The Hardware and timber used ensures that your violin, crwth or guitar sounds as good as it is possible to make it.
I’ll attempt to state my own philosophy on the construction of the instrument. It may differ from other peoples view but it is what I honestly believe to hold true from years of observation, a little experimentation and what I know about vibration, resonance, materials and component construction from my previous life as a mechanical engineer.
It’s more than wood
There’s a ridiculous perception among many people that a guitar is just a plank, albeit a stylish one, that the all-important pick-ups are mounted to. Oh it’s true, pick-ups play a key roll in the eventual sound of your guitar but the massive contribution made by the body, neck and hardware are frequently, at best under estimated and at worst completely ignored.
Simply put; the vibration generated by the string distorts the magnetic field around the pick-up pole creating a flow of electrons (output signal) in the pick-up windings. It also sets up sympathetic vibrations in the body and neck.
The efficiency with which this vibration is transmitted to the instrument depends largely on the path between the string and the body/neck provided by the nut, bridge, tail-piece, string ferrules etc. The more closely coupled the strings are to the rest of the guitar the more effectively the vibration will be transmitted.
This transmitted vibration is then coloured by the resonant and tonal characteristics of the materials that the body and neck are made from. Density, mass and mechanical strength all have an impact on the way these tonal characteristics are coloured.
This “modified” vibration is fed back into the string, again, via the bridge, nut etc.
This affects the string, imprinting harmonics and other derivatives of the root frequency onto its’ vibration pattern, thus changing the way it distorts the magnetic field around the pick-up pole and therefore the output signal. This is a closed loop process.
Direct mounting of the pick-up to the body enhances this effect by establishing a path for the body vibration to pass to the pick-up thereby increasing the transmission of body generated tonal qualities to the output signal.
Construction methods are also crucial to the overall sound. Guitars and violins with screw on necks and “convenience fit” neck pockets tend to be effectively de-coupled at the neck body interface. This means that the neck and body tend to produce two fairly distinctly separate resonant frequencies. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact it’s one of the factors in giving the Strat it’s distinctive sound. Alternatively a glued neck is one of the key factors in making Gibson guitars sound the way they do. It’s a case of different horses for different courses.
It can be seen then that the selection of hardware, tone woods and pickups represent as important a part of the guitar makers art as the ability to carve wood and spray a bit of lacquer.