or all situations. Two thoughts:

    The power of confirmation bias can operate in both directions. In this discussion: Vintagelove hears differences. Archtopheaven claims those perceptions are influenced by, even determined by beliefs/expectations, confirmation bias. Archtopheaven hears things differently, does not hear (or discounts his perceptions of) such differences. Vintagelove could just as easily claim that what ATH didn't hear is influenced by, even determined by his own beliefs/expectations, confirmation bias. (I'm paraphrasing, expanding previous comments for rhetorical purposes, hope it's OK to take this liberty ...)

    Kinda like a poker game where everyone gets the same cards. Who wins?

    There is ongoing debate in the science community about the tension between bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive processes. Makes for some great reading, pro and con. Well explained in this one example, where a researcher is disputing the evidence that the top-down cognitive processes (belief, expectation, cognitive bias) dominate in one particular type of visual perception.

    Frontiers | Dissociating Sensory and Cognitive Biases in Human Perceptual Decision-Making: A Re-evaluation of Evidence From Reference Repulsion | Human Neuroscience

    I'm no scientist. Claims of confirmation bias are quite often right on target. Is that the whole story? I've not heard compelling evidence in direct experiments with musical gear to prove or disprove conclusively. Maybe it exists and I just haven't seen it. Or maybe the question is still open.

    Perhaps context is the key. In cases where someone hears tone differences between two similar solid body guitars (for example) without knowing enough to suspect (or expect) what the cause is ... there seems to me to be a lot less likelihood of that perception being belief based. Now with experience, perhaps after learning one body was ash, and the other alder, maybe that person will be much more likely to hear an expected difference in assessing other guitars. But still, does the later expectation completely outweigh the original perception? I doubt it.

  12. #11

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    The question isn't still open. Are you completely disregarding the clips the folks posted where you can plainly hear the differences through recording equipment and suck laptop speakers?

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by mad dog
    Confirmation bias always plays a part. But in my opinion, the role of belief and expectation alone cannot adequately cover all perceived differences, or all situations. Two thoughts:

    The power of confirmation bias can operate in both directions. In this discussion: Vintagelove hears differences. Archtopheaven claims those perception are influenced by, even determined by beliefs/expectations, confirmation bias. Archtopheaven hears things differently, does not hear (or discounts his perceptions of) such differences. Vintagelove could just as easily claim that what ATH didn't hear is influenced by, even determined by his own beliefs/expectations, confirmation bias. (I'm paraphrasing, expanding previous comments for rhetorical purposes, hope it's OK to take this liberty ...)

    Kinda like a poker game where everyone gets the same cards. Who wins?

    There is ongoing debate in the science community about the tension between bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive processes. Makes for some great reading, pro and con. Well explained in this one example, where a researcher is disputing the evidence that the top-down cognitive processes (belief, expectation, cognitive bias) dominate in one particular type of visual perception.

    Frontiers | Dissociating Sensory and Cognitive Biases in Human Perceptual Decision-Making: A Re-evaluation of Evidence From Reference Repulsion | Human Neuroscience

    I'm no scientist. Claims of confirmation bias are quite often right on target. Is that the whole story? I've not heard compelling evidence in direct experiments with musical gear to prove or disprove conclusively. Maybe it exists and I just haven't seen it. Or maybe the question is still open.

    Perhaps context is the key. In cases where someone hears tone difference between two similar solid body guitars (for example) without knowing enough to suspect (or expect) what the cause is ... there seems to me to be a lot less likelihood of that perception being belief based. Now with experience, after learning one body was ash, and the other alder, perhaps that person will be much more likely to hear an expected difference. But still, does the later expectation completely outweigh the original perception? I doubt it.

    Just watch the videos. You'll hear it.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    The question isn't still open. Are you completely disregarding the clips the folks posted where you can plainly hear the differences through recording equipment and suck laptop speakers?
    Who are you asking Jimmy? If me, the question "Is confirmation bias the whole story?" is open only because it is so often debated this way, and because I suspect there is no conclusive research to disprove the dominance of that explanation in terms of assessing tone differences in solid bodies.

