Guitar Wood Types and Tones

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This guide represents a try to put together some opinions about different woods and their properties when used in musical intruments, esp. electric guitars and basses. I created it for my personal use and didn't care for sources and authors; I hope I got that right by now, but some are still missing. 

First you can read brief articles about some frequenly used woods in different guitar parts. Follow links on detailed chapters about each wood

Further down this text you can find a table of links to detailed guitar wood description.

Have a fun!

Brief information on guitar woods and its tones

Brief Guitar Body Woods       Brief Guitar Body Top Woods

Brief Guitar Neck Woods        Brief Guitar Fretboard Woods

Very detailed articles on guitar woods:


The number given to a wood is the average weight per cubic foot. The larger the number the denser and harder the wood is. The denser the wood the more brittle it becomes, making it harder to bend and carve. Advantages to hard woods are that finer detail can be achieved and the wood can be polished to an ultra smooth finish. Balsa has a weight of 8, Oak is about 45 and Ebony weights in at 80.
The term is often confused with grain. By definition, the figure of a wood refers to the pattern caused by color differences in the wood. The figure is also the pattern created by different types of grain.
Grain is the direction in which the fibers of the wood are running. Types of grain are: straight, wavy, irregular, spiral, curly, interlocking and birds-eye. The fibers of interlocking grain have a weaved structure, thus making the wood strong and less apt to split and suitable for bending. Irregular grain is caused by an interruption in the growth of the tree by branches or crotches. For ship building irregular grain is used for natural curved members such as knees.
A woods' texture is directly related to the suitability for carving and the fineness of detail which can be achieved. Texture ranges from coarse to medium to fine and to ultra fine. In ship building, coarse and medium textured woods are suitable for heavy timbering such as hull framing and deck beams. Fine textured wood is used for planking, moldings, rails ect. Fine and ultra fine texture is for carving small fittings and delicate parts. Texture is also uniform or uneven. An uneven textured wood has different size cell cavities giving the wood hard and soft spots. When machining or carving a piece and it suddenly breaks, it is because you hit a large cell cavity or a soft spot. Uniform texture is like cutting a soft plastic like material.

Light woodsAlder Ash   Birch  Basswood  Boxwood Korina (white Limba) Maple Poplar Satinwood Spruce Canarywood  Dogwood 

Red woods:   Chechen Cherry  Bubinga Cedar  Kingwood  Mahogany   Padauk   Rosewood Redwood  Tulipwood

Brown woods: Goncalvo Koa Korina (black) Lacewood Mesquite Oak PauFerro Zebrawood  Bocote  Cocuswood  Morado

Dark woods:  Cocobolo Ebony  Wenge Purpleheart Walnut   Blackwood   Granadillo 

Extended Range notes:

Basswood is not stiff enough for a tight, well-defined low end, especially with a shorter scale. Low notes will have good harmonics, and a good fundamental, but a midrangey tone overall.

Alder has a tighter low end than Basswood, with slightly deeper lows.

Swamp Ash is stiff enough for a crisp low end without becoming muddy. The open pores help resonate low tones. Higher overtones become more apparent in lower registers, for good harmonic content and a sharper attack.

Mahogany's warm lows and a thick sound overall make extended lows very full and can produce muddiness in the signal. The low notes are very strong and sometimes overbearing for a pickup. A bright, crisp active pickup that thins out the low end could be a good combination.

Walnut's tight low end and combed midrange dynamics make it well suited for extended range. It won't get muddy unless it's a poor specimen with softer yellowish orange areas.

Like Walnut, Koa is a good Mahogany alternative. It will have a tighter low end with less muddiness. The slightly dampened higher overtones will produce a stronger fundamental than Walnut at the expense of a sharper attack.

Korina should respond to extended lows in the same manner as Mahogany. Soft Maple's dull lows also mean no muddiness in the extended range. It can be a good alternative to Basswood if that's your main concern. The pickups will have to compensate for the bright upper mids.

Hard Maple will have the tightest lows for the extended range. Low notes will have a sharp attack, plenty of harmonics, and excellent sustain.

Spruce, while capable of reproducing extended lows, is too soft not to get mushy. A neck through, a laminated top, or both would provide the needed rigidity while still highlighting the good points of Spruce. Any laminated top 1/8" or thicker will improve the tightness of the low end. The existence of the lamination will tighten any body's muddiness. The same qualities hold true in the laminate top descriptions.

Neck Through notes:

The neck through construction method produces excellent sustain. The neck wood strongly influences the tone of the guitar, because it occupies perhaps the most important part of the body: the center. There is a nasal, thinner quality to the sound, often augmented with a figured wood top. Your side woods make up far less of the tone than on a bolt on or set neck guitar. You first have to estimate what that neck wood's tone is like as a body wood, and then accentuate or counteract that with your side woods. So a Hard Maple neck through will be very bright and cutting. If you want to warm it up you'd use Basswood or Spruce sides. But if you like that quality, you might use Ash or Soft Maple sides. The effect is very different than the laminated top sound. A maple top on Basswood is nothing like a Maple neck through with Basswood wings, which sounds more like a Maple body. Generally, the softer woods excel as sides because they add back some low end resonance missing in the construction method, while dampening the highs.


I will not accept responsibility for any information that is contained in this guide. The expressed opinions do not necessarily agree with my own.
All registered trade names and trademarks are the legal property of their respective holders.
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