#1
How much can a type of wood attribute to the sound of a Guitar? I see that on most expensive guitars, they have woods that I hardly see on lower priced guitars, for example; Indian rosewood or Adirondack Spruce for their tops. Would it be suffice to find atleast a lower priced guitar with some of the same qualities of an expensive guitar and have noticeable differences compared to its counterparts? I'm not sure if this falls under the types of wood equation, but my guess is would durability and weather conditions play a role in using these specific woods on these good guitars?
#2
The type(s) of tonewood has a profound effect on tone.

Here are some generalities and like all generalities, there are exceptions:

1. Cheap guitars are made from laminates, not solid woods - laminates sound like laminates.
2. Sitka Spruce (topwood) is more common than the more expensive Adirondack. Reputation has it that the latter provides the guitar with a clearer / more distinct tone, but takes longer to open up.
3. Mahogany (back and sides) is a dry, crisp sounding tonewood, thereby psychoacoustically emphasing the fundementals of the notes.
4. Rosewood (back and sides) emphasises the harmonics associated with notes, making the guitar sound more "shimmery" and even "reverberant". Psychoacoustically - and counter-intuitively - the harmonics tend to make the bass strings on rosewood guitars sound deeper.
5. Brazilian Rosewood is very rare (export is banned) and most rosewood is of the East Indian variety. Reputation or myth supports the sonic benefits of Brazilian.
6. There are other tonewoods for backs and sides( eg Koa) which have their fans and adherents.
7. A few guitars have mahogany tops which are favoured for a reputedly bluesy tone. Others find them one-dimensional.
8. Mahogany is getter rare and more expensive and is being replaced by Sapele and Ceder by some makers.
9. Seasonal weather changes do affect the sound of guitars. Higher humidity levers can make some guitars sound quite muddy and unresponsive; whereas in the winter, when the air dries out, the reverse is true. Guitar tonewoods will crack if dried out too much (in the Winter).

Hope this helps.
#3
What do you mean by: "Sitka Spruce (topwood).....takes longer to open up." ???
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#4
That's a TON of info Dave!! Thanks a lot.


Quote by Dave Keir
The type(s) of tonewood has a profound effect on tone.

Here are some generalities and like all generalities, there are exceptions:

1. Cheap guitars are made from laminates, not solid woods - laminates sound like laminates.
2. Sitka Spruce (topwood) is more common than the more expensive Adirondack. Reputation has it that the latter provides the guitar with a clearer / more distinct tone, but takes longer to open up.
3. Mahogany (back and sides) is a dry, crisp sounding tonewood, thereby psychoacoustically emphasing the fundementals of the notes.
4. Rosewood (back and sides) emphasises the harmonics associated with notes, making the guitar sound more "shimmery" and even "reverberant". Psychoacoustically - and counter-intuitively - the harmonics tend to make the bass strings on rosewood guitars sound deeper.
5. Brazilian Rosewood is very rare (export is banned) and most rosewood is of the East Indian variety. Reputation or myth supports the sonic benefits of Brazilian.
6. There are other tonewoods for backs and sides( eg Koa) which have their fans and adherents.
7. A few guitars have mahogany tops which are favoured for a reputedly bluesy tone. Others find them one-dimensional.
8. Mahogany is getter rare and more expensive and is being replaced by Sapele and Ceder by some makers.
9. Seasonal weather changes do affect the sound of guitars. Higher humidity levers can make some guitars sound quite muddy and unresponsive; whereas in the winter, when the air dries out, the reverse is true. Guitar tonewoods will crack if dried out too much (in the Winter).

Hope this helps.
#5
Quote by Dave Keir

1. Cheap guitars are made from laminates, not solid woods - laminates sound like laminates.

And even cheaper guitars (*cough* Martin X series *cough*) aren't made from wood at all. They're made out of a grey, processed, pulpy board that's squeezed out at a factory.
Sincerely, Chad.
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#6
Quote by Black Adder
What do you mean by: "Sitka Spruce (topwood).....takes longer to open up." ???

If I understand your question, "opening up" is the process (debated by some) whereby the wood, through vibration by playing and natural aging (ie, drying out / cells crystallizing) becomes less stiff resulting in a more responsive, more resonant guitar.
#7
Quote by vang0341
That's a TON of info Dave!! Thanks a lot.

My pleasure.

I forgot to mention: if you find a mahogany guitar (new or used) that you like, buy it. Apart from being a fine guitar, it will also be a fine investment. The days of manufacturing guitars with solid mahogany are numbered.

The main problem is that the trees (can't recall it's latin name) don't grow in serried ranks - they grow as individuals surrounded by trees of lesser interest. The loggers have tended to clear swathes of jungle / forest (think Amazon) just to be able to log a few trees to provide the mahogany. This practice is now illegal (I believe) in most countries for obvious reasons, resulting in the scarceness of legitimate wood.

It's funny to think of it, but traditionally mahogany was considered a "lesser" tonewood than Rosewood, hence the less bling and lower prices on (eg) Martin 18 series guitars.
#8
Does anyone know why maple (cream-coloured) wood is never used for acoustic guitar necks, despite being used so frequently on electric ones? Is it purely aesthetic or is there some actual incompatibility with it?
#10
The problem with assigning certain tonal characteristics to these woods is that it's easy to forget that every acoustic sounds different. You can't shop for acoustics based on specs, such as the type of wood. There can be guitars that supposedly and theoretically have the best sounding wood possible, yet really don't sound good at all, even if one right next to it is built identically.

