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Electric guitars

  1. Jul 14, 2005 #1
    I was wondering if anyone here knew how electric guitars work. My current understanding is that it's basically an application of lenz's law- the vibrating strings create a changing magnetic field, which the pickups, er, pick up, and cause electrons to move inside and flow through the amp. What I'm really wondering is how this translates into practical design. Could you, for instance, stick strings, magnets, and a circuit onto a block of wood and create an electric guitar, or does the body shape effect things too? Is there anything else (besides the amp of course) that effects things?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2005 #2
  4. Jul 14, 2005 #3


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    Although it's nothing to do with this, I think I have to say THE EDGE is the BEST ever guitarrist. Listen its electric guitar and you'll be listening to a Master.

    That's all. Bye. :biggrin: :biggrin:
  5. Jul 14, 2005 #4


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    Assuming you've read Greg's excellent link, I can share a few secrets.

    The type of wood, shape of body, thickness, moisture content, neck design, type and thickness of strings all play a large part in giving a guitar its characteristic sounds, and that's before you even start thinking about the electronics. Even the finish (painted, polished etc) makes a difference.

    Listening to even unplugged electric guitars, it's easy to tell the difference between, say, a Fender and a Gibson, because of their drastically different design. When you plug them in, (assuming it's the same amp), it's practically impossible not to notice the difference between the clean tones, but obviously this is affected by the electronics as well as the actual lump of wood.

    In short, you could stick strings, pickups etc onto a plank, and play it, but it would sound pretty nasty.
  6. Jul 14, 2005 #5
    hmm. "At the same time, a few individuals began experimenting with a new kind of electric guitar, using the same pickup as earlier designs but mounting the pickup on a solid block of wood. Les Paul, who was already a well-known acoustic guitarist, built such a guitar on a 4-by-4 piece of pine and nicknamed it "The Log."

    So, it is possible to just put pickups on a block of wood... but does it sound the same, or does the body make a difference?

    and by the way, U2 sucks :tongue2:
  7. Jul 14, 2005 #6


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    Did you even read my post?

    Yes, it makes a big difference.
  8. Jul 15, 2005 #7
    Sorry, I didn't see your post. You must have posted it while I was typing mine.

    So how exactly does the body effect the sound? Are there any general rules like harder wood = softer sound, or something like that? I'm trying to decide if it would be feasible to build my own guitar, you see.
  9. Jul 17, 2005 #8


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    There are so many different contributing factors to how a guitar sounds that it's pretty difficult to generalise them. If you want to make your own guitar, then there's a reasonably good chance of success, especially if you follow a familiar design. Features like cutaways, and thickness changes can make a massive difference to the tone of the instrument, but if you get something which looks like a guitar then it will definitely sound like a guitar, just don't expect it to sound better than a Rickenbacker.

    It's important to pay attention to the type of wood you use, how it's been seasoned, and grain orientation if you want a first class guitar. Problems you're likely to encounter are getting the neck straight, applying the frets, and installing the truss rod. I once helped a guy design and build his own guitar, he was a competent wood-worker, and we had access to an absolutely massive workshop, but in the end we gave up and had the neck professionally finished.

    In short, yes it is more than feasible to build your own guitar, and many people do this as a hobby and produce some amazing instruments. But it takes a lot of time, a lot of skill, and a lot of patience! Having said that, you're much more likely to have good results if you confine yourself to building an electric guitar rather than an acoustic guitar, for obvious reasons.

    Good luck, let us know how it goes. I'd be interested to see a photo diary of this one!
  10. Jul 17, 2005 #9
    Thanks for all the info, although this sounds much more complicated than I was hoping it would be. I guess there's a reason why people spend thousands of dollars on guitars, huh.

    I'm hardly what I'd call an experienced wood-worker, so i may not have any success at all. But I'll experiment, and if I have any success I'll definitely show you the pictures.
  11. Jul 17, 2005 #10


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    I hope I didn't put you off, there are plenty of things you'll be able to do with limited equipment and experience. However, there are some tasks which are really rather difficult, and for these it's best to know when to send it to a professional luthier rather than hash it yourself. If you're patient and willing to learn through your project, then I reckon you should go for it! Brian May and his dad managed, and look where he ended up!
  12. Jul 18, 2005 #11
    You could spend a lifetime learning what wood density and grain structure does to sound, and like brew said, the electronics is a whole 'nuther bag.

    If you're looking to experiment and explore, the easiest way is to start visiting garage sales and pawn shops. Buy several "cheapie" guitars and build your own "frankenstein" model. As you gain experience with different setups, you'll gain some directional knowledge that will lead you where you wanna go.

    The really good guitars are expensive for a reason. You won't sound like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton on a $10 dollar guitar, but it can be unique.

    Have Fun!

  13. Jul 19, 2005 #12
    This topic is so vast I don't know where to begin.

    I've built my own amps (solid state and tube), guitars and pickups.
    PM me if you want to know about something in particular.
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