Different Woods, Different Tones

Previously, the reason behind the different tones that different woods create has been explained. The different tones themselves were not fully explored and in this article I will give a global overview of the different tone woods, the sound they produce and in some cases their purpose. This is by no means a complete picture, only a global overview.

The Standards

Alder

Alder is a tree that grows in medium, temperate climates with a lot of moisture. This fast growing wood produces relatively soft timber with long grains. It’s not as soft as mahogany or as hard as maple, which culminates to a tone without a major boost in the tonal spectrum. Generally, the highs are slightly attenuated with lows that aren’t that pronounced and a midrange that might use an extra kick because the mids aren’t that abundantly available.

Ash

Ash can come from various sources. You have hard ash, which has a lot of bite, almost like maple, but with more (and chunkier) lows. Hard ash is generally speaking on the heavier side. Swamp ash, on the other hand, is much lighter, with less compression in the tone. You will get an opener sound with lots of highs and upper mids that cut through the mix like a hot knife through butter. The difference between a billet cut from the top or the bottom of the tree makes a huge difference in tone. A high-cut piece of hard ash might be closer to the sound you’re looking for than a lower cut of swamp ash. This goes for all woods, but in my experience this is even stronger the case with ash than other types.

Basswood

Basswood is a wood that’s being used predominantly on ‘metal’ guitars. This is because the tree grows rather fast, the grain doesn’t look particularly interesting or pretty (and therefor not considered to be a shame if finished in an opaque color; the extreme softness of the wood makes a hard finish a necessity, too) it doesn’t have the growl of mahogany, it doesn’t have the tightness or bite of maple, it doesn’t have the sweetness of alder or the chunky quality of ash. Instead, it has all of that, although to a lesser degree. It has some bite, some growl, some sweetness, but not much. That makes it a perfect template for your own sound. It doesn’t add anything to your tone but it doesn’t take away anything.

Mahogany

This classic, brownish wood has being used for instruments for years. It grew originally in South America, but due to over harvesting mahogany is now being grown in Asia, Africa, and there are even experiments conducted with growing mahogany in the more temperate climates of Europe and North America. The tone of this wood is extremely dependant on the thickness of the billet. A thinner piece, like an SG, has a warm growly tone with lots of bite and presence. A thicker piece, like a Les Paul Junior, has a thicker, chunkier, meatier tone with softer highs and more push in the lower mids. Having a thick maple cap on mahogany is a way of getting a thicker body yet retaining clarity, attack and a bit compression. For pure tonal reasons, the cap isn’t necessary: after all, a flattop mahogany guitar also has plenty of bite.

Maple

This is a dense, hard wood that’s being used on necks, fingerboards, tops and occasionally bodies and comes in three major figure patterns: flamed (stripes across the grain), quilt (cloud like shapes across the grain) and no pattern at all called plain. I don’t think that a maple body only has highs and upper mids because it also has a decent amount of lows too. It won’t be fat or juicy, but it does have a lot of bite, scream and presence. Some guitars of the ’80s were fully maple, and for the styles they were used for were extremely good. Don’t expect a smooth jazzy tone of honky, smokin blues sound, but if bite is what you need, maple is your best friend.

Rosewood

This wood originated in Brazil (amongst other countries) but due to over harvesting, this wood is nearly extinct in its native region. Some of the largest producers of rosewood are India and Madagascar. This hard, dense, oily wood can come with a very tight or coarse grain, and can be very evenly colored or very striped. Rosewood is most often used as fingerboards because of its durable nature and sweet, warm tone. Rosewood is on occasion also being used for neck blanks. These necks have a classy, speedy feel to them with an amazing tone. Warm but not muddy with great sustain. The highs just sing. It’s like an exaggeration of a rosewood fingerboard. Rosewood can also be used as a body wood, though. But since it’s so rare and expensive, you’d be hard pressed to find a solid rosewood guitar. I own 2 guitars that have rosewood as a body wood: one has a rosewood top, the other a rosewood back. I would be hard pressed to attribute a specific tone or feel or characteristic to rosewood in these contexts but I feel that the warmth I have with a rosewood neck or board is noticeable when the rosewood is in the body, too. The biggest downside is perhaps the weight. Rosewood is incredibly heavy!

