There is nothing quite like a well-made cocktail. Whatever your beverage of choice is when it’s mixed with the right amount of flavors to complement its character it becomes even better.
The same can be said for great guitar woods.
There is a basic standard of choices when it comes to guitar wood selections. We tend to stick with the tried and true classics like Mahogany, Basswood, Swamp Ash etc. We know and trust these wood because after 50 years or so in the guitar industry we are well familiar with how they perform and how they affect tone.
In the last 10 years or so the custom electric guitar market has expanded to incorporate ‘exotic woods” to help color tone in new and exciting ways. Pasquale Custom Guitars has fully embraced this concept by adding woods like Padouk, Pau Ferro, Black Walnut and Roasted Maple into our standard catalog. We are also guilty of searching local hardwood stores for any rare gems of exotics like Black Palm, Wenge and Tree of Life woods.
These woods have a unique character of their own and definitely compliment the tone of the completed instrument. We have had a practice of balancing the body, neck and fingerboard woods since we started building guitars to balance the Natural EQ of our instruments.
Recently however I have begun experimenting with what I call the “Tone Cocktail”.
The process began when I was designing our Detonator Bass Guitars. Before I began my designs I spent some time with Stuart Spector at Winter NAMM 2015. We discussed the woods used for his bass guitars. I had been a fan of his basses for decades and I wanted to pick the Master Builders brain about his wood choices. Stuart prefers solid maple construction for his basses because the wood allows his guitars to have a mid-range punch that most guitars with Alder or Poplar lack.
I took this all into consideration but I wanted something a little more unique. Maple wood is definitely bright and punchy but it is not the only wood that has this characteristic. Padouk and Ebony are also extremely bright and punchy.
The consensus was that Alder, Poplar and other standard body woods were too warm to bring out the punchy sound that a bass guitar needed. I was torn in this matter because I love the warm breathable sound that Alder brings to the mix. I took this into consideration and in the end I wanted to capture the warm resonance that Alder brings to the Natural EQ and still have the solid punch of a solid maple body.
So I set out to experiment and created a “Center Strip” of tone woods that would act as the center of the body that would be matched with “Body Wings” of Alder. This would be the center of the guitar body where the bridge and neck would mount.
The Center Strip that we created is a “Tone Cocktail” made up of strips of extremely bright strips of Ebony and Padouk wood that are balanced with strips of warm Pau Ferro wood. The Ebony and Padouk woods added plenty of bright punch while the Alder wings added some warmth and balance. Pau Ferro is typically used for fingerboards because it adds a warm and creamy presence to the tone. Since we used this to offset the Ebony and Padouk, it filled out the tone spectrum and richly balanced the tone.
Thus our latest creation of the “Tone Cocktail” was born. We have continued to experiment and have also created tone cocktails with other woods that when mixed enhance the characteristics of each wood to create a balance of tones that truly enhance our guitars.