The other thing is that these higher priced acoustics often have wood that is gorgeous more than anything. You're paying for the beauty, not necessarily the way that particular wood sounds. Most people will say that lesser grades of wood than master grade actually sound better than the master grade. But like I said, every guitar is different, so there could easily be rosewood guitars that are warmer than mahogany, etc.

I have an Alvarez that I've got about $100 in that has laminate sides that I'd put up against most any guitar under $2,000 although most of the wood snobs would say that's blasphemy. I returned a much more expensive solid mahogany guitar because this one was much warmer and crisper, sounded tons better. Just don't forget that there are situations like this all over the place.
#11
Quote by Mahavishnu Fan
Does anyone know why maple (cream-coloured) wood is never used for acoustic guitar necks, despite being used so frequently on electric ones? Is it purely aesthetic or is there some actual incompatibility with it?

Absolutely not. Many acoustics use maple for their necks, even though it may be finished differently to match the sides and back of the guitar.

Or did you mean for its fretboard? For a fretboard, there are certain things to consider. Tonally, maple would be somewhat undesirable as it would give the slightest bias toward a very bright sound. Not only that, but the strings used on an acoustic are much thicker and stronger than those on an electric. Maple wears easily on fretboards, and would need to be replaced probably within 5 years on an acoustic. It's just not economically sound.
Quote by corndogggy
The problem with assigning certain tonal characteristics to these woods is that it's easy to forget that every acoustic sounds different. You can't shop for acoustics based on specs, such as the type of wood. There can be guitars that supposedly and theoretically have the best sounding wood possible, yet really don't sound good at all, even if one right next to it is built identically.

The other thing is that these higher priced acoustics often have wood that is gorgeous more than anything. You're paying for the beauty, not necessarily the way that particular wood sounds. Most people will say that lesser grades of wood than master grade actually sound better than the master grade. But like I said, every guitar is different, so there could easily be rosewood guitars that are warmer than mahogany, etc.

I have an Alvarez that I've got about $100 in that has laminate sides that I'd put up against most any guitar under $2,000 although most of the wood snobs would say that's blasphemy. I returned a much more expensive solid mahogany guitar because this one was much warmer and crisper, sounded tons better. Just don't forget that there are situations like this all over the place.

Agreed, though you have to remember that the sound on a laminate can only progress so far. A solid wood will only get better with age. That's essentially the basis for the big hullabaloo.

Though, I feel the same way about my Seagull. I'd put it up to a brand-new Martin any day of the week.
Sincerely, Chad.
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#12
Quote by Chad48309
Agreed, though you have to remember that the sound on a laminate can only progress so far. A solid wood will only get better with age. That's essentially the basis for the big hullabaloo.


True, if it were the top and maybe back. Mine is just the sides though, they don't matter much. My top is solid engelmann and my back is solid mahogany.
#13
Quote by corndogggy
True, if it were the top and maybe back. Mine is just the sides though, they don't matter much. My top is solid engelmann and my back is solid mahogany.

Even with a laminate, you have to take into account the method of lamination. My Seagull is a two-ply of maple and cherry on the sides and back. So, technically, it is "solid" wood. It just so happens to be two pieces of solid wood glued to each other. HPL and plywood is really bottom of the barrel. It's essentially taking all the thin sheets of wood with knots and junk grain and slapping them all together. Commonly, they're as thin as paper.
Sincerely, Chad.
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#14
Quote by corndogggy
The problem with assigning certain tonal characteristics to these woods is that it's easy to forget that every acoustic sounds different. You can't shop for acoustics based on specs, such as the type of wood. There can be guitars that supposedly and theoretically have the best sounding wood possible, yet really don't sound good at all, even if one right next to it is built identically.

The other thing is that these higher priced acoustics often have wood that is gorgeous more than anything. You're paying for the beauty, not necessarily the way that particular wood sounds. Most people will say that lesser grades of wood than master grade actually sound better than the master grade. But like I said, every guitar is different, so there could easily be rosewood guitars that are warmer than mahogany, etc.

I have an Alvarez that I've got about $100 in that has laminate sides that I'd put up against most any guitar under $2,000 although most of the wood snobs would say that's blasphemy. I returned a much more expensive solid mahogany guitar because this one was much warmer and crisper, sounded tons better. Just don't forget that there are situations like this all over the place.


There's a wee bit of truth in there - but it's well hidden.
#15
Quote by Chad48309
Absolutely not. Many acoustics use maple for their necks, even though it may be finished differently to match the sides and back of the guitar.

Really?
I have never seen an acoustic with a maple neck (talking about the same maple that Fender uses on their necks). There are many with queensland maple around, especially down here in Australia. Queensland Maple is used extensively by both of our major manufacturers and a lot of our smaller builders. But I have never seen a Maple neck.
Can you think of any models for me to check out? I'm interested in having a look as I was under the impression that it wasn't used because of how bright it would sound.
#16
My Seagull Original S6 has a silverleaf maple neck. Maple is an extremely generic term. There are many, many variations of maple. I have three different maple trees growing in my yard, right now.
Sincerely, Chad.
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