Alder vs. Swamp Ash – what is better on a Strat style guitar? The tale of two Suhr Classics.
Being totally obsessed with how to make certain sounds (i.e. tone and timbre), for as long as I’ve been playing guitar I’ve been curious about which woods lend themselves to which sounds and tones. A common question that comes up is which is more preferable, alder or swamp ash?
The answer to this depends on what style of music you play and what kind of feel you’re going for. When compared with the exact same electronics (Suhr V60LP single coil pickups and the Suhr Silent Single Coil system) there’s plenty of difference in the tone of the two. The alder is all mids whereas the swamp ash is all low’s and highs. Alder cuts through the mix best whereas nothing has spank and twang like swamp ash. I would say that alder is a little more common for rock and blues (especially), and that swamp ash is more common in country and funk. To that point, if you want an even, round, warm and fat sound, alder is the choice. If you want something with more characteristic bite, growl and sizzle, then swamp ash is a great way to go. I LOVE the sound of the bridge pickup on my Suhr Swamp Ash Classic when using low to medium gain sounds on my Suhr Badger to go for a Robben Ford “Chevrolet” kind of thing. Nasty!
To help further this discussion I have recorded a short clip of each guitar, playing the same riff through each pickups configuration. All things are equal (amp settings, mic placement, etc). Hopefully this will help give a better idea about some of these wood combinations and their resultant effect on tone.
SUHR ALDER CLASSIC – ONE PIECE MAPLE NECK – V60LP PICKUPS