As a guitarist, you understand the significance of selecting an instrument with suitable tonewood. Your selection can have a major effect on its sound.
Different tonewoods highlight particular resonant frequencies to add distinctive tonal colors and textures to your acoustic guitar’s overall sound.
Alder is a medium-weight wood with tight and hard grains. It produces an overall full-bodied tone encompassing low, mid, and high frequencies; therefore it is widely used in solid body guitars and basses construction projects.
Building a guitar requires choosing tonewoods for its body (solid and laminate for electric guitars and sides, back and top for acoustic guitars), neck and fretboard which determine its sound, playability and feel. Some luthiers prefer specific tonewoods while others may opt for combinations instead.
Red alder is one of the most sought-after wood choices for solid-body electric guitar bodies, thanks to its distinctive large rings and sections which contribute to strength, resonance, and balanced tone production.
Red Alder is an extremely sustainable hardwood species due to its ability to sequester carbon – in fact, one cubic meter of red alder lumber absorbs 651kgCO2-eq!
Lighter weight of this wood makes it more ergonomic for guitarists who often carry their guitars around on their shoulders, as it is less likely to warp or decay and lasts longer with minimal upkeep needs. Furthermore, its versatility lends itself well to various musical genres.
Basswood (Tilia Americana) is one of the most frequently used guitar woods, coming from an indigenous tree that regenerates naturally and sequesters carbon effectively – making it an eco-friendly choice.
Basswood is an economical and lightweight wood that’s simple to work with, producing warm tones with enhanced midrange frequencies.
Pine has an extremely even grain, and can be given various treatments by applying different stains. Dark or vibrant hues may make the piece more eye-catching while lighter tones give a more natural aesthetic.
As with other woods, basswood may oxidize and darken with time – this usually does not pose a major concern since this usually happens naturally over time.
Basswood is an extremely popular material choice for guitar bodies, offering a rich, warm sound that strengthens bass guitar presence. This material can be applied both solidbody and hollowbody designs.
Swamp ash makes for an exceptional acoustic guitar wood for many reasons, not least of all because it is lightweight and durable while producing a bright tone that suits any genre of music. Thanks to its large open pores that produce an appealing, sweet-sounding resonance tone.
Swamp ash, also referred to as black ash, basket ash or hoop ash, is an abundant deciduous tree found across North America in swamps and wetlands. Reaching heights of 60 feet tall with over two-foot diameter canopies.
However, harvesting this wood has become much more difficult due to climate change and rising flooding events that have negatively impacted wetlands where these trees reside. Anderson-Tully Lumber, one of Fender’s primary suppliers, has consequently significantly decreased its supply.
When selecting swamp ash lumber for guitar construction projects, be sure to source it from a supplier who understands guitar builders’ desires and requirements. Too often suppliers evaluate wood according to NHLA standards instead of taking into account specific luthier criteria like weight, color density width. Otherwise you could end up with too heavy of wood that doesn’t meet all your criteria.
Koa (also known as Hawaiian acacia koa) is an exotic wood with an even tonal range, producing a balanced tone from bottom end to upper range – ideal for guitar and bass construction with emphasis placed on tonal quality.
Koa guitars typically sound bright when new, but this soon changes over time to create a rich and resonant tone that grows richer over time. Over time they also develop an enhanced midrange and rounder sound as they age further.
Koa is beloved acoustic guitar wood for many reasons, including its natural beauty and stunning grain pattern, from reds to cinnamon browns and bold charcoal streaks.
Its warm tone can easily adapt to any musical genre or style. With a pleasingly bright top end and mid range that blend seamlessly with mahogany and rosewood to produce an excellent sound quality.
Koa can be found in various styles and designs of guitars, from solid bodies and laminates to sides and backs of an acoustic instrument. Grand Auditorium guitars such as this 724ce Builder’s Edition feature select grade koa, chosen both for its visual beauty as well as musical response.
Maple wood is an increasingly popular choice for guitar bodies and necks, particularly multi-wood combinations. The density of maple ensures its bright tone easily cuts through competing sounds – perfect for live performances as there’s less chance of feedback!
Maple’s beautiful appearance is another advantage of using it as wood flooring, from white to reddish brown in hue and with fine textures and smooth grains making it exceptionally aesthetically pleasing.
Maple wood is hard and durable, which makes it ideal for making acoustic guitars because it produces high-quality tones while protecting against damage.
Maple wood is an extremely versatile material, and can be found in mandolins and violins alike. Thanks to its fantastic low-end that draws most of the bass tone while simultaneously producing exceptional clarity, maple has long been considered an excellent choice for small acoustic guitar models from top luthiers as it produces clear sound with plenty of depth and volume.
Rosewood has long been considered an ideal material for high-end acoustic guitar construction and fretboards, producing a clear and bright tone.
Rosewood is widely used on acoustic guitar backs and sides, found on some of the highest-end vintage and contemporary models alike. East Indian rosewood is one of the more commonly employed species; it provides a smooth fretboard surface without any potential snags or cracks.
Honduran rosewood is another widely used acoustic guitar wood, featuring dense, heavy and strong construction qualities with dark red/mauve to brown hues that often exhibit “spider-web” grain patterns.
Rosewood stands out among guitar tonewoods by having an increased frequency range, giving it greater articulation and clarity than most acoustic guitar woods. Furthermore, its lower end tends to sound deeper while its treble end can sound brighter; furthermore, rosewood’s midrange is often scooped more than mahogany or maple.
As rosewood becomes harder and harder to acquire due to rainforest depletion and destruction, obtaining country-of-origin permits and conducting proper research is vital in order to secure your supply of rosewood.
Ebony is an extremely dense and heavy tonewood that produces a bright, snappy, crisp attack with an incessant sustain, making it an appealing option among guitarists due to its natural oil content and durability.
Ebony wood’s high density and natural polish create a dark, rich appearance on a guitar fretboard that stands out. Furthermore, its rich tone can be utilized by both acoustic and electric instruments alike.
Since 2010, many guitar builders have begun using ebony for the neck wood of their instruments due to its durability and the fact that it provides for an exceptionally solid neck that is less likely to crack than rosewood or other woods.
Ebony wood is extremely expensive and hard to come by; for this reason some acoustic builders prefer using sustainable alternatives as an ebony replacement.
Monkey-pod (Diospyros dioica) wood can often be found as an excellent substitute to ebony in instruments. This tropical wood boasts golden amber hues with dark streaks similar to Koa or Acacia woods, similar to Koa or Acacia species, yet shares similar tonal characteristics with mahogany luthiers such as Malaysian luthier Jeffrey Yong.