Introduction to wood commonly used in Guitar Making and their sound characteristics and tone performance

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The difference between wood is as mysterious as the difference between people. Even two pieces of wood from the same tree species are not the same. Wood growth environment, genes, tree age, annual ring and texture orientation, curing conditions and other factors will affect the tone of a piece of wood. In addition, the guitars produced by different luthiers have different response effects. The sound of a piece of wood is good or bad, and part of the reason depends on what the audience thinks. Therefore, any judgment against the distinction of various woods is more or less subjective and personal. Before you can find the ideal guitar, you need to try and listen to the sound of different wood as much as possible.

Let’s take a look at the woods that are common in guitar making.

First. The wood panel commonly used in guitar top wood is one of the most important elements affecting guitar sound. When the strings are struck, vibration is transmitted to the panel through the bridge. After the soundboard vibrates, the air inside the body of the body vibrates and amplifies the sound of the strings. Although the back wood is also important, the effect of the top wood on the guitar sound is greater than any other part. In general, the soundboard affects the guitar’s response, stringing speed and sustain, and some overtones, as well as the strength and quality of each pitch. Most luthiers believe that the selection of top wood is the primary factor in determining the sound of a guitar.


Spruce is a lighter color wood with a good resonance performance, a wide dynamic range, smooth and transparent sound, and a good performance with any back side panel.

1.Sitka Spruce

Sitka spruce is the most commonly used. It is characterized by tight lines, hard texture and relatively light body. It has a wide dynamic range of strength and weakness, especially suitable for powerful sweeping. At the same time, the response of the fingergun is also very good, even if it is light touch, it can make a subtle sound. The Sitka spruce pitch is more powerful than overtones.

Mainly grown in northwestern Canada and Alaska. Its texture is flat and uniform, with high tensile strength and long life. In terms of sound, Sitka spruce is very loud, and it provides an ideal “vibration film” on any size and style of string instrument.

② Engelmann Spruce

Originating in the western part of the United States and Canada, its density is closer to that of red pine and its texture is light. This feature makes its resonance and sound more loud. Its panel is white and has a good performance in terms oxidation resistance, and it maintains a white appearance even after prolonged use. Commonly used in place of sitka spruce. Engelmann spruce prices are usually higher because the supply is less than sitka spruce. Engelmann spruce is lighter in weight and lower in hardness than sitka spruce, but has a stronger overtone and a weaker pitch. The dynamic margin of the Engelmann spruce panel is lower than that of sitka spruce, and the sound is somewhat damaged when played loudly. For those who like to play soft music, the sound is complex, it is a choice.

③ European Spruce

The European spruce is relatively fragile, and it is easier to break if it has a large curvature. But because of this property, the panel it produces produces a very mellow overtone, just like the natural reverb. Usually the finger player will prefer this sound feature. In addition its top wood is very white. However, with the long-term use, it will gradually age naturally and present a warm honey color.

④ Adirondack Spruce

Adirondack spruce is produced in North America and is often used to make high-end instruments. Its quality is relatively heavy, high hardness, good sound conductivity, strong pitch, and overtones are more full than sitka spruce. The top made from it is boring at the beginning, and the treble is weak. But after patiently opening up the sound, there will be a great change. The IF is sweet, the volume is loud, and the feedback on the sound dynamics is also very sharp. Because of its small production, it was once banned from felling, and it was only opened in the past ten years, and the price was more expensive.

⑤ Lutz Spruce

Lutz Spruce is grown in a small part of central Colombia and in the narrow strip of Alaska, a hybrid of North American spruce and white fir, with a higher volume. Some timbre features are said to be similar to those of the Adirondack spruce.


Cedar is darker in color than spruce, and red in the yellow. The wood is soft, the movement is excellent, the sound is warm and round, and the sound is very balanced from bass to treble. Compared with spruce, it is more vibrating, and the tone is balanced and warmer and louder. It is mainly used to make classical guitars. Of course, some folk guitars also choose Cedar. Cedar’s sound is easier to be opened up, and it usually reaches the optimal state in three months to six months. Some people think that Cedar guitar is suitable for playing romantic and Spanish style music. The sound of the Cedar guitar is relatively stable and the changes are easy to control.


