When a tree falls in the forest, is there a sound? Does the wood have a voice?
Yes to both of these questions.
Musical instruments made from wood get their tone or voice from the wood.
When selecting tone woods you must first know the tone you want to achieve. Woods that have a high pitch tone come from hard woods: maple, walnut, cherry, and a host of South American hardwoods. Woods that have a lower or more mellow pitch are softer types of wood: spruce, cedar, poplar, and some mahoganies.
Finding those tones is simple. Just hold a piece of wood in one hand between your thumb and forefinger. With the other hand just peck or thump the wood. You'll hear its voice or tone.
When selecting tone woods for an electric guitar, wood with higher voices tend to have more sustain, which gives the electric guitar its ability to sing (as it were). While acoustic or hollow body guitars have a deeper, richer sound.
Crafting a perfect instrument comes from selecting both hard and soft woods for a better overall sound. For example, playing surfaces or the noting area, the neck, would be made of maple, ebony, or rosewood. Because it wears better, and its hardness carries the vibrations down into the body.
So yes, when a tree falls in the forest, its impact with the ground causes pressure, and these vibrations have a sound whether someone is there to listen or not.
Craftsman: Dale Hall
A BODY, NECK AND HEAD
By DALE HALL
Musical instruments have been crafted for as long as man has used tools.
Using better tools and methods, instruments have gotten better. Crafting a fine musical instrument takes the right tools and, don't forget, skills by the craftsman.
The BODY part of the guitar, where sound is produced, can vary from solid to hollow body types. Solid body is mostly electronic - sound coming from pickups made from magnets wound with copper wire. In hollow body, sound comes from acoustics forming naturally in the hollow cavity of the body.
The NECK, found on both solid and hollow body guitars, would have spacers or frets along its length. Pressing the strings on a fret at different positions along the neck's length shortens and lengthens a string, thus changing the pitch or sound.
The HEAD, found at the top of the neck is where the tuning machines are found.
Starting with the neck of a guitar, you have selected one of the harder woods. Maple, for example, is widely used both for the main part of the neck as well as the playing surface. Frets are spaced on the noting , or flatter side, of the neck. The closer the frets get to the body, the closer they are spaced.
Most guitars have 22 - 24 frets, with the twelfth fret being half way from the nut at the head stock to the bridge on the body. The neck also has a truss rod inside its length to adjust for playing ease. Tuners on the head stock allows for tuning. This is also where a logo with the maker's name is found.
Joining the neck to the body can vary from bolt on to glue on, with glue on necks having more sustain. Creating the neck is the most important part of the complete instrument.
Craftsman: Dale Hall
Fret height and spacing can greatly improve the player's ability of an instrument. While there are many different spacings for frets, even on a full size 6 string guitar, the 12th fret is spaced halfway between the nut and the bridge. The widest fret spacing is at the nut, and the narrowest is at the heel of the neck. Fret height can vary depending on, for example, the type of guitar, the type of music one plays, or whether it's an electric or acoustic guitar.
Larger strings tend to require higher frets.
Once frets are installed in a fret board, they then have to be leveled, crowned and dressed. Most of the time, after frets have been installed, the fret board will arch back from frets being pressed in their slots. Once the fret board is glued to the neck, the truss rod will correct this. After the instrument is completed and stung, the truss rod may need more adjustment.
How to craft a fret board and install frets will follow in our next article.
Craftsman: Dale Hall