Poplar

I can be brief on this wood. Poplar sounds a lot like alder, but looks usually a lot less appealing (and some players report a little more upper midrange compared to alder). Sometimes you get a piece of poplar though that seems to defy every ‘rule in the book.’ These pieces will just knock you off your feet due to the sheer beauty of things. Poplar is used on many inexpensive guitars, often as ‘body wings’ for neck-thru Vs and the like, but there are also much finer, higher-quality, higher-priced examples.

Exotic woods

I believe that 75% of all guitars are made with a combination of the woods I described above. There are some other woods, though, that have been finding their way into the market.

Bubinga

This is a tropical wood like rosewood, but has a tighter grain and a brighter tone. Generally speaking bubinga has a slightly lighter color than rosewood. The tone is bright with an incredible push in the upper mids. I would almost describe it as maple with softer highs and more gentle mids. Rickenbacker uses this wood for their fingerboards.

Cocobolo

As a member of the rosewood family, cocobolo has a warm tone with an open clear yet presence. The looks are always stunning. Wether it’s a wild, wavy pattern or a neat, almost spreadsheet like grain, cocobolo will always turn heads. This wood is most often used for fretboards on more luxurious guitars and as laminate tops and backs for the most expensive guitars, electric and acoustic alike.

Ebony

A classic! Used for hundreds of years for fingerboards, bridges and other parts, this extremely hard, durable wood is noted for its dark color. Ebony is most closely associated with black, but brown, yellow, red and even purple hues and stripes aren’t uncommon for ebony. The coloring doesn’t take away anything of the tonal qualities we came to know and love. Brightness, attack, bite paired with a slick, speedy feel. Due to its price tag and hard nature, ebony is most often used for fretboards, though some luthiers are known for using ebony as the sides and sometimes even the top or back of an acoustic guitar, and on occasion you can even find ebony necks.

Koa

Koa is a wood that grows in Hawaii. Its color and grain pattern is a love or hate affair. Either you love it instantly or you won’t like it at all. The tone is similar to korina and mahogany but with more upper mids and highs. Koa loves to be matched with a walnut back for added power, more tightness in the lows and extra scream, or with korina or mahogany for more sweetness and growl.

Korina

This African wood also goes by the name limba and is available in two versions: white and black. Tonally and structurally they are the same, black korina comes from the edge of the tree where white korina comes from the core. Tonally korina is very similar to mahogany, with a bit more upper mids and presence. Korina makes for a great substitution of mahogany, not to mention its great looks. Having a korina body and korina top will give you a great, fat tone with more bite than one would expect from a mahogany body. As a neck, korina is much like mahogany too.

Padouk

This red wood is in my opinion highly underrated. As a top you get the bite of a maple cap but with completely unique looks. As a neck you get the tone of maple but with howl. As a fretboard you get the bite of maple and the rumble of rosewood, with a unique, speedy feel. I have used it as a body wood, and despite the great sounds I get, I cannot recommend it because of the weight. For most players it’s just too heavy.

Pau ferro

Considered by some to be the holy grail of neck woods, Pau ferro feels slick, speedy, fast. The Stevie Ray Vaughan signature strat has a Pau ferro finger board and Reb Beach of Whitesnake and Winger has sworn by Pau ferro necks for 20 years already! The tone is similar to maple but with more chunky mids. The push that Pau ferro gives your tone is amazing.

Purpleheart

This wood is hard, heavy and dense. With a tone similar to bubinga, the feel is less ‘glassy’, more like rosewood. The purple is its natural color but it will change to a brownish hue over time under the influence of air and light.

