Plywood might be one of the best electric guitar tonewoods
For some people, anyway.
After buying my second 1989 Squier II Stratocaster, I was pleased to notice that it, just like my original, resonates like a beast. This is something a lot of Stratocaster players chase after.
Here is a short video demonstrating the acoustic resonance of that guitar:
Why does acoustic resonance matter at all with a solid-body electric guitar?
For me, it's for two reasons. The feeling of it and the acoustic sound.
Some players (and I am definitely one of them) like to feel body vibration while the guitar is being played. Feeling the vibration is a "second confirmation" the note or chord actually happened.
Hearing the note acoustically being played is a "third confirmation" the note or chord actually happened. This is only heard when playing indoors at home at a lower volume, but still nice to have.
When you hear the note or chord electrically, acoustically and feel it physically all at once, that's a desirable thing to many guitar players.
Why does plywood resonate so well in a solid-body guitar application?
I've been racking my brain trying to figure this out, and this is what I've come up with.
The first thing to know is that not all plywoods are not the same. Plywood is generally inexpensive, but there is also marine grade which is far more expensive because there are no voids between the plys.
The '89 Squier II Stratocaster is absolutely not made of marine grade plywood. It's the cheap stuff for sure, but not the cheap-as-dirt OSB particle board (that means oriented strand board.)
If you search online for those who actually made guitars with plywood bodies, it's mostly guys who took the absolute cheapest OSB particle board they could find and make a guitar out of it.
The plywood used in my '89 Squier Strat is a grade above that. Certainly not premium grade, but not total bargain bin stuff either.
My best guess is that it's probably the same plywood type used in mid-grade speaker enclosures. I believe that is the secret sauce, so to speak. That's what makes it resonate so well.
Does this mean you should start building plywood body guitars?
No. Or to be more specific, not unless you're chasing after a very specific result.
It is easy to find a pre-made guitar body in a traditional tonewood like mahogany, alder, ash and so on. Heck, you can get mahogany guitar bodies easily on Amazon right now.
As crazy as this sounds, it would take more money and time to construct a plywood body. The plywood itself is cheaper, but ready-made options for solid bodies aren't generally available, so you have to fabricate it yourself.
If you are actually willing to take the time, money and effort to fabricate a body from mid-grade plywood, go for it. It might be just the thing to get the wood resonance you've been looking for...
...if that's what you want. Generally speaking, only fans of Fender and Gibson like solid-body electric guitars with tons of body resonance to them. Other players, such as hard rock and metal soloists, don't want pronounced resonance because that can make a Floyd-Rose tremolo system feel weird for their style of playing.
Both my plywood solid-body Squiers are resonance monsters. I can't say the same for the 2021 Fender Player Stratocaster I just recently returned. That guitar had a "proper" alder body, but the acoustic resonance, while there, was minimal.
I'm not saying to go buy a vintage Squier. But I am saying that if you have the means to put guitars together yourself (especially if you have the tools and equipment,) consider plywood. But be sure to use a plywood that's at least semi-good.
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