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Thread: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

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    Raging BB Gunologist some_dude's Avatar
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    Default Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    I'm looking at pickup up a G&L S-500 sometime this summer.

    The dealer said I have the option of Alder or Ash as a body wood. I plan on going with the rosewood neck. This is intended to be more of a blues rock to hard rock sort of Strat.
    Last edited by some_dude; 03-15-2006 at 02:43 AM.
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  2. #2
    Erlend_G
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Well, this is MY opinion.

    Swamp Ash: Brigth, woody, with a creamy midrange. Low mid peak.
    Alder: Tigth, very twangy and brigther than ash. High mid peak.


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    Raging BB Gunologist some_dude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Hmmm...

    How would an ash body combine with a rosewood neck? Too dull?

    I know that traditionally Fender matches maple necks to ash bodies and either maple or rosewood with alder, so maybe there's a bit of a hint there.

    How would a maple necked ash Strat compare to a rosewood necked alder Strat?
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  4. #4
    Erlend_G
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Well, i prefer ash bodies over alder anyway. Alder just sounds too tigth and thin to me, "spiky" is the word i'd like to describe it with. Ash has a more loose tone, with a more "relaxed" attitude (blah blah blah.)

    An Ash body with a maple\maple neck is a timeless combination, which gives warmth, sparkly treble and a fruity tone. In my opinion, an ash body is awesome for clean\breakup tones.

    Alder body and maple\rosewood neck would sound much more defined, and clear tone, which i suppose would work better with heavy gain.

    I'm sorry if there is some spelling errors or so in this post, my mother is constantly screaming in my ears about something i don't know what is.

    -Erlend

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    Raging BB Gunologist some_dude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Thanks.

    The Strat I've been using lately is a basswood Strat with a maple/rosewood neck and a DiMarzio Vert Vintage Blues in the neck (Super Distortion on the bridge, but we'll ignore that for now ).....and the lead tone is very, very creamy....not at all harsh, spikey, or brittle sounding. I spent about 20 minutes noodling on my amps lead channel (Boogie MkIII) and it was so smooth I forgot I was even using high gain until I clicked back to my clean channel.

    Anyway, I'm looking for that sort of smoothness in a more standard Strat configuration (no basswood, no bridge humbucker, no Floyd Rose, neck pickup in the proper spot [no 24 fret necks], ect, ect....).

    Quote Originally Posted by Erlend_G
    Ash has a more loose tone, with a more "relaxed" attitude (blah blah blah.)

    An Ash body with a maple\maple neck is a timeless combination, which gives warmth, sparkly treble and a fruity tone. In my opinion, an ash body is awesome for clean\breakup tones.
    I'm actually thinking that ash/rosewood combo might work.....anyone have opinions on this?

    Alder body and maple\rosewood neck would sound much more defined, and clear tone, which i suppose would work better with heavy gain.
    high gain would only be used for soloing. For rhythm playing it's going to be either clean or overdriven (not distorted).
    Last edited by some_dude; 03-15-2006 at 03:30 AM.
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  6. #6
    Erlend_G
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Mate, i really appreciate that you listen to my opinions. But you gotta remember that it's just my opinion .

    I owned a Tele with an ash body and a maple\rosewood neck. It sounded really warm, but to my ears, it sounded a bit too soft and bland.

    One thing you gotta remember, is that there is so many factors making a guitar sound like it does. My experience with alder v.s ash bodies migth have been heavily influenced by pickups, strings and so.

    Anyway, i hope i've been helpful

    Cheers,
    -Erlend

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    Raging BB Gunologist some_dude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Erlend_G
    Mate, i really appreciate that you listen to my opinions. But you gotta remember that it's just my opinion .
    Don't worry, I plan on getting as many opinions as I can first.
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    Tone Member Earwicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Interesting opinions... the "textbook" reply would probably be that Ash is the twangy Strat, or Tele wood. Certainly if you try an Ash Strat with maple fingerboard, you'll find that it sounds very very twangy. BUT Ash looks lovely... a really good sunburst Ash strat is to die for, and although I'm not generally keen on twangy guitars, I'm minded to cultivate a taste for it when I see a beautiful Swamp ash strat!

    PRS make some kind of swamp ash guitar - can't remember the exact model - and I found it instructive to play this against plain mahogany and maple-topped mahogany bodied guitars with similar electronics. It sounds... well, twangy, basically. Alder is that classic Strat wood, and I would say had a bit more warmth and body than Ash.

    So tonally, Alder, aesthetically Ash.

    EW

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    Tone Member Earwicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    ... here's a MIJ Strat in Ash (a copy of the '54):


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    Toneologist Ocifer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    I might get flamed for saying this but: Just go for whichever one you think looks better. Ash has different grain, and is often available in light pieces to make lighter bodies, if this is of any importance to you.

    After pickups, amps, and EQ'ing, an alder Strat and an Ash strat will sound nearly identical, if not identical. I've always thought that an alder body and a one-piece maple neck was THE classic fender combination. If you'd like to fine/tune or tweak your sound (as you've mentioned), I'd concern myself with pickup choice a bit more. As long as you've got a good wood on the guitar (ash or alder), the rest is fairly easy to take care of. Playing an instrument is all about feel and sound. Go for a guitar that plays well - I doubt you'll regret any decision - whether it be alder, ash, mahogany, basswood, yadda yadda yadda. For blues rock or hard rock, either will do. The twanginess of ash will be great for the blues, the slightly more round alder will be great for distorted bits. That said, ash will still sound great distorted, and alder will still have the great clean fender blues sound.

