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  #1  
Old 05-09-2014, 02:34 PM
Sesop Sesop is offline
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Default Why doesn't anybody build guitars with birch anymore?

Like the title says- why?

Im dying to hear a birch guitar. It looks like I have to buy one if I want to hear it in person, and that made me wonder- why don't I see any new birch guitars?
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:37 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Well, they work but they're kind of "colorless" sounding, without a lot of distinctive tone. Very neutral-sounding, you might say.


whm
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:38 PM
pb+j pb+j is offline
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Because no famous guys play birch guitars?

Seriously, I'm not at all sure why Birch isn't listed as a "tonewood." But then, I'm skeptical about the whole premise of "tonewood" to begin with.
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:48 PM
vintageparlors vintageparlors is offline
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It doesn't compare well against the more common tonewoods of today but birch, old and seasoned, has a personality of it's own.
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:57 PM
pb+j pb+j is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vintageparlors View Post
It doesn't compare well against the more common tonewoods of today but birch, old and seasoned, has a personality of it's own.
What does this mean--"doesn't compare well?" In what sense? Does it have less midrange? More bass? less sparkle? It's wood--it has a stiffness to weight ratio. It can be bent. It vibrates

I would assume one reason you don't see much birch in guitars is that it's pretty rare to find big Birch trees.

Beech--beeches are common, they grow huge, the wood is very workable.

Guitar is a follow the leader thing. Everybody wants the same wood, because everybody wants the same wood
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Old 05-09-2014, 03:17 PM
random works random works is offline
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To a large degree, its the bracing, but birch is a hardwood with different characteristics than spruce or cedar. I have a 40 year old solid birch OM that was converted from ladder to X bracing. Flatpicked it sounds very very good: clear ringing notes with no muddiness in the bass, just a sweet sound on full chords or single notes. fingerpicked it takes a heavier attack than my spruce and cedar topped guitars to get the same volume. When this guitar was ladder braced, I still liked it, but it was more one dimensional.

X braced, it has what I call a plain vanilla tone, nice, woody and rich, but not full of nuanced overtones.

The ladder braced birch sound is great for old time blues and slide work. You recognize that sound when you hear it.
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Old 05-09-2014, 03:23 PM
Twelvefret Twelvefret is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sesop View Post
Like the title says- why?

Im dying to hear a birch guitar. It looks like I have to buy one if I want to hear it in person, and that made me wonder- why don't I see any new birch guitars?
Too much mahogany and Brazilian rosewood to use up first.

Actually, I played a few Maybelle's (sp?) with birch backs and sides that sounded bright, which I like.
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Old 05-09-2014, 03:29 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Tons of famous guys played them if you think about the Stella and Regal guitars as well as Gibson A and A1 mandolins. But that was a long time back.

I own several guitars made with birch - some with birch bodies and other with birch tops. Based on the guitars I own birch as a body wood is far from colorless sounding. About the only place I would say these guitars fall short is in attack volume. But if you think about it, birch has been one of the favored woods for speaker cabinets because of its natural resonance. Plus, it can be a real looker if you get a highly flamed/figured piece.

Birch tops are a whole other ball game. Most of the smaller body guitars I have owned with birch tops have just sounded tinny, thin and almost hollow. But I do own a Schmidt jumbo with a 15" birch top. Again, while being a bit on the quiet side, it just sounds fat and sweet. It remains one of my favorite guitars.
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Old 05-09-2014, 03:38 PM
Dru Edwards Dru Edwards is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
Well, they work but they're kind of "colorless" sounding, without a lot of distinctive tone. Very neutral-sounding, you might say.


whm
+1.

Sesop, Garrison built birch guitars in Newfoundland, Canada, before they were acquired by Gibson a few years ago. I have one of them. Nice guitar but as Wade stated above, fairly neutral sounding tonewood. Also, not the nicest tonewood to look at either, at least from my perspective.
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Old 05-09-2014, 03:40 PM
downtime downtime is offline
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In addition to what others have mentioned, I believe a big reason is that birch is not typically a very interesting looking wood.
Most of the older birch made guitars have the grain hidden behind a burst or a faux wood grain.
Pictured I have two all birch parlors, a 30's College Pal with a burst and a 60's Silvertone with a faux painted wood grain / burst combo.

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Old 05-09-2014, 04:00 PM
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Toby Walker Toby Walker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
Well, they work but they're kind of "colorless" sounding, without a lot of distinctive tone. Very neutral-sounding, you might say.
whm
Quote:
Originally Posted by vintageparlors View Post
It doesn't compare well against the more common tonewoods of today but birch, old and seasoned, has a personality of it's own.
Hmmm... I own one that was made for me a few years ago by Mike Hauver and I think it has a very distinct and pleasing tone. I wouldn't compare it to the lushness of rosewood or mahogany but it serves me pretty well. The top however is made of spruce. I can't wait to hear what she'll sound like in another 15 to 20 years.

This isn't the best recording but you can get an idea of how it sounds.



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Old 05-09-2014, 06:17 PM
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sweiss sweiss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by downtime View Post
In addition to what others have mentioned, I believe a big reason is that birch is not typically a very interesting looking wood.
Most of the older birch made guitars have the grain hidden behind a burst or a faux wood grain.
Pictured I have two all birch parlors, a 30's College Pal with a burst and a 60's Silvertone with a faux painted wood grain / burst combo.

I have a College Pal identical to yours, and I like it a lot. Made by the Slingerland Drum company in Chicago.

I'd like to see a modern, all birch acoustic made....but I won't hold my breath. I can't see there being much of a market for it. But if you think about it....why not birch? All solid hardwood guitars have long been made of mahogany.

I have several all birch guitars, and I like them for fingerstyle. I can't describe the tone except to say it's just different. I do think that a lot of birch guitars suffer by having a tailpiece/floating bridge instead of a normal fixed bridge. I have both types, and the fixed bridge guitars sound much better.

Who knows....maybe birch will come back into favor some day when the "more desirable" tonewoods become scarce.
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Old 05-09-2014, 08:15 PM
Malty Malty is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by random works View Post
The ladder braced birch sound is great for old time blues and slide work. You recognize that sound when you hear it.
My old birch Stella remains open tuned for authentic" blues slide work. Think more "thumpy" with less sustain.
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:13 AM
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Bob Womack Bob Womack is offline
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From my experience, birch is to tonewood what goanna lizard is to fine cuisine. Yer can ask Croc Dundee about goanna.

Bob
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:21 AM
DaveKell DaveKell is offline
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I used to have a dread by a maker called LYS. I later learned this was a very early Godin company. The back and sides were birch. I can't recall much about the sound and playability of it but I sure do remember how sunlight would shine right through the thin birch and illuminate the whole inside of the guitar. That, along with the extreme light weight of the guitar, made me always aware of how fragile it might be. Eventually traded if for a Tele. Oh yeah, and it had next to zero bass response.
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