 

Walnut

Walnut can be found in relative abundance in more temperate climates. The wood is about as hard as maple but has a bit more oil in it than maple, making the tone a bit warmer. Compared to bubinga, walnut has a bit more presence and bite and a little less projection. Compared to Pau ferro, walnut has less push in the mids. Walnut is a great choice as a laminate top on korina or as a core for Koa.

Wenge

This coarse-grained wood can be used for bodies, necks and fretboards and feels incredibly fast because your fingers have less drag. The tone is very mid heavy. The highs are kind and singing, the lows are firm but not pronounced. The mids are quite pushed though, and will give your tone a howling, singing quality to it.

This list is by no means complete, nor do I intend it to be. It should serve as a general guide to some of the most frequently used woods. It should always be remembered that no two pieces are the same, there are the general tonal characteristics to these woods.

For a list of what pickups work well with particular wood types, read this article or go directly to Tone Wizard for a personalized recommendation.

About Orpheo

Orpheo is a long-time member of the Seymour Duncan forum with an interest in the technical side of luthery and pickups and plays jazz, blues, rock and metal on predominantly carved top single cutaway guitars.
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  • fixer

    Incomplete Vague just an opinion nothing more so many variables with tone woods its a waste

  • Johann

    “A high-cut piece of hard ash might be closer to the sound you’re looking for than a lower cut of swamp ash.” What is the sound am I looking for? Your statement is vague with no clear direction. Also, I noticed quite a lot of grammatical error.

  • Johann

    You left out ‘birds eye maple’ dude. That’s another figure pattern of maple. And please, please, have your article reviewed by a professional writer. I can’t stand the grammatical errors.

  • Rob

    Grammer errors? Sorry but not all guitar players are so stuck up on grammer…. If that is all you have to comment on then don’t bother, some of us appreciate the article for what it is. Yeah, and not all of us care about grammer or what you think either.

    • Jim

      Grammar, not grammer.

    • brosephus

      *grammar …and until I see a group of people pick different tone woods out in a “blind” hearing test, i will always thing this argument is ridiculous.

      • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.delorme Shannon Delorme

        The difference may not be huge, but there is still going to be a difference. No doubt the pickups and electronics you use will have a bigger effect on your tone than the wood, because its an *electric* guitar. However, air molecules and the molecules of the different woods are all going to vibrate differently, due to the differences in woodgrain spacing and the little air pockets in all the different woods and the density of the different woods. You can’t argue with a fact like that, it just makes you look dumb.

        • http://www.facebook.com/gayan.danthanarayana Gayan Danthanarayana

          While its very true that the air and wood molecules will vibrate differently, your pickups are not really going to capture and amplify any of that; it’s only of the metal strings. I suppose only real thing with using denser woods for example, will be better sustain…

    • Dan Appleman

      Maybe guitarists are not hung up on grammar. But somebody who is being paid to write should be able to write with correct spelling and grammar. Grammar might not be relevant in the field of guitar playing, but it is absolutely relevant in the field of professional writing. The grammar in this article, which is not a piece of guitar playing but a piece of writing, is bad. The fact that it is about guitar is completely irrelevant. If it were relevant, then the only writing that ever needed to use correct grammar would be writing about grammar.

    • http://slrman.wordpress.com/ James Smith

      Minor grammar errors in an article like this don’t bother me. But seeing “whether” spelled “wether” tells me the writer cannot be bothered with a spell checker. That shows disdain for the reader and contempt for his own writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.delorme Shannon Delorme

    Orpheo, dont let any of those bitches bother you, I thought it was a decent article, and its hard to be very specific with something like tone woods, but Im sure theres plenty of beginner or intermediate players who would enjoy this article and could stand to learn a lot from it. Good job.

  • Orpheo

    Johann, better start fixing your own grammar before trying to fix other people’s mistakes. I don’t know what tone you want, i am just saying there is a difference. But even luthiers are devided on what the difference is, in general terms. I am not a luthier, just a guitar lover and a history student who tries to help others with my experiences.