Mahogany is mainly produced in tropical America and Africa, Indonesia. Its hardness and density are high, its shrinkage is small, the texture is very beautiful and it has a good luster and satin-like texture. In general, the sound of mahogany is not as strong as spruce, but a soft and delicate expression. When used as a top wood, the overtones are sweet, the timbre is round, and its keen response allows any fine plucking to be obtained. The combination of the back side of the same wood is full and strong.


This beautiful wood comes from the Hawaiian Islands and is very rare.The grain of the wood is very eye-catching,and the high-grade KOA wood has a flaming pattern. It is a denser wood. When used as a top, the sound is sweet but not sharp, the high frequency is clear and translucent, the medium frequency is solid and powerful, and the high frequency is more prominent than the mahogany. The primary paint is the most suitable for it.

The sound will only appear after the wood has been played for a few years.This unique Hawaiian wood is now less and less common, and Hawaiian KOA is more expensive.The biggest feature is that the high school and low frequency are relatively average. People who like it will like it very much, and people who don’t like it will not feel it. The price of KOA is also different depending on the place of production. The KOA wood produced in Taiwan is golden in appearance and bright in color. The KOA wood produced in Hawaii has more horizontal stripes and deep colors, and the sound is also the best.


Maple is a relatively dense piece of wood with a tight wood and a straight shape.The sound coming out is a bit flat, bright, relatively smooth, and weakened, and the sound is very penetrating in the ensemble.The tendency to produce a dry tone that emphasizes the higher end of the tone spectrum. In acoustic guitars, Maple is sometimes used to make soundboards, allowing the soundboard to produce its natural sound without the rendering of other parts of the cabinet. But more often it is used to make the back and sides.Another point is that maple is a very beautiful kind of wood. It can do a lot of dyeing, and the texture has many changing styles. It has a flocculent, flaming, violin-like type, which makes maple the most beautiful raw material.


The full walnut guitar is rich in low frequency, warm, and the medium and high frequency is very crisp. In appearance and visual effect, it is similar to KOA, and KOA is similar. But the price is much lower, the low frequency is heavier than KOA.

Second, the material of the back and sides wood

Although there is no influence of the panel on the tone color, it can not be underestimated. The effect of the back and sides wood on the tone is mainly reflected in the modification of the tone, so the right back and sides wood with the top wood material will give a lot of points for the finished product.


Fresh red sandalwood will give off a rose-like sweet scent when cut down, so it is also called rosewood. Rosewood’s back side panels, with excellent resonance and sustaining performance, are full of low frequency and bright high frequencies. The variety of rosewood is very complex and is widely used in guitar making. This type of wood has a high sound transmission rate, and the middle and high notes are full and powerful, and will be used by almost all luthiers or guitar labels. On the exterior, rosewood appears bright brown to dark coffee. Since the Brazilian rosewood has been banned from logging, the current mainstream choice is mostly Indian rosewood. Although the feedback is slightly weaker, the price is relatively close to the people.

①Indian Rosewood

This is the most commonly used type of wood. It has good sound stability, moderate weight and good color appearance. The texture is moderate and has a crystalline texture. Wood is characterized by high hardness and poor elasticity, growing near Mumbai and East India.

②Brazil Rosewood

It has deep and dark stripes, the wood is shiny, the wood itself has a scent, and the texture is slightly staggered; The wood structure is fine, slightly uniform, heavy, and high in strength.

Naturally resistant to corrosion and resistant to ants. In the process of vibration, the sound of the wood is particularly full. It is the first choice for making high-end collections, recordings and concert level guitar back wood. Because the sound is soft and strong, the sound is long, so it is very suitable for playing music. It has been banned by the Brazilian government from cutting down into endangered species in the world and is very expensive.

③Madagascar Rosewood

It belongs to a kind of rosewood, which is closer to the tone of Brazilian rosewood. Nowadays, many guitars use Madagascar rosewood instead of Brazilian rosewood, and the price is much lower than that of Brazilian rosewood. So it is also a popular wood.

