Once again we do not go gently into that good night. Why? Well because we where up all night having a debate er, discussion on the topic of is there really a difference between Alder and Ash in the tonal properties of a guitar built with either?
Quick background, Alder comes from the birch family. Alder has become a very popular as a material in the production of electric guitar bodies. Alder is to known to provide a brighter tone than other woods , and–as alder is not a particularly dense wood–it provides a resonant, well-rounded tone with excellent sustain. Alder is a light, relatively soft and medium tough wood among the wood species. It’s relatively form stable during moisture variations. The Alders color and structure of the wood, softness and reluctance to shrinkage and swelling makes it suitable building guitars. A fact that Leo Fender exploited in building his first guitars. The Alder sound produces moderate attack and smooth decay yielding an even balanced tone with well defined lows and clear highs. It is a Good choice for guitarists that require the ability to cover a broad range of sounds with one guitar.
Along came Ash. Ash is lightweight and extremely porous. It has been said to produce clear bell-like highs, pronounced mids, and strong lows. It can have some random combing away of mid frequencies, which will vary the sound per guitar more than Alder. There is an opinion that Ash found a place in higher end guitars not entirely due to it’s tone but because the wood takes very well to finishes, helping to produce some wonderful looking instruments. In looking at purchasing an electric guitar many times you will find the guitar standard in Alder with Ash available as an upgrade option.
So, back to the discussion. Is there really a difference in the tonal properties of Alder bodied guitars when comparing them to their Ash counterparts? The simple answer is yes. The woods used in the creation of your guitar are going to play a part in the end results that is that rocking power chord or blues riff you bring to life from it’s six strings. I know that sounds like a cop out and can describe the discussion between any types of woods but the reason the question is so easy to answer is that it seems to be universally true and since you have the answer to that question perhaps the questions then needs to be, not is there a difference but what are the differences and how do they matter to me as a player?
Search around the net or walk into a good shop and and ask someone to describe the sound of Alder to you. They may say it is rich and full, Alder is strong in the lower midrange. Great for lead and standing out. Ash is bright and sweet. They may even talk about a snap or pop, and no they are not talking about the two elves from the cereal box. Alder perhaps would be better suited for blues and Ash for rock.
Like with all tone woods there is much debate er, discussion, regarding the uses of the tone wood in body production and why one is better than the other, you will find many discussions reduced to a school yard chant of, my Alder can beat up your Ash, and some funny if inappropriate references to Ash in place of another part of the human body and some thing about it being kicked. In purchasing an acoustic guitar there is certainly a place high on your list for the properties of the tone wood that the guitar is built from. Now with an electric guitar there are many factors that are going to come into play in what crafts the ultimate sound that comes from the guitar, electronics for example.
Does the body of an electric guitar come factor into its sound? Yes. But not as much as you might think. The quality of the wood is what is important. The quality of the electronics, the quality of the build. These are all things that will take you from guitar zero to guitar hero. An amazing piece of Ash with crap electronics is not going to out play a nice piece of Alder with good electronics. And either one played through a crap amp, well, they will both sound like crap.
You see what I did there? Once again we give you a discussion and some points in regards to that sides of that discussion but we really don’t tell you which side is right or wrong. That is really because there is not a right or wrong in most of these discussions. In my journey as a guitar player I finally realized that there are many factors that I need and want to understand about the construction of the tools that drive our passion, but in the end the subjective nature of the organic and technological properties of these tools will never lead me down of a path of picking sides. The only side I want to be on is the side of the stage where the playing is going on. And wether you choose a guitar built form Alder or a guitar built from Ash, as long as you play it, there will not be any losers in that debate………..did it again………discussion.
G&L ASAT Classic in Vintage White available in Alder on the Standard finish or Swamp Ash on the Premier finish.