    Personally, I don't need research to confirm what I do and don't hear. I hear differences much as you describe. But still find this discussion fascinating, because confirmation bias is a real thing, and definitely does affect how and what we perceive.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    The question isn't still open. Are you completely disregarding the clips the folks posted where you can plainly hear the differences through recording equipment and suck laptop speakers?

    Not just in this thread, but it's a pattern I've noticed whenever these topics arise. Those who are certain it makes no difference refuse to watch/listen to demos that clearly demonstrate the differences.

    Then you get the "but they didn't try 5 examples of each type of wood" guy, ignoring that 5 different videos show the same result (mahogany having a full bottom, snappy balanced maple, etc). It's suck an odd thing. How could it not change the sound???

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove
    Just watch the videos. You'll hear it.
    I do hear it. I know which side of this discussion I fall on ... but enjoy thinking about it anyway.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by mad dog
    Confirmation bias always plays a part. But in my opinion, the role of belief and expectation alone cannot adequately cover all perceived differences, or all situations. Two thoughts:

    The power of confirmation bias can operate in both directions. In this discussion: Vintagelove hears differences. Archtopheaven claims those perceptions are influenced by, even determined by beliefs/expectations, confirmation bias. Archtopheaven hears things differently, does not hear (or discounts his perceptions of) such differences. Vintagelove could just as easily claim that what ATH didn't hear is influenced by, even determined by his own beliefs/expectations, confirmation bias. (I'm paraphrasing, expanding previous comments for rhetorical purposes, hope it's OK to take this liberty ...)

    Kinda like a poker game where everyone gets the same cards. Who wins?

    There is ongoing debate in the science community about the tension between bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive processes. Makes for some great reading, pro and con. Well explained in this one example, where a researcher is disputing the evidence that the top-down cognitive processes (belief, expectation, cognitive bias) dominate in one particular type of visual perception.

    Frontiers | Dissociating Sensory and Cognitive Biases in Human Perceptual Decision-Making: A Re-evaluation of Evidence From Reference Repulsion | Human Neuroscience

    I'm no scientist. Claims of confirmation bias are quite often right on target. Is that the whole story? I've not heard compelling evidence in direct experiments with musical gear to prove or disprove conclusively. Maybe it exists and I just haven't seen it. Or maybe the question is still open.

    Perhaps context is the key. In cases where someone hears tone differences between two similar solid body guitars (for example) without knowing enough to suspect (or expect) what the cause is ... there seems to me to be a lot less likelihood of that perception being belief based. Now with experience, perhaps after learning one body was ash, and the other alder, maybe that person will be much more likely to hear an expected difference in assessing other guitars. But still, does the later expectation completely outweigh the original perception? I doubt it.
    Great post but that's not exactly what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, there are factors that seem to run as a common theme. One of those is confirmation bias, the other is distribution.
    I wish I was smarter and could put this in better terms but here we go.

    When someone says "I changed the body on my Strat to a poplar one" (and no disrespect to that person), that doesn't prove anything. You took one piece of wood and changed it for another. Yet I could find two pieces of wood from the same species and find you a greater variation in tone, between the two species you perceive as having a known variable.
    Are all sassafras bodies now discounted from 'the strat tone'? No.

    These misunderstanding are also found in the Bell Curve when talking about the differences between men and women.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove
    Not just in this thread, but it's a pattern I've noticed whenever these topics arise. Those who are certain it makes no difference refuse to watch/listen to demos that clearly demonstrate the differences.

    Then you get the "but they didn't try 5 examples of each type of wood" guy, ignoring that 5 different videos show the same result (mahogany having a full bottom, snappy balanced maple, etc). It's suck an odd thing. How could it not change the sound???
    The problem with these videos, is you've likely just watched one that dispels all the notions you had previously about this subject, yet in response (and rightly so), posted ones the prove you right. So who's videos are right?

    In the end, I know I prefer alder bodies to ash and I prefer maple necks to rosewood. But I also know that if I were to hear the two in a blind test, I would not be able to tell the difference. It's the plate and the food.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by mad dog
    Who are you asking Jimmy? If me, the question "Is confirmation bias the whole story?" is open only because it is so often debated this way, and because I suspect there is no conclusive research to disprove the dominance of that explanation in terms of assessing tone differences in solid bodies.