    Birdseye is considered a figure pattern but actually, it is not. Its a defect in the wood due to ‘frostbite’, for the lack of a better term.

    The last paragraph said it all. This is by no means a complete picture nor should this be regarded as such. Entire books can be written about woods, this is just supposed to be an overview.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Scott/100002963550950 Joshua Scott

    What about “Baked Maple”???

  • Johann

    I think Agathis has slowly started to replace basswood in cheap guitars, while nyatoh is being used to replace mahogany.

  • Jarmo

    What is “hardwood” used in budjet guitars. Is it better or worse than basswood used in cheapies also.

  • Orpheo

    Baked maple is heat treated maple. It doesnt change the tone per se, it makes it more stabke, though.

    Hardwood is a general term for any piece of timber thats cut from the middle of the tree.

    Agathis is a general moniker, not a specific species.

    • Johann

      Are you an idiot or just plain stupid? Agathis is a general moniker? Of what? Here is a definition from Wikipedia:

      The genus Agathis, commonly known as kauri or dammar, is a relatively small genus of 21 species of evergreen tree. The genus is part of the ancient Araucariaceae family of conifers, a group once widespread during the Jurassic period, but now largely restricted to the Southern Hemisphere except for a number of extant Malesian Agathis.[1]

  • John Catherwood

    As a luthier, I tend to agree with those who say that the species of body wood has little effect on the tone (especially in electric guitars – pickups, scale length and hardware have more influence, while shape and the topwood, and how it is braced are the vital drivers in acoustics.) I would defy anyone to reliably identify bodywood used in any guitar design in a blind test. However the density and resonance of the individual bit of wood used can make a little difference to the individual guitar, no matter what species is used (and wood of a particular species is likely to have a particular density and resonance), so perhaps some generalisations may have a little truth to them. Rosewood is very dense and rings beautifully when tapped – I suspect that it would sound different to a lump of knotty pine – but by the time you put it through a set of Blackouts and turn the amp up to 11…

    ‘Hardwood’ is a botanical term (contrast with ‘softwood’) most deciduous trees and tropical trees are ‘hardwoods’, while conifers (pines, spruce etc) are softwood. Just to confuse things some “hardwoods (like Balsa and Obeche) are very soft, while some “softwoods” like Pitch pine are quite hard.

    The wood from the centre of a tree is called “heartwood” while the outer layers are called “sapwood”. Sapwood tends to have a more porous structure – it is softer, and tends to shrink or swell more easily with changes in moisture – so luthiers avoid it and use ‘heartwood’ whenever possible.

    • Johnny Guitar

      As a builder (construction) I agree with the definitions of “hardwood, heartwood, and softwood” that you’ve used.

    • xyriut

      Agreed, body wood does not contribute to tone. Finally someone admits this.

    • trashmetalster

      Check this, please:

      http://youtu.be/ryzie8mham8

    • Paul

      Acoustic a definite yes. Electric, still a yes but depending you’re a clean guy.

    • http://thebestguitarlessons.com/ Dev

      With electric guitars I completely agree. With acoustics, however, I have found different wood combinations to provide a great deal of tonal versatility. I own both a full maple acoustic and a mahogany body, maple top acoustic. While they both sound very similar, I can absolutely hear and favor the mahogany bodied. As you said, with electrics there are so many parts to mold the tone to each guitarists individual preference. Acoustics, in my opinion, are a whole other ball game.