    I'm sorry if you're no closer to deciding, I'm just pointing out that either will work for you. Try not to get too hung up, and whatever you do - enjoy the guitar you buy and post pictures.

    My $.02
    Last edited by Ocifer; 03-15-2006 at 05:47 AM.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Lake Placid Blues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Ash varies tonally with weight. I quite like light weight ash, and the lighter the weight the better, imo. I had a 70's tele from heavy ash that sounded... well sterile. The heavier it is, the brighter and thinner. The lighter it is, the warmer. A ash tele usually doesn't have a tremelo bridge effecting the tone. Ash is usually twangier on a trem bridge strat, than alder. To me ash has the tighter bass and the sharper highs. Alder is a bit fatter in the mids, at least to me.


    On edit: There's a big diffrence in pick attack. Ash has a lot more "pop" to the intial attack, compared to alder or basswood. So it's a matter of taste in that regard. Ash would make a nice contrast to your basswood guitar, giving you another tone option.
    Last edited by Lake Placid Blues; 03-15-2006 at 06:32 AM.

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    Tone Member Earwicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Some interesting pics and prices here for people interested in guitar woods:

    http://www.gilmerwood.com/instrument...lid_bodies.htm

    EW

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    Digitally Challenged Mr 9finger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Somebody correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure that nearly all of the vintage Fenders were made of swamp ash.

    As someone said earlier. The tone is going to very greatly depending on the weight of the wood when it comes to ash in general.
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Lake Placid Blues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Prior to 1957 there were light weight ash, or swamp ash.

    From 1957 through about 1972-73 they were alder. The Hendrix era strats were mostly alder.

    Through the late 70's they for the most part heavy ash, but this was not exclusive. I recall a late 70's hard tail that was alder.

    From the early 80's on they have been for the most part alder once again.

    Ash has always been an option for teles.

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    Digitally Challenged Mr 9finger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Lake Placid Blues
    Prior to 1957 there were light weight ash, or swamp ash.

    From 1957 through about 1972-73 they were alder. The Hendrix era strats were mostly alder.

    Through the late 70's they for the most part heavy ash, but this was not exclusive. I recall a late 70's hard tail that was alder.

    From the early 80's on they have been for the most part alder once again.

    Ash has always been an option for teles.

    I stand corrected. Thanks for the insight!
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Just a question.....are any of you mixing up the descriptions between hard ash and swamp ash? 'Cause I'm specifically looking at swamp ash.

    From Warmoth.....

    Northern Hard Ash is very hard, heavy and dense. A Strat body will normally weigh 5 lbs. and up. It's density contributes to a bright tone and a long sustain which makes it very popular. It's color is creamy, but it also tends to have heartwood featuring pink to brown tints. The grain pores are open and it takes a lot of finish to fill them up.

    Swamp Ash is a prized wood for many reasons. It is a very musical wood offering a very nice balance of brightness and warmth with a lot of "pop". It is a fairly light weight wood which makes it easily distinguishable from Hard Ash. A Strat body will normally weigh under 5 lbs. Many of the 50's Fenders were made of Swamp Ash. The grain is open and the color is creamy. This wood is a very nice choice for clear finishes. Swamp Ash is our second most popular wood.
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    Tone Member Earwicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Quote Originally Posted by screamingdaisy
    Just a question.....are any of you mixing up the descriptions between hard ash and swamp ash? 'Cause I'm specifically looking at swamp ash.
    Check this out - it might answer a few questions:

    http://edenhaus.com/woods.htm

    EW

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    Raging BB Gunologist some_dude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Drug my amp down to the guitar shop.....I'll be getting alder with a rosewood fretboard.

    They had an alder w/maple top and maple fretboard that also sounded pretty cool, but I prefered the bridge sound on the alder/rosewood.
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Corbic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Alder definetly! Swamp Ash is more of a Tele-wood to me, I tried some Strats with swamp ash and some with alder, and much prefered the alder ones. Overall a better sound, more classic strat like. The Swamp Ash ones were softer in tone and lighter in weight, not exactly what I would want in a Strat, but to each his own.
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    Mojo's Minions J Moose's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strat Body.....Alder vs Swamp Ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Earwicker
    PRS make some kind of swamp ash guitar - can't remember the exact model
    Yup, the "Swamp Ash Special" & I LOVE mine! It's not a 'regular' PRS, it's got 2-buckers & a Vintage Rail in the middle, bolt on maple neck & the swamp ash body. I dig it because tonally it walks the Fender/Gibson county line really well and it just plays like buttah, probably my favorite guitar in the PRS line. If I can only bring one guitar to a gig it's usually that one.

    Anyway, between swamp ash & alder it's kinda tough because they're pretty similar woods and depending on what pickups are in there, neck & fingerboard woods, type & thickness of the finish etc. the differences between them can get even smaller.

    IME, the real varience between them is in the bottom end. Alder seems to be tighter and have a "harder" midrange while swamp ash has a bigger, looser bottom end and "softer" midrange. Swap the necks from maple to rosewood & it's a whole other ballgame...alder with rosewood is kinda sorta like swamp ash with maple.

    There's a couple different spieces of ash but IMO "swamp" or "light" ash is the most musical. Northern ash is usually heavier and physically harder so guitars made of that tend to sound brittle to my ear. Northern ash is traditionally used to make baseball bats so there 'ya go!

    My advice would be to not think about it & just play whatever you dig.

    FWIW...Fender used BOTH alder & swamp ash for Strats in the 50's. Look at the EJ or any of the real deal reissues...most of the Strats are alder while Tele's are ash. But I've seen, held & played real world examples of both alder & ash Tele's & Strats which kinda brings us back to playing what you dig & shutting that "other" part of the brain off!

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