Guitar Making Tip Number 618 is about making the neck from a denser species to help control vibration loss. The neck is one of the largest sources of vibration loss in the entire guitar system. Here is an easy way to reduce it.
How the Guitar Neck Loses Vibration
When the string is played, the neck has to hold on tightly to keep the string vibrating. The more wobble the neck has, the more vibration you lose.
The neck is also at a huge disadvantage mechanically. Think about trying to hold a door open while someone else is trying to close it.
If you hold on from the inside edge closest to the hinges, you will not be able to overcome the force of the door closing. You have no leverage. However, if you push from the edge farthest from the hinges, now you have more of an advantage, and it’s easier to do.
The guitar neck is the same way. It’s only holding on by the inside edge, and it hangs way out into space, which makes it hard to keep it from losing vibration energy. There is however something you can do to make it lose a little less energy…
Taking a Lesson From Competitive Rifle Shooters
At the high end of rifle competition, a shooter has almost every variable controlled other than their own heart beat. Every shooter can see a little wobble in their scopes, and that’s because they are still alive.
In order to get the best possible shot, you need to make the rifle as stable as possible, and reduce the wobble in the scope to as close to zero as you can. One way to do this is to increase the weight of the rifle.
An ultra light rifle will move around when held, even with the slightest interference. In contrast, a heavy rifle needs more force to move. If you look through a scope on both, you will notice that the heavier rifle stays still better than the lighter rifle.
Use a Denser and Heavier Species for the Neck
Just like a heavier rifle needs more force to disturb it’s location in space, a heavier neck resists vibration loss better as well. A loose and wimpy neck will be battered quickly by the pressure and vibration of the strings, which a strong, heavy neck will not.
Think of the neck as a noodle. If it could hold the string tension, it would not allow the guitar to play very long before the sound deadens out. If the neck were a piece of metal, it hold the vibration nearly forever, but it would lose warmth.
A good compromise is to use a denser species for the neck. This does not mean that you need to use Ironwood, it just means that a little more strength and heaviness in the neck area will help control vibration loss.
Dense Species to Choose From for the Neck
Woods like Rosewood, Goncalo Alves, and Wenge are all strong, dense, and add some weight to the neck that a piece of Mahogany just does not do. It is going to make the neck heavier, but you can control that by strapping the guitar at the headstock.
I have made several guitars with Goncalo Alves necks, and they all turned out to have a really resonant sound. The notes played longer, sounded better, and it just seemed like the guitar had more life.
If you are used to making necks from Mahogany, which is relatively light, trying a heavier wood can make a difference. Start with something more solid like Rosewood or Goncalo Alves, and see if you like the difference in tone and resonance.
Guitar Making Tip No. 618 Wrap-Up
A heavier neck is going to reduce vibration loss in this key area. The extra energy will be transformed into sound, and you will have a fuller sounding guitar. You will also have more sustain, and longer lasting notes.
Pick out a species that is a little more weighty than Mahogany, and try it out on your next guitar project. You will appreciate the difference right away. From there, you can experiment with different woods, and see which one gives you the best sound for the buck.
If you have any questions about Guitar Making Tip No. 618, please leave a comment and I will be glad to help. Happy building.
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Tip No. 618 is from my book, 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners, which has a thousand more great tips to get your first few builds on the right track. There is no secret to guitar making, just a lot of small things that you need to get right. These tips will help you.