    Personally, I don't need research to confirm what I do and don't hear. I hear differences much as you describe. But still find this discussion fascinating, because confirmation bias is a real thing, and definitely does affect how and what we perceive.

    Just a little food for thought (not being argumentative or mean).


    What exactly would my "bias" be in this discussion? Why would I prefer a wood to another, or automatically think x wood sounds like x? It's not like I'm friends with maple and always defend him no matter what.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    The problem with these videos, is you've likely just watched one that dispels all the notions you had previous about this subject, yet in reposes, posted ones the prove you right. So who's videos are right?

    In the end, I know I prefer alder bodies to ash and I prefer maple necks to rosewood. But I also know that if I were to hear the two in a blind test, I would not be able to tell the difference. It's the plate and the food.

    All of those videos show the same thing though. For instance, mahogany has a noticeably bigger bottom end. You could easily pick mahogany in all 3 of the videos I posted. That's just what it sounds like.

    Go watch 10 different maple vs rosewood P-bass videos, they all have the same result.


    I'll post some. Just listen, if you can't hear a difference, honestly, consider yourself lucky.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    Great post but that's not exactly what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, there are factors that seem to run as a common theme. One of those is confirmation bias, the other is distribution.
    I wish I was smarter and could put this in better terms but here we go.

    When someone says "I changed the body on my Strat to a poplar one" (and no disrespect to that person), that doesn't prove anything. You took one piece of wood and changed it for another. Yet I could find two pieces of wood from the same species and find you a greater variation in tone, between the two species you perceive as having a known variable.
    Are all sassafras bodies now discounted from 'the strat tone'? No.

    These misunderstanding are also found in the Bell Curve when talking about the differences between men and women.
    That's called a red herring logical fallacy. The fact that changing the body only resulted in a drastically different tone proves that wood affects tone. Variation of the sound within wood types is a separate issue and doesn't disprove the 1st issue lol!!

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    That's called a red herring logical fallacy. The fact that changing the body only resulted in a drastically different tone proves that wood affects tone. Variation of the sound within wood types is a separate issue and doesn't disprove the 1st issue lol!!
    I thought we were talking about tone wood in particular and whether changing a body makes a huge difference is up to the person who did so and their perception.

    My opinion is that tone wood is a non debate for the most part and you could take that a step further as the guy in the Op's video does.

  23. #22

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    How many examples does it take to convince someone that maple is brighter/snappier than rosewood? You could literally find dozens of these pbass tests that all show the same result.


    FTR, I don't think one is necessarily better than the other. Just different.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    I thought we were talking about tone wood in particular and whether changing a body makes a huge difference is up to the person who did so and their perception.

    My opinion is that tone wood is a non debate for the most part and you could take that a step further as the guy in the Op's video does.
    What do I care about peoples perceptions? Read my very 1st post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    Strings and pickups is a lot of it, but the sum of the rest of the components shape a noticeable portion of the overall character of the tone. In some applications these details don't matter, and some listeners or players don't care, but to say minor details like wood has no effect is false and is misleading to people who pursue tone.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove


    How many examples does it take to convince someone that maple is brighter/snappier than rosewood? You could literally find dozens of these pbass tests that all show the same result.


    FTR, I don't think one is necessarily better than the other. Just different.
    In the last video the rosewood sounded more like maple than his maple one and the second video didn't seem that conclusive to me. All the nuances you listened for can be heard at some point in both A/B's.

    None of them are a proper experiment, as they aren't blind.

    Do a recording of two different guitars with two different features and then whilst recording, try not to ask your self, or reassure yourself, that you're not playing any differently between the two takes because you're going to ask yourself that question and it will effect how you play.

    Again I prefer maple fretboards to rosewood but I know that's most likely a superstition or cognative bias. I've heard plenty of recordings where I thought the maple board was being played and it turned out to be rosewood. I'll still buy a maple neck out of bias but I know there are far too many other variables that will effect the tone way beyond the fingerboard wood.

    For example I only buy ebony on Jazz guitars but can you really tell the difference. Probably not but I'm 100% biased towards ebony.

  26. #25

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