Durability and tone of different body woods

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Skyscraper
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Hi,
I just wondered if anyone knows much about how urable basswood is? I've read that basswood can't take much abuse - sure enough, the top-range RG Prestige guitars don't tend to be made of basswood, with only the JS guitars being made of it at the top end of the price range. I also don't know much about what tones to expect from basswood compared to other woods. Can anyone help?

I ask because I'm torn between the new 2620CBL (with the cubed blue finish of course) and the slightly more expensive 3120FDAM. The 2620CBL is made of basswood while the 3120FDAM has a mahogany body with a flamed maple top. I prefer the finish on the 2620, it'd be £200 cheaper, but if it's going to take a beating that the 3120FDAM could handle and the 2620CBL couldn't then for the sake of £200 that'd reduce the risk of having to repair for even more money. If anyone has experience of playing a basswood guitar for a few years, I'd be interested to read what you think about the stability and durability of your basswood guitars.

For tone, I hear that mahogany produces a fat tone and as that's a Les Paul material with the maple top as well that makes sense. However, I've only heard basswood described as having 'singing' tones. What does that mean? Will sustain damp out on it? Will it have a bright or dull sound? Is it a really soft wood that doesn't carry sound very well or not?

I was also thinking about an ESP M-II, which has an alder body. I've heard the finishing on those guitars can be a bit sloppy though so I'd need to play one, but does anyone have any thoughts on alder as well? What about maple in general as a body wood?

I've gone on a bit, so for anyone who wants a short breakdown, what I'm asking is:

Durability of basswood/other woods
Tone of basswood/other woods

I'm not fussed about the pickups as I'd want to change them anyway (PAF Joe in the neck/Seymour Duncan Full Shred in the bridge), so it's just the wood that's the concern for now. I really will set out actually to buy something after this and stop asking you all questions about everything!

Many thanks in advance to anyone who can help.
Christian777
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that is a horrible pickup combo...IMO. Have you played a guitar that has thet in it? I have a EBJPM which is basswood and durability is not a problem. I am not sure who planted that bad seed in your head, but do not listen to it. Go with what tone woods work for you. Basswood is "sponge" like. Listen to Satriani's tone. Petrucci's tone varied due to his pickups are very focused. Mahogany/maple is a very common combo which has its nice tones, but honestly I prefer alder. It seems to bring out subtle nuances when I play. This is especially the case when I play a JEM7VWH, and also why I am ondering one!
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Big Bad Bill
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They generally say that the denser/stiffer the wood, the better the sustain and the brighter the tone (presuming the neck/body joint is as stiff as possible-this is a major factor in getting a good tone).

Many manufacturers switched to basswood (which is not pronounced bayswood but like the fish!) because it wa a pretty good tone wood (being porous-like having milions of hollow sound chambers) but it was much easier going on their sawing and routing machines-they didn't need to replace expensive blades and bits as often! Very few people can tell the difference, especially if the play with a cranked amp, so everybody was happy.

As to durability, I'd agree that a solid piece of mahogany is more durable than basswood-which is why the build furniture out of the former-but remember this is a guitar! You're not going to be banging it around hitting it against wall etc etc. Also modern polyurethane finishes are so tough that I'd suggest that a normal guitarist would get exactly the same life out of a basswood guitar as they would out of a mahognay guitar. My basswood Ibanez 540 Radius (1989) is still pristine!

So I'd say, put your fears behind you and go for the guitar you really prefer-you'll have to live with it for a long time!
Skyscraper
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Thanks very much to both of you. I just worried that if I took a basswood guitar on a flight or something, it'd get beaten when I could have bought another that would have held off a tanking for £200 more. As I understand it since I posted earlier, basswood is generally regarded as an alder subsitute along with poplar. Thus, it makes sense that alder would be preferred over basswood, but if a basswood guitar with a modern finish could take some abuse (I look after my guitars but you never know if something might happen to them) then that sounds fine. So maybe it's not quite as good as alder, but that doesn't make it a bad tonewood. As for the M-II, I've heard about the finishes often being sloppy, I'd have to mail order one from the UK so it'd be risky, whereas I could get the 2620 with my own choice of pickups for the same price, so that looks like the best option. Thank you guys.

Incidentally, Christian777, why is that a horrible pickup combination? I admit I don't know anyone who has it, but the neck pickup is kind of what I wanted (I did suggest PAF Pro but was then told the Joe would be better for playing the higher frets overall) and the Full Shred is crisp with a high output but can do clean as well at the bridge. Is it just that some combinations don't go together? What possible combinations would you recommend (or anyone else)?

Nice choice on the JEM7VWH by the way. If it weren't for the middle pickup I'd probably have bought one as well by now. They play fantastically.

I just want twin humbuckers, with a crisp tone and as high an output at the bridge as I can get that can still manage a reasonable cleanish tone (so not as high as an X2N, but maybe a bit more power than a Fred or Jeff Beck for metal playing and bringing out harmonics). For the neck position I'd want a humbucker that has a good clean tone that can handle clean tapping without losing quality of sound and maybe a bit of grunt when it's played with a dirty setting. I've played Evos and they were decent, but I want to look around and be sure to have chosen the best thing first rather than be slavishly "hey I like Vai so I'll do it just because he does". If they're still the best after trying other options, then great, but I'd want to check alternatives before commiting to anything.

Last question this time, surely!

Thanks again.
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Big Bad Bill
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Have you heard Seymour Duncan Parallel Axis Trembuckers? They could be what you're looking for and they look different too (if you don't mind that!).
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