The Best Guitar Tone-Wood For You
Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Wood is one of the biggest determining factor in your guitar's sound. "Tone-wood" is a term used to reference from what wood your guitar is built. Most guitars use a variety of wood to achieve an overall sound.
In this post, we'll focus on the main tone-woods used for building acoustic guitars. (These are the ones you're most likely to come across.)
Why does wood type matter?
the wood type matter?
Whenever you strum or pluck your guitar, your string vibrates the bridge of the guitar which, in turn, vibrates the body and neck of the guitar producing sound.
Different woods will produce different sounds on the guitar. Some woods are more dense, some more light. Even two cuts of wood from the same tree will sound differently depending on what that portion of wood experienced during the growth of the tree.
(Side Note: Although most acoustic guitars are made of wood, often cheaper guitars are made of laminated wood instead of solid wood.) Laminated wood is multiple thin layers of wood glued together. Some more expensive guitars are made with solid wood which often produces a richer tone.
Back and Sides of the Guitar
Acoustic guitars usually have different types of wood on the back and sides of the guitar than the wood on the top of the guitar. The following are common cuts of wood found on the acoustic guitar's back and sides.
This wood is one of the more dense tone-woods and therefore gives a rounded and warm tone. Mahogany is used in acoustic and electric guitars and is often used for blues and jazz styles due to its warm mid tones.
This is the most popular tone-wood since almost every guitar manufacturer uses this. In fact, so many guitars have been made with Brazilian Rosewood that it has depleted to the point of endangerment according to (CITES). It’s known for its dark color, high resonance, and balanced tone. These guitars are more expensive since they are no longer mass produced. Those guitars that use this wood are from reclaimed pieces of fallen trees.
A cousin of Brazilian Rosewood is Indian Rosewood. It has a similar dark color and balanced tone.
This wood is similar to mahogany because of its dense qualities. However, Sapele is slightly harder than mahogany which pronounces the higher frequencies more.
This tone-wood is unique because it only grows in Hawaii. Guitars made with koa can also be pricey because of its limited availability as a tone-wood. Koa produces a similar balanced tone just like rosewood and is said to sound better over time.
Top of the Guitar
This is by-far the most popular tone-wood for the tops of acoustic guitars. A commonly used variety of this wood is sitka-spruce. Spruce is used as the top of an acoustic because it has a very nice balance to the tone. It provides the high balanced frequencies that is sometimes missed in the back and sides.
Finger-style and classical guitar players love this tone-wood. It's not as dense as spruce which makes them quieter but also provide a nice warm rounded tone.
Even though maple is often used for back and sides, it is also used as a top wood. Since maple is a relatively hard wood, it doesn't resonate as much as cedar or spruce. But it makes up for this with a crystal clear tone. Every single note you pluck or chord you strum will cut through the noise.
Neck of the Guitar
Just as mentioned before, rosewood is a nice hard wood with a balanced tone making is great for guitar necks and fretboards. Since it’s a bit stronger, that means it can take quite a bit of a beating and still be okay. It also has a smooth feel to it, making it arguably the best tone-wood for your fretboard.
This wood is most commonly found on electric guitars but they also produce similar qualities as rosewood.
Tone-woods are important when choosing a guitar. Whether you're buying your first guitar or you are looking for an upgrade, feel free to reach out with any questions!
We are here to help!