      • John Catherwood

        I think your sample size is too small – are the two guitars identical in all other respects – necks the same, same type of neck joint, same tuners, same nut, same saddle, same bridge material, same bridge pins, tops the same, size the same, same strings? Were the tops from the same tree? were the braces carved to be a close as identical as possible? same bracing pattern? If not, you cannot compare them and say it is the wood in the back that made a difference. I have played six near identical factory made guitars in a row, and found tonal differences – two were lovely, four were poor. All the same materials. In a blind test you would swear they were significantly different, and might easily ascribe it (wrongly) to being different woods. We have been told that some woods sound some ways, but then we listen to them expecting the difference. You may be able to tell the difference between your two guitars, but I would bet I could play you a dozen mahogany guitars and maple ones in a blind test and you would not know which was which, because I would pick the maples that sounded full, and the mahogany’s that were bright. For that matter I am sure I could change the way your guitars sounded simply by changing bridgepins (use brass or aluminium or horn or rosewood or ebony or boxwood or ox bone or camel bone or tusq or plastic) change the strings (silk and steels, flatwounds, bell bronze, 80/20, different manufacturers, different gauges). I could make the mahogany sound like the Maple, or make the maple deeper and more resonant and the mahogany bright and treble dominated just by doing that – with no change to the wood used in the body. I have a guitar that I use to try out different strings and pins – it is astonishing how much the tone can be changed, and how much I can hate the sound of that guitar with the wrong combinations, and love it with the strings and pins that suit it best to my ears.

        • http://thebestguitarlessons.com/ Dev

          You’re right that 2 guitars is not a large enough sample size at all. I have played probably hundreds at this point in my music career, be it at music shops, a friends, my own, etc, Hardware of course will always play a role in tone and in the end, every aspect of the guitar is essentially a tonal factor. To what degree each factor alters the tone varies. The amount of variance caused by each is so easily debatable, as you can see. Personally, I have found the type of guitar wood used to produce a great difference in tone. A large aspect here is also the quality of that wood. There a many different grades of Maple, Mahogany, etc etc. And you are sure to find a different grade wood on a $3,000 custom shop than you are on a $300 stock. You can talk to a thousand guitarists and everyone of them will have a slightly adjusted opinion. I agree with the majority of what you are saying here. And yes tones can easily be adjusted to sound like different woods, but then you are just overriding the natural tone already presented. Why not just use the other kind of wood if that’s what you intend to do? You just said they sound different with that little piece. I believe it is all just a matter of the musicians opinion and preferences.

  • George

    John I tend to disagree with people that talk like you.
    Wood is the majority of tone on a electric guitar or any guitar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If it was only changing pickups and hardware….. oh what a beautiful world it would be!!
    take 10 identical guitars with the same wood and same pickups, do a blindfold test,
    I can tell you which guitar sounds better.

    Wood is the key to tone. pickups and hardware are for fine tuning.

    And for those who care about grammar, why not become professors of tone and open up a school for guitar players who need to brush up on their ABC’s LOL

    Orpheo nice work with the article very informative :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.delorme Shannon Delorme

      George, while I agree that there is an effect on tone from woods, the electronics are a majority of the tone, its an electric guitar, as for the picking out different guitars from a line-up like you said, I would certainly like to see that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lars.f.nielsen.7 Lars Frosz Nielsen

    Thanx for the lesson. It’s a good guide

  • Guest

    “Wood
    is the majority of tone on a electric guitar or any guitar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    It’s a bias or a placebo. A non subjective test must be made to make sure.
    Try to make a blind test and I am not certain, but pretty sure you will screw up badly.
    I am really waiting till someone makes a real lab test, comparing tones blindly with sound software or something… I really want this myth to be confirmed or denied, because I really want to know for sure.

    Logic goes:
    Acoustically – Yes, everything on the guitar affects the tone, because the tone comes from strings resonating the wood, and the vibrating wood (The whole guitar actually) is causing the amplified sound.
    But when it comes to the Electric guitar signal to the amp, the wood is bypased. The sound comes from the direct vibration of the strings, picked up by magnetic pickups. They do not pick up wood vibration, the vibration of the wood is not amplified. It may or may not be that the wood colors the vibration of the strings, but the effect is so small it’s insignificant.
    If the body material did a difference, the tone of the guitar would significantly change if you pressed the guitar against a wall, or put the guitar on the floor, because that’s like an extention of the body. But it doesn’t. Acoustically – Yes, out of pickups – not at all.
    Not sure about sustain, but it’s said that it’s dependant on the materials of bridge and nut, and the magnetic field strength of the pickups.
    Electric guitars have been made out of plastics, stone, plywood etc and that didn’t stop them from sounding great. Try that on an acoustic and you’ll have some weird sounding stuff.

