How Many Types of Guitar Wood?
As you may well know, guitars are constructed from all manner of different types of wood. Some are made from multiple woods, others from just one type of wood. Each of these woods will have their own ‘unique’ tone to it. Basically, they are going to sound drastically different. In fact, even guitars made from the same type of wood will have very subtle variances. This is because the wood may have a different weight or different density. This is why many experts will recommend that you try out different models of the ‘same’ guitar so you can ensure that you get the perfect guitar for your needs.
On this page, we are going to take a little look at the various types of wood that your guitar can be made from. It is worth noting that there is no such thing as the ‘best’ type of wood for a guitar. It is going to be down to personal preference. Hopefully, this list should give you a decent idea as to what you can expect from each type of wood, however.
Body Woods: This is where the majority of your tone is going to come from. Therefore, this is where you are going to need to place most of your focus when it comes to choosing a tone wood.’
This wood is quite common in guitars, but there are many varieties used in guitars from low, medium and high. Depending on the species and place of origin, they will influence both the quality and weight and fundamentally sound as in all species. This is a constant used in any wood.
It is a wood that varies in a range between moderately heavy and very heavy with a hardness range between 1.9 (Blanda) and 2.7 (semihard) (These values depend on the species, quality, and origin).
It is used in high-end guitars by their excellent resonating, especially “Mahogany Honduras.”
The worse or better results of this wood for use in guitars greatly influences by the environment even if it is within the same region.
This type of wood is very soft and light, but with a resonant, very high qualities.
Alder is a medium-weight wood. It first came to prominence in the late 50s when Fender started to construct their guitars from it. Alder is perfect for those people who want a nice ‘thick’ sound which is incredibly clear. If you love your mid and low tones, then alder is going to be perfect for you. Once you hit the highs, then you may notice a small amount of distortion, but it won’t be anything crazy. It is perfect for those who are looking for some sustain.
Wood ranging from hard and heavy, until light and medium-soft but resonant with excellent qualities. (Many of the best Teles and Stratos history, have been made with this wood).
Ash was also found in the 50s Fender guitars. The wood for guitars, at least the best wood, is taken from swamp ash. This is ash which has been grown beneath water level. It offers brilliant lows and highs, as well as excellent sustain. If the ash is taken from the upper portion of a tree, then the sound is probably going to be a bit thicker and perfect for those who want some serious distortion in their guitar sound.
Basswood is the wood used in many of the cheaper guitars. This is because basswood is incredibly cheap to source. However, don’t let that put you off, this is still a quality wood which has found its way into many of the ‘top guitars’ on the market. This is because it is a very light wood. It is able to offer a nice, thick sound whilst also having a very unique ‘softness’ to it. In the hands of the right player, basswood can be very dynamic and allow the player to craft their own unique tone. This could be anything from a nice clean sound all the way to something incredibly thick.
Korina is a wood often found in some of the older Gibson guitars. This wood is imported from an African tree known as the Limba. It is a light wood which is able to offer a decent sound. Those who play with Korina can expect a warm sound which resonates well. The notes played on a Korina guitar will be very clean with some excellent definition. For this reason, guitars which are made with Korina are going to be brilliant for those who absolutely love their solos, or even those who are looking to create a decent, clean rhythm track over the top of their music.
One of the most beautiful woods used in the construction of guitars.
Its properties are very similar to Mahogany, but with a more extended high frequency response. (A kind of mahogany, but much more balanced).
The normal Koa, is excellent to build Electric basses.
Very hard, heavy, fine-grained wood.
Maple is a very dense, heavy, fine-grained wood. Generally speaking, it is not used on its own and is instead combined with other woods. This is because a full-maple guitar will be ridiculously heavy. Those who opt for maple guitars will be able to enjoy nice and bright tones, which have fantastic clarity on the lows. Many of the Gibson Les Pauls from the late 1950s have a maple top which really helps add to the sound.
There are several types, depending on the tree it comes from, the area and the drawing shows:
- Bird’s-eye maple (birdseye maple)
- Rock Maple (would be the “normal” Arce)
- Flame Maple (flamed maple)
- Curly Maple (Arce curly)
Poplar is another cheap wood. It tends to be used in the cheaper guitars which are coming out of Asia. The problem is that Poplar is not actually that good. It has no real clarity. Sure, it is going to be fine for a beginner where tone is not going to matter all that much. However, sooner or later you are going to want to upgrade to something that is far better than Poplar, otherwise you are never really going to love your sound.
This is a wood which you will find most often on acoustic guitars. It is very rare to find it in an electric (bar a single telecaster from Fender). Rosewood offers a fantastically thick sound. The problem is that many of the notes may be a touch bright for your liking. Of course, Rosewood is also an expensive material. Most people who opt for a Rosewood guitar are not purchasing it for tone. They are purchasing it for looks.
This is a fairly heavy wood. It is not often used that much as it doesn’t really offer anything that other woods can’t offer. The sound that comes from walnut tends to be very thick and warm. There seems to be more of firmness in the lower end. That being said, walnut does look great.
There are some woods out there which you will only find used in guitar construction when you specifically request that they are used. This means that they are going to be very expensive. The most common are wenge, koa, and bubinga. They each have their own type of sound. One of the reasons as to why people opt for these more exotic woods (other than looks) is down to the fact that they offer a very unique tone. If you are new to the world of guitars, it is going to be a long time before you get to the point of needing a guitar made of an exotic wood!