When it comes to picking a guitar, it’s helpful to understand the type of wood the guitar is made from in order to find a match for your playing style and taste of sound.
This is especially true for acoustic guitars, having the right type of wood would make a whole lot of difference in terms of how well it plays, how good it sounds and how long the guitar would last… yes, bad quality wood may cause the guitar to warp and deform in time.
So today we’re going to talk about some commonly seen wood used on an acoustic guitar.
The key to a good guitar neck (if there’s ever such a thing) is to make it strong, as it is a crucial part of the guitar responsible for holding up the strings and transmitting all that energy onto the soundboard.
Afterall, there is on average about 90kg (200lbs) worth of pulling tension created by the 6 guitar strings when properly strung and tuned. This tension goes higher if you’re using a set of heavy gauge strings.
So it’s absolutely important that the wood used for the neck is strong enough to handle this pressure without deforming.
Mahogany – is by far the most common material used for acoustic guitar necks. It is hard, dense and relatively lighter in weight compared to maple. Its tonal quality is also excellent in the warm mellow range.
Maple – it has an excellent tonal quality in the midrange and high end tones, is heavier than mahogany and a very stiff wood. It’s often found on electric guitars because of its clarity and the ability to handle a more intense playing style.
Also known as fingerboards, plays a part when it comes to the tone of your guitar, as it comes into contact with the strings during play, the quality of the wood can ever so slightly make a difference to the sound it produces.
Rosewood – is a common fretboard material not only because it produces a warm mid-range tone, but also because of its appealing appearances.
Ebony – is a much denser and harder wood than rosewood, which allows it for a faster attack. It also produces brighter and snappier tone, while its finer grains makes it smoother and has a better playability.
Maple – one of the very few woods you’ll see being used for both the neck and the fretboard at the same time. It’s ability to produce mid-range tone, handle aggressive playing style and yet maintains a relatively good level of clarity with light to medium picking style.
Top (a.k.a. Soundboard)
Of all the components in an acoustic guitar, the choice of wood for a soundboard is the most important. Because the vibration from the strings are transferred to the soundboard via the saddle and in turns resonates with the body, ultimately determining how your guitar will sound overall.
Cedar – is a soft wood that produces bright warm tones. Though not uncommon on steel string guitars, Cedar are more often seen on classical guitars as the string tension is lighter, hence making possible for the thickness to be thinner which produces quality tone.
Koa – is one of those exotic woods that makes you go ‘Wow’ when you first lay eyes on it. It is also a kind of wood that gets better with time and produces a mellow tone, which makes it a good choice for finger-style playing.
Spruce – is by far the most versatile and common choice for soundboard. It’s both light and strong, and produces a bright clear sound. Its light wood colour is commonly used with dyeing treatment.
Some common variations of the wood include Sitka Spruce, which responds well to both aggressive and subtle playing style while resonating well with a wide range of tones.
The other is the Adirondack Spruce, which has a dynamic tonal range and can be played loudly without losing clarity.
The choice of wood for the side and back of an acoustic guitar not only contributes to the appearance of the guitar, but also works in complement with the soundboard to produce a harmonious acoustic sound.
Mahogany – apart from being used as a neck material, mahogany also makes a good side and back material for the fact that, tonally, it has a bright yet warm mid-range without too many overtones, which produces its characteristic “woody” sound with plenty of punch.
Rosewood – another commonly seen wood used for side and back. Apart from its great looks, Rosewood has great mid-range as well as deep bass and bright treble. Its high “response rate” also allows for a sharper attack and a lot of resonance.
Ziricote – often being compared to the Brazilian Rosewood for its “Spider-webbing” grains, ziricote is known to produce a rich bassy tone, matched only by its luminous treble, which is higher than that of rosewood. It also produces a notable sustain which makes it a good material for recording guitars.
Hope the above information will provide you with a better idea of what to look for the next time you're shopping for a guitar.
Rock On nn/.