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Can anyone explain (in simple terms, please) how anyone human gets sound from stringing up a shovel as a modified electric guitar? Inquiring minds want to know.  I love this guy (have some albums), but it's a real head-scratcher as to how he creates his rich full musical sound when using basic homemade instruments. :P

  • I mean, um, silly question, but would've thought a shovel doesn't have any body where musical sounds can resonate. Unlike with a hollow-body guitar, Unless, I suppose, the metal blade holds sound? If we hit a shovel's blade, it creates a note for a moment or so - it's not very sustained though.
  • Or is he getting creating sound by techniques like bending strings / getting vibrato? 
  • Or is it simply the musician playing the strings --> sound from strings into pickup --> feeding straight into an amp (with no effect pedals)? 

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It's the last one, basically. There is a pickup on the shovel. The shovel itself plays no real role in generating the sound other than providing a solid object to attach strings on each end.  The strings vibrate and interrupt the magnetic field around the pickup, and wala - we have sound. 

There are more scientific explanations out there of how pickups work, but it starts with wrapping a wire around a magnet.  https://www.guitarworld.com/gear/how-does-a-guitar-pickup-really-work

There was a video a while back called "It Might Get Loud" with Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White.  Jack builds a guitar out of a two-by-four and and a couple of nails and a string.  And here it is......  


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Weekend, hurray, so time for reading up on my questions. Look, I read to final line :D That’s a lot to digest, and I’m sure some of your heads are exploding based on my shattering your pickup centric view of the magnetics, so we’ll leave it there for now and hopefully I’ll have a chance to elaborate on this in the future.

so here's my summary understanding so far. Please correct me if I'm wrong! Guitars can be divided into acoustic and electric.

  • You can attach a microphone to an acoustic guitar, so the musical sound can be amplified & go through a speaker. 
  • You don't do that with electric guitars. Instead the strings vibrate & this does something freaky with the magnetic field (that I read but will need to discuss with a smart physics friend). Anyway, the pickup near the vibrating strings picks up the variations in electrical field. Sends to the amp. Amp to the speaker. 

Crucially, this means acoustics and electrics are designed & built in very different ways. Building acoustics involves finding wood and creating a hollow body which will hold sound that emerges through that big hole under the strings. Some wood influences musical sounds or the tone created - hence the phrase "tone-wood". The difference is really clear between the tone created within the bodies of a guitar made of plywood laminate (good) and a guitar made from very thin wood (better). There are also subtle differences (that are apparently clear to musicians & luthiers) between the tones created by different types of timber. Some luthiers search for the perfect wood when creating acoustics.

  • Ironically, these issues (body shape & tone wood) that are so crucial for hollow body acoustics are not actually an issue for electric solid body guitars.

The body of electric can be created from anything, & the shape can be any shape, so long as those strings can vibrate & those pickups are in place. So, for instance, the earliest model by Les Paul nicknamed "the log" (or a shovel)! But, guitarists, being merely humans, find it easier to play an electric that's shaped a little like an acoustic, especially in terms of the area around the neck (guitarists' left hand if they are right handed) & fretboard (right hand). Any similarity in layout & design helps guitarists play both types of guitar in same kind of way, using similar techniques & muscle memory in their hands. (They can anchor the base of their right hand against the guitar to play). But beyond that, neither body shape nor materials used significantly impact the sound created. 


how'd I get on? 2 stars out of 5? 😀

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