    Basically, the tone of the electric guitar is dependant on the pickups, pickup position, the bridge and the nut, the material that strums, strumming technique, The wiring, the main output wire, and the amp, the cabinet, and the room.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mscichauskas Paulius Mscichauskas

    “Wood
    is the majority of tone on a electric guitar or any guitar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    It’s a bias or a placebo. A non subjective test must be made to make sure.
    Try to make a blind test and I am not certain, but pretty sure you will screw up badly.
    I am really waiting till someone makes a real lab test, comparing tones blindly with sound software or something… I really want this myth to be confirmed or denied, because I really want to know for sure.

    Logic goes:
    Acoustically – Yes, everything on the guitar affects the tone, because the tone comes from strings resonating the wood, and the vibrating wood (The whole guitar actually) is causing the amplified sound.
    But when it comes to the Electric guitar signal to the amp, the wood is bypased. The sound comes from the direct vibration of the strings, picked up by magnetic pickups. They do not pick up wood vibration, the vibration of the wood is not amplified. It may or may not be that the wood colors the vibration of the strings, but the effect is so small it’s insignificant.
    If the body material did a difference, the tone of the guitar would significantly change if you pressed the guitar against a wall, or put the guitar on the floor, because that’s like an extention of the body. But it doesn’t. Acoustically – Yes, out of pickups – not at all.
    Not sure about sustain, but it’s said that it’s dependant on the materials of bridge and nut, and the magnetic field strength of the pickups.
    Electric guitars have been made out of plastics, stone, plywood etc and that didn’t stop them from sounding great. Try that on an acoustic and you’ll have some weird sounding stuff.

    Basically, the tone of the electric guitar is dependant on the pickups, pickup position, the bridge and the nut, the material that strums, strumming technique, The wiring, the main output wire, and the amp, the cabinet, and the room.

    • Johann

      YES!!!!! Finally, a confirmation of what I have long believed in! Wood has very minimal effect on the tone of an electric guitar. All that nonsense about this wood sounds warm while that one has more bite, etc., etc., are all bullshit blown by self-aggrandizing amateurs. That said, I assume tone-wise, the difference between an expensive guitar (with exotic wood) and a cheap electric (of plywood), but both have the same pickups, hardware, etc., is nearly non existent. People just attempt to justify their decision to sink down big bucks on boutique guitars, when the tone is actually not any different.

      • http://www.facebook.com/mscichauskas Paulius Mscichauskas

        I wouldn’t call that a confirmation. It’s more like a “That is where my logic goes, but a real test should be made to make sure”. I haven’t played enough guitars to actually tell for sure. I am surprised no one made a real test yet. I really REALLY want to know the truth. I wrote to the mythbusters, unlikely that they will test it, but it’s worth a try…

        It’s probably most worth buying unfinished bodies and necks, Just pick the cheapest/lightest one. Then build your own guitar with the best features you could get. My guess is:
        ♦ Locking tuners
        ♦ A good bridge (Tune-o-matics are crap, because the strings lay on small blades and they snap a lot, also small surface area is bad for sustain)
        ♦ A metal nut, best if it also locks.
        ♦ Great pickups for your taste. One pickup if you want sustain, more pickups if you want more tones. I had this idea of a sliding pickup, that you could slide from bridge to neck, that could be cool.
        ♦ True temperament frets (True overtones increase sustain instead of strings canceling each other out). http://www.truetemperament.com
        ♦ A built in wireless system. I had this idea of buying a small guitar wireless system (Such as Line 6 G30), take out the guts and just put them inside of the guitar, so it wouldn’t hang there outside of your guitar…
        ♦ Best wires you could get for the guts.
        ♦ A hell lot of Elixir polyweb strings… Oh how I wish they made those for 7 string guitars…

