This is another addition to our Guitar Buying Guide , helping you understand all there is about guitars so you can make the right decisions when your shopping for your next guitar. This article is going to focus on guitar Tonewood! The wood of your guitar should be overlooked when buying or building a new guitar, using a different wood will change the very voice of the guitar. This is more important in acoustic guitars than in electric guitars but to me it is still an important factor. You need to decide what wood to use as the body, neck and fretboard of your guitar. It can get a little confusing reading about all the different tonewoods and their characteristics so I’ve made up an infographic showing you each of the most common tonewoods, where it’s used and how it sounds!
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I’ve gone into a little more detail about each of the tonewoods below so read on for more information! See anything I’ve missed? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!
Alder is one of the most widely used tonewoods due to its light weight and full sound. Fender has been using Alder wood for many years meaning the subtle tones of Alder have been prevalent throughout music for the last 50 years.
Ash Tonewood is lightweight and looks great on a guitar with a clear finish. Swamp Ash is the most commonly used in guitars and has a great balance between warm and bright tones with plenty of sustain. Swamp Ash is often used in single piece guitars allowing for really versatile sounds. You can also get guitars made of Northern Ash which is much heavier and very dense giving you a really bright sound with loads of sustain.
Basswood was very popular in the 80s because of its warm grizzly tone.It is also one of the cheapest guitar tone woods available making it a common choice in basic guitars.
Ebony is used for fretboards primarily, it’s high density leads to really bright tone with a nice snap to it. Its dense nature makes it extra smooth under the fingers.Ebony Fretboards are amongst the densest giving you bright tone with a nice snap. Its dense nature makes it feel extra smooth under the finger but needs some care as it is unsealed.
Mahogany is used in guitar bodies and guitar necks; it’s warm tone and good sustain has been the favoured tonewood of Gibson for my years. This fine-grained medium-heavy tonewood looks great with a clear finish but can be used with most finishes. Mahogany body woods tend to have a mellower sound and deeper tone.
The brightest of all tonewoods Maple fretboards almost always have coated finish on top. Although less common as a body wood maple can be used on any part of the guitar. Maple wood is almost always dyed and holds other finishes very well.
Rosewood is a heavier tonewood used primarily in fretboards, it can be made into the body of an guitar but it results in a very expensive guitar. George Harrison of the Beatles used an Indian Rosewood guitar.
Walnut has a warmness to it’s sound but less so than it’s Mahogany counterpart. Another hardwood, Walnut give you great attack and midrange but it is not a common guitar tonewood. Most players opt for Mahogany instead.
This is not all the tonewoods that are available, there are guitars made up of almost every wood imaginable! So I made sure to cover the basics of tonewood and include most commonly used tonewoods. Are there any other tonewoods you would like to know about then please ask in the comments below! I’m more than happy to help you out. You can also have a read of the previous guitar buyer guide article on the guitar neck!