This is a brief discussion of some of the necks on my guitars. The
ordering isn't particularly significant, but approximates the degree
to which they have a distinctive voice. This ordering is somewhat
artificial in two regards: 1) it is subjective and only guaranteed
to be valid to me as I write and 2) there are other differences in
some of the guitars that these necks are on that may also influence
how distinctive they sound. The baseline for comparison is a mahogany
neck with a rosewood fingerboard.
I'll use a naming convention of neck wood, followed by fingerboard wood.
Brazilian Rosewood-Brazilian Rosewood
This guitar has a solid mahogany back and a two piece maple top and a pair
of humbucking pickups. This neck has by far the most distinctive tonal
qualities of any electric guitar I have played. The harmonics are incredibly
rich, most notably in the lower registers. The lower harmonics jump out
much more than most guitars giving the overall sound a very earthy feel.
The distinctive tone stands out the most when playing the wound strings
around the twelfth fret.
The other noteworthy characteristic of this guitar to a player is the
feel of the unfinished neck. You can really bond with the raw wood. If
you move up and down the neck a lot, the feedback from the guitar can
be quite sensual. You can probably tell where you are on the neck by feel.
I have two guitars with this neck, both with a solid mahogany back and
a two piece maple top. One of the tops has a carved hollow with a single f
hole on the upper half. Both guitars have a pair of humbucking pickups.
With Brazilian rosewood becoming quite hard to source, I was quite pleased
with this neck combination as an alternative. The harmonics are quite rich,
though the lower tones donít jump out as they do with a full Brazilian neck.
The quality of the harmonics is very consistent throughout the guitars range
of almost four octaves, but the sound really stands out when playing close
to the headstock. Plug into a dirty channel and, uhm, channel your favourite
Any classical guitar player is likely to be familiar with this combination.
Both of the classical guitars I still have in service have this neck. I also
have this neck on an electric hollow body with two piece maple top and back
and mahogany sides and center braces. I find the ebony fingerboard has a
harmonic response that is more consistent and a bit brighter than a typical
undesignated rosewood fingerboard. The difference is most noticeable if you
vary your attack significantly from note to note, in particular you will
notice that if you change the position at which you strike the string the
textural difference in the sound is quite striking. This neck wins hands
down for the textural differences coming from a change in attack, and is
probably why it is the standard for classical guitar.
It should also be noted that an ebony fingerboard is silky smooth. It is
perfect for a big vibrato Ė if you have problems with your vibrato on a
nice ebony fingerboard, you can be pretty sure it is your fingers and
not the wood.
Indian Rosewood-Indian Rosewood
This guitar has a solid mahogany back and a one piece maple top with a pair
of humbucking pickups. The example I have makes me think Indian rosewood is
done a bit of a disservice in typical comparisons with Brazilian rosewood. I
find the Indian rosewood stands on its own quite favourably in both sound and
feel. The lower harmonics donít have the dominance that they do with Brazilian
rosewood, but overall the harmonic reproduction is quite rich and consistent.
Without the lows of the Brazilian, the Indian rosewood neck is noticeably brighter.
Youíll probably want to use the whole neck.
Feel wise, the Indian rosewood neck isnít much different from Brazilian rosewood.
I wouldnít guarantee that I could tell the difference if blindfolded without
cheating and checking for inlays or the finish on the tops, which are quite
different on my guitars. Many people believe that Brazilian rosewood has a
much more striking figure than Indian rosewood, but that isnít really
substantiated in my tiny personal sampling.
This guitar has a solid mahogany back and two piece maple top with a pair
of humbucking pickups. The guitar has an incredibly rich harmonic range.
The low range harmonics are much more apparent than on most guitars, though
they don't dominate the sound quite as much as the Brazilian rosewood I've
played. The result is still a very earthy tone, but where the Brazilian
rosewood tone can be almost sinister, the cocobolo is much more mothering -
like Mother Nature herself wanting to wrap you in her arms. The sound is
very well balanced through the guitar's range of four full octaves. If you
are the kind of person who is inclined to play your feelings; this guitar
is an excellent choice.
The guitar has the most beautiful neck I've ever seen. The figure is
exceptional and the sapwood makes it visually stunning with no apparent
lose in tonal quality. The unfinished neck has a silky feel that is tough
to beat. It would be a keeper for its look and feel, even if it didn't have
a great sound.
The rest of this guitar is quite unique so it is difficult to truly assess
the tonal qualities of the neck wood. The body is obeche and the top is book
matched spalt maple with 3 sets of narrow field pickups. The guitar is quite
bright and favours being played through a channel that accentuates the attack
which can be fierce and responsive. This guitar is very much closer to the
old school Stratocaster camp than the Les Paul camp.
You canít leave this neck without commenting on the look. You can get
lost in the fingerboard. It really is tough to beat a nice piece of
cocobolo for making an exceptional looking instrument.
This neck is on a single cut with a mahogany back and two piece maple
top with a pair of humbucking pickups. You almost have to close your
eyes to judge the musical characteristics of this guitar because the
look is quite striking. If I look at the neck I feel compelled to play
bubbly music or jazzy arpeggios, so I must confess to my assessment
being flavoured by that. The natural tone of the guitar is quite clear
and pure. It tends towards the mid-range harmonics which I feel lends
the guitar to playing more mellow pieces. It has a very different character
than the other single cuts Iíve played.
The body of this guitar is swamp ash with humbucking pickups at the bridge
and neck and a Seymour Duncan hot rail in the middle. The sound is quite
pure, with nothing too dramatic going on tone wise, though the pickup
combination gives a huge range in what you do with the sound electronically.
The merits of the neck woods are most visible when playing the guitar
acoustically. If you are going to switch out pickups to change the sound
and run through effects boxes, the full maple neck gives a nice clear
baseline to work from.