④ Cocoapolo rosewood

Produced in South America, second only to the rosewood species of Brazil, the guitar is very beautiful, the density is extremely high, and the dynamic reflection is sharp and strong.

It has the same impact as a cannon, and the bass is better than the rosewood. However, because the tone is too hot and unrestrained, the player does not use much.


Compared to rosewood, mahogany has a lower density and a faster feedback to vibration. When used as a back and sides wood, the intermediate frequency is more prominent, the sound is crisp and transparent, and it lacks the great resonance effect of rosewood. However, because of its very good personality, it is also cheap, and it has become one of the commonly used wood materials for guitars. Due to the scarcity of mahogany in tropical America, it has led to the selection of other similar sounds of mahogany. African mahogany is a good substitute and the price is relatively cheap. It grows in the tropical rainforests of western Africa, usually in Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. The sound is similar to that of tropical mahogany. It balances between brightness and warmth. It has an open, strong resonance midrange and is a very powerful sound. Mahogany can be said to be an alternative to rosewood, but it lacks the great resonance effect of rosewood, which is the material behind the rosewood.


The Sapele hibiscus looks more like a mahogany, but the overall color is lighter and there is no visible dark wood grain. The tone is similar to that of mahogany, but it is clearer and more penetrating. The price is also relatively cheaper. It is heavier than mahogany, and the material is slightly brittle. It has a balanced sound with high, medium and bottom sounds. Similar to mahogany, but slightly worse than mahogany.


Like a mahogany, Acacia is a wood that can be used as both a top and a back wood. When used as a back and sides, the sound has both the warmth of rosewood and the delicateness of mahogany. The sound characteristics of KOA are somewhat similar to Rosewood, and the biggest feature of KOA is the average of high and low frequencies. People who like it will like it very much, and people who don’t like it will not feel it. The price of KOA is also different depending on the place of production.The KOA wood produced in Taiwan is golden in appearance and bright in color. The KOA wood produced in Hawaii has more horizontal stripes and deep colors, and the sound is also the best.


Maple is very light in color but very dense, and the wood grain is very irregular and varied. When used as a back and side wood, the sound is bright and crisp, but it is lighter in weight, and has a good sense of sound for the vibration of the strings and a bright sound.


Walnut is often used as an alternative to mahogany. Walnut has a beautiful texture, especially after being treated more beautifully.

Full bass, clear mid-high frequency but high-pitched lack of brightness.The full walnut guitar is rich in low frequency, warm, and balanced in medium and high frequency. The characteristics of walnut and KOA are similar, but the low frequency of walnut is significantly heavier than that of KOA. Its tone performance is similar to mahogany, focusing on the intermediate frequency and enhancing the reflection of top sound.

Third, Neck

The material of the neck also has a certain influence on the tone, although it is not large but can not be completely ignored.


The neck of most acoustic guitars is made of mahogany.

Compared to the neck of Maple, mahogany will make the sound warmer and deeper.

Fourth, the material of the fingerboard/lower code fingerboard has little effect on the tone.

1.Rosewood used as a fingerboard of red sandalwood is often darker in color. But not as black as ebony. If you look closely, you can see that its unique dark wood grain is quite common in electric guitars or acoustic guitars. Its sound is full, the bass is thick, the treble is sweet, and it doesn’t shine.

2. Ebony is black, also known as ebony.

In fact, ebony has a light brown wood grain, but usually the black part is taken when making the fingerboard. Uniform texture, although not easy to process and cut. But it has good durability and good polishing. Some people who like advanced handmade pianos probably focus on the fingerboards made by African ebony. The main reason for its use in fingerboard materials is that it is hard and not easily deformed, in addition to the tone.

The color of ebony is deep, and no small holes can be seen on it.

Many people choose it because their color is close to rosewood and there is no small hole in rosewood. In fact, the sound quality of ebony is quite different from that of rosewood. Ebony has a strong, smooth feel and its tone is very bright. Ebony can be said to be the most expensive wood for all fingerboard materials.

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