        • Johann

          No body wants to test it cause if the test does debunk the myth, they will have to face the reality that they have all along deluded themselves and hence, wasted so much money on exotic tonewoods. I suspect deep inside people at least admit that wood matters little, but they let the myth lives on cause hey…you need something to justify the purchase of that expensive Hawaiaan Koa or Honduran Mahogany guitar. Ignorance is bliss my man.

        • eviltobz

          > I wrote to the mythbusters…
          awesome :)

  • Barrack Osama

    The more I read this article, especially with the reply of John Catherwood considered, the more I suspect this article was copied from somewhere else and then edited by Orpheo. Sorry.

  • Guest

    Props to Mr. Catherwood. I am also a luthier (and enthusiastic Seymour Duncan user). For years I have challenged folks to do double-blind tests of identical guitars (shape, paint, etc) varying only the wood say of the body, neck, or fingerboard. No one has been willing to pay for the test, so it remains a theory.
    Anybody ever done double blind testing to prove this theory?
    Also, is
    it just me or is anyone else having a Spinal Tap moment? I always hear
    folks talk about sustain, sustain, sustain, and they are usually the
    ones playing 32nd notes at 150bpm.
    This article talks about the need to
    wait for the note to bloom for a fraction of a second. Do notes last
    long enough for the timber to affect the timbre?

  • Vance

    Where does cherry fall into your list? I have a great opportunity to get some incredible cherry, but won’t waste my money if is not well suited for an electric guitar. Otherwise, I’ll go with walnut as I can get some great walnut from the same supplier.

    • John Catherwood

      Cherry is lovely and I use it for bodies and necks – makes excellent acoustics and I see no reason not to use it in electrics – it is a lot like maple to work and in strength and flex, (although it smells nicer – but the dust can be an irritant – use a mask) although that can vary with the tree – some cherry is hard, some are soft. It can have sap pockets – again that varies with the tree – which can result in weak lines along the grain – watch out for red, grainy lines that under a magnifier show crystal structures of dry resin. Walnut is also beautiful – why not go for a cherry and walnut mix – very tasty – see my acoustics at http://www.catherwoodguitars.com

  • Bob

    Idk if this is true with electrics I would belive it when I see a video where someone is blind folded and plays each, don’t feel the wood just play and see if they know what’s what and if it really is a tonal difference

  • Oxbow Guitars

    In my experience, what Orpheo has said is pretty accurate, and as he mentions are general rules for species.

    As a builder of small volume/one off guitars, you use the general rule in the design process, then select the individual blank that taps in a nice resonant way.

    You can make to identical bodies from on plank and they can sound different. That is the nature of the beast. Hardware, strings etc, all very finite. wood is the element of chaos.

    I built an ash guitar recently for a customer based on his ’58 Tele in swamp ash, and it had nothing like the acoustic properties of the original, even with identical hardware and construction. The 50 year old seasoned wood made for one loud guitar.

    Of course, you can use electronics and amplification to dial it all back in or enhance the sound, but as with so much in engineering, the final result depends on a sound base to work from.

    That doesn’t mean to say that you should only use the “big brand” tonewoods. Stop buying stuff blind online, go to a sawmill or timber importers with a tuning frork and spend a few hours comparing blanks. you might be suprised at the results.

  • Patrick Durham

    Wood types don’t matter? What is wrong with you people? How do Gibson SGs, LPs, Flying Vs, and Explorers sound different if not for the woods? Same pickups, same scale length. Put a set of lipsticks in a strat and they won’t have the same spank and boing as in a dano; put a set of strat p’ups in a dano and they won’t have the same fluidity of sound as a strat. So what’s the difference? Wood.