Since different types of acoustic guitars use different wood types, it is important to understand how each wood affects sound, tone, weight, density and appearance so you can make an educated guitar purchase. As you get more experienced, you’ll naturally begin to pick up on the variations each wood provides, but for now, you can learn more about every nuance and subtlety in our guide.
Types of Guitar Top Wood
A guitar’s top wood (the front of the guitar’s body) is usually a softer wood that amplifies the sound of the guitar. Listed below are a few common types of top wood and their sound properties:
Spruce is a very common top wood choice and is generally taken from the Sitka spruce. This is a semi-hard material that amplifies the guitar’s sound and creates a well-rounded tone. It is lightweight, durable, and provides great sustain and clarity. Yamaha nylon string guitars frequently feature a spruce top.
Cedar is a soft wood that emphasizes the sparkle of a guitar’s upper registers. It is an ideal top wood for classical or finger-style acoustic guitars and is best when used in smaller style bodies. Red cedar is commonly used for classical guitars because of its warm, mellow tone.
Mahogany is usually reserved for the body and sides of an acoustic guitar, but it can on occasion be used as the top wood as well. A mahogany top boosts the guitar’s mid-range tones and reduces the “booming” that is sometimes heard in dreadnought-style guitars. Mahogany produces strong, solid sounds for country and blues musicians.
Types of Guitar Body Wood
The body wood compliments and amplifies the tones of the top wood. This is generally a denser variety of wood. Listed are a few of the most common guitar wood types used for starter acoustic guitar bodies.
Maple strongly emphasizes the tonal characteristics of the top wood used while adding little sound coloration from the rest of the body. The dry tone of maple can sometimes emphasize the upper end of the tonal spectrum.
Mahogany accentuates the higher-end frequencies while producing a fairly even tone. The Epiphone DR100 Acoustic Guitar is a great starter guitar that uses mahogany as the body wood.
Rosewood usually comes in two different types for a guitar’s body: Brazilian and Indian. Brazilian rosewood provides excellent clarity that results in strong high and low tones. Indian rosewood is virtually identical tonally, but is more likely to be used on a starter acoustic guitar because of its low cost.
Types of Guitar Neck Wood
A guitar’s neck wood needs to be a durable material that resists warping. Some body wood types are also used for the neck, but usually you will find combinations of three different types of wood to tailor the guitar for a specific tone.
Maple is one of the most common neck woods used today. It is a durable material that can withstand warping better than most other hard woods. Maple necks generally amplify the tone of the body wood as opposed to adding their own tonal qualities.
Nato provides a warm, smooth tone that’s very similar to mahogany. The Yamaha F325D Acoustic Guitar features a durable nato neck that provides a warm, full tone.
Rosewood, specifically Brazilian rosewood, helps strengthen a guitar’s mid-range sound and is great for clarity and tone articulation. There’s also Indian rosewood, which is one of the most popular fingerboard woods because of its ability to sustain notes. Indian rosewood is occasionally used as the full neck wood of an acoustic guitar.
here are many combinations of neck, body and top guitar wood types, and each will produce a different sound. If you have a style of music you’re most interested in playing, it’s best to test guitars made with different wood combinations to hear how they work together. For your starter acoustic guitar, having an understanding of the different sound properties each wood provides will help you decide which combination is best for you.