Paul Reed Smith Reacts to Statements That Tonewood Doesn’t Matter: ’What a Load of Crap’

While visiting Dipped in Tone, a guitar-oriented podcast hosted by Rhett Shull and Zach Broyles, PRS Guitars founder Paul Reed Smith discussed various topics related to our favorite instrument. Among other topics, the three of them also reflected on the ever-present tonewood debate in the world of electric guitars. When asked on the matter, Paul Reed Smith responded (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I found an argument in Germany when I was over there that I think sticks. If the instrument doesn’t matter, and it’s only the pickup, then a concert violinist would go up to a Neumann microphone and the violin would not matter at all. It’s his hands and the microphone. That’s it! That’s all that matters, according to the internet. What a load of crap…”

Paul Reed Smith on What Makes a Great Guitar

So, if you grab any guitar behind you that’s any brand, it’s gonna make a vowel sound, it’s gonna make an ‘ooh,’ an ‘au,’ or an ‘aah,’ ‘eeh,’ or an ‘e’. And you’ve heard guitars go [in high-pitched note] ‘e-e-e-e-e’ when you play them and the ones that go [calm voice] ‘da-da-da-da-da-da.’ A  really good guitar is bright on the bass strings and really thick on the high strings. And that the pickup picks up.”

And the idea that the pickup is going to ignore that… That red guitar in the rig [behind one of the interviewers] is hollow and has a note that’s coming out of it all the time, those harmonics are added to every note you play, is nuts.”

Paul Reed Smith Explains PRS Pickup Design | PRS Guitars

“And I’ve heard it over and over and over and over again that the tonewoods don’t make any difference whatsoever. It’s just not true.”

Adding to the discussion, he also recalled bringing some violin builders to his wood supplier. Paul recalled:

“I took a couple of violin makers to my wood supplier once. And they went and knocked on every piece of wood in this entire area. And they were listening not for the note but how long it rang. And at the end, the woodcutter jaw-dropped.”

Check out these other articles:

“And I said ‘What’s wrong?’ and he goes ‘Look what they picked out.’ They picked out 40 backs for violins. They all had the same number on it. I said ‘What does that mean?’ and he said ‘They’re all from the same tree, Paul.'”

“I mean, they had picked out the ones that rang the longest — it was all coming from the same tree. So that doesn’t matter?! It’s just nuts!”

Photos: ArtBrom (Paul Reed Smith 4 – 2014 NAMM Show), chascar (Paul Reed Smith)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.