Guitar weight is something that worries a lot of players.
It’s no fun to play a show with an instrument that feels like an elephant hanging from your shoulder.
However, in their quest for tone and sustain, many guitarists have ended up picking heavyweight instruments because they are convinced they sound better.
But do heavier guitars really have more sustain?
Heavier guitars don’t necessarily have better sustain. However, weight can be an indicator of density, and more dense, harder tonewoods from which these guitars might be made are known to improve sustain because they absorb less energy from the vibrating string.
In this article, I will dive deep into the factors that influence the sustain of the notes on a guitar, and discuss whether its weight is one of them or not.
After leaving this page, you will have a clearer idea about what it takes for a guitar to have more sustain than others, and why weight is not a direct indicator of it, but something to take into consideration.
Are you ready to get started?
Is weight a good indicator of a guitar’s sustain?
Weight alone is not a good indicator of a guitar’s sustain. Sustain is more directly correlated with the hardness and stiffness of the components that make that guitar, namely tonewoods, construction, and other hardware.
The basic idea to understand sustain is that when a string vibrates it is releasing energy until it stops vibrating.
If that string resonates attached to softer materials that act like a cushion, they will slowly but effectively absorb a big part of that energy, thus making it stop vibrating earlier.
Now, think of the same string resonating against a way harder material than the previous one. It’s more likely that this stiffer medium remains unaltered by the vibrations and hence takes less energy away from the string.
The less energy taken from the string the more it has to keep vibrating for longer.
All of this is just to say that the really important thing that defines a guitar’s sustain is how hard its tonewoods are.
But the interesting thing here is that these harder tonewoods are usually heavier, so there’s a certain correlation between weight and sustain, but it’s not correct to say that sustain depends on weight.
What are the factors that define the sustain of a guitar?
Some of the factors that determine how long a note will sustain on a guitar are the materials from which it’s built, the way the instrument is constructed, being it bolt-on, with a set neck or neck-through, the quality of its construction (better bonds between its parts), and the magnetic pull of its pickups on the strings.
If you want to know how the amount and strength of the pickups on a guitar affect its sustain, I recommend you check out the following article:
But knowing all of this, and obsessing about it leads to the next question:
Is sustain really important on a guitar?
In my opinion, no, sustain is not of utmost importance on a guitar.
Let’s face it, you will probably never let a note vibrate for the maximum amount of time your instrument allows you to do so.
Of course, if we are talking about extremely affordable instruments where you might struggle to make some notes to even maintain ringing for a few seconds, I’ll give it to you, sustain might matter.
But at a certain quality standard, from intermediate guitars upwards, sustain tends to not be a problem, especially when playing with a bit of distortion or overdrive.
There are alternatives in the market such as an ebow or sustainer pickups if you really need infinite notes on your songs.
You can also try to get an infinite feedback loop with your amp if you are playing with speakers and live sound.
Are there any reasons to choose a heavier guitar?
There’s no real reason to pick a heavier guitar because of its weight, however, its mass can be a proxy for other important features that might matter to you.
For instance, and as I mentioned earlier, heavier guitars are usually built with harder tonewoods.
These materials are known for having a particular sound to them, specifically a warmer and darker sound.
Think of a Les Paul as a staple of this assertion.
Now, if you want to know more about this, I’ve written another article dedicated exclusively to this.
You can check it out here:
Are lighter guitars always better?
Lighter guitars are not necessarily better, although many players gravitate towards them because of their practicality.
A lighter guitar model, when talking about averages, will mean that the instrument is built with softer less dense tonewoods that have a slightly different sound than heavier ones.
Some players might like that better, others won’t.
Now, when comparing guitars from the same brand, model, and materials, a lighter instrument might mean that there’s less humidity captured into its tonewoods, and that might improve its overall resonance.
But apart from all these technical nuances, I really think you should go for the guitar that feels better to you.
Some players prefer the struggle of carrying around a heavy chunk of wood because it feels like the real thing and lets them dig harder into what they are playing.
Other players prefer instruments lighter than a feather that can be carried around while running across the stage effortlessly.
None of them is necessarily right or wrong, and although one can argue that they might sound slightly different, that’s a feature in itself.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.