Guitar Tone Wood Types in 2023: Explanation Guide

There are a variety of different types of wood that can be used for guitars. Each one with its own unique properties that affect the overall tone and sound of the instrument. 

Mahogany is a popular choice for acoustic guitars. This is because it produces a warm, mellow sound. While alder is often used for electric guitars because it provides a bright, clear tone. 

Different woods can also be combined to create custom sounds. Using an ash body with a maple neck to achieve the best of both worlds.

So if you’re looking to change up your sound, read on. This article will explore the different guitar tone wood types available today.

What is Tonewood?

Tonewood is a term used to describe the material used in the construction of a guitar. The type of wood used can have an impact on the overall sound of the guitar. Different types of wood can produce different tones. All ranging from warm and full-bodied to bright and twangy.

There are some wood choices that are better for acoustic than electric guitars. Especially once you begin to factor in amplification. An electric guitar body does have an impact on the sound it makes, but not like an acoustic.

The Different Guitar Tone Wood Types

There are many different types of tonewoods available. All have their own unique sonic characteristics. We are going to look at 12 popular materials that are used to make the bodies of a guitar.

Alder

Alder Wood

Alder is a type of wood that is often used in the construction of electric guitar bodies. It’s a lightweight wood that has a very even grain pattern. Alder is known for producing a clean and bright tone with plenty of mid-range.

Alder is used in many Fender guitars, and as such, it has become a well-known wood type in the music world. This wood type is soft and can’t handle the tension of strings, and as a result, is not used to make guitar necks.

Which is better alder vs basswood? Click here!

Ash

swamp ash

Ash is another common wood choice for electric guitars. It’s slightly heavier than alder and has a more open-grain pattern. This wood type is referred to as swamp ash and is also used by many brands, including Fender.

Ash produces a warm and full-bodied tone with plenty of low-end frequencies. It’s often used in guitars that require a brighter, twangy tone that is still balanced. Swamp ash is also rigid enough that it can provide a good amount of note sustain.

Basswood

basswood

Basswood is a lightweight wood that is used to make electric guitar bodies. It’s known for its clean and uniform grain pattern. Basswood produces a warm and full-bodied tone with plenty of low-end frequencies.

Basswood is normally found in North America. It’s quite easy to harvest, making it very affordable. It’s another very soft material and as such is not commonly used in the making of guitar necks or acoustics.

Is basswood good for guitars? Click here to find out!

Maple

maple wood

Maple is a hardwood commonly used to make electric and acoustic guitars. It’s very strong and has a very tight grain pattern. Maple is known for producing a bright and clean tone with plenty of treble frequencies.

Maple is often used as a top wood on electric guitars, especially those with a maple fretboard. It can also be used for the whole body of an acoustic guitar. Sustain is quite good with maple because it’s so dense, which also makes it look great with the right finish.

Mahogany

mahogany wood

Mahogany is a very popular wood choice when it comes to making all sorts of guitars. It’s a medium-weight wood with a very dense grain pattern. Mahogany is known for its dark tones that are very broad in the low end but are very appealing.

Mahogany is often used as a preferred wood for acoustic guitars, as well as the bodies on electrics. Necks are also commonly made from mahogany, as it’s very strong and can handle the tension of strings.

Want to know the difference between alder and mahogany? Click here!

Rosewood

rosewood

Rosewood is most commonly used to make fretboards, as it’s quite hard. It’s a heavy wood with an open grain pattern. Rosewood is known for producing a warm and full-bodied tone. But with plenty of low and mid-range frequencies.

Rosewood is not used as often in constructing solid guitar bodies. But it’s sometimes used for acoustic backs and sides. It’s also a very popular material for making bridges and saddles.

Walnut

walnut wood

Walnut is a hardwood that is similar to mahogany in terms of weight and grain pattern. Walnut is known for producing warmer tones with tighter low frequencies. It’s a beautiful wood choice, but can get quite expensive.

Walnut is not as commonly used as some of the other woods on this list. But it can occasionally be found in electric guitars. It’s more likely to be used in the construction of acoustic guitars.

Poplar

poplar wood

Another wood used for guitar is poplar. Poplar is also a lightweight wood that has a grain pattern similar to swamp ash in that it’s open. It’s known for producing a pretty balanced tone, but doesn’t have a lot of sustain.

Poplar is becoming more popular as it’s beginning to be used in cheaper guitars made in Asia. While it’s not a bad wood choice, it doesn’t have great characteristics like other choices on this list.

Korina

Korina wood

Korina is a wood choice that is not as common but has some great tone characteristics. It’s known for producing naturally warm tones that have good balance. Korina is also quite rigid, so it has good sustain.

This wood was once popularized by Gibson in the 1950s when they used it to make the Flying V and Explorer. These days it’s not as commonly used, but can still be found in some higher-end guitars.

Koa

Koa wood

Koa is a wood that is native to Hawaii and is becoming more popular in the guitar world. It’s not a very heavy wood, but does have busy grain patterns. Koa is known for its bright and punchy tone with some good mid-range focus.

Koa is often used as a top wood on acoustic guitars, as it can really add some nice detail to the sound. It’s also becoming more popular for electric guitars. Especially those with a semi-hollow or hollow body design.

Sitka Spruce

sitka spruce

Most commonly used on acoustic guitars as a soundboard, Sitka Spruce is a very common tone wood. It’s a very light and stiff wood that has a tight grain pattern. Sitka spruce is known for its bright and clear tone with plenty of highs.

This wood is also sometimes used in electric guitars. Mainly those with a hollow body design. It can really add some nice articulation to the sound with good volume projection.

Cedar

cedar wood

Cedar is a wood most commonly used as a soundboard on acoustic guitars. It’s a very light wood that is very popular on classical instruments. Cedar is known for its warm and full-bodied tone with plenty of volume.

This wood is rarely used on electric guitars. For the most part, it will be found on classical and steel-string acoustic guitars.

How to Choose the Right Tone Wood for Your Guitar

The best way to choose the right tonewood is to experiment with different materials. Then, see what you like the sound of. There’s no one perfect wood for every guitar, so it’s important to find what works best for you.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a tonewood. The first is weight. Heavier woods will typically have more sustain. While lighter materials will be brighter and have less sustain. You also want to make sure it’s light enough to play with on your shoulder for many hours if you gig out.

The next thing to consider is the grain pattern. Tighter grain patterns will typically result in a warmer sound. Open-grain patterns will be brighter and more twangy.

Finally, consider the tone you’re going for. If you want a warm and full sound, mahogany or walnut may be your best bet. If you’re looking for something brighter, swamp ash or alder may be better choices.

Experiment with different woods and see what you like the sound of. There’s no one perfect wood for every guitar, so it’s important to find what works best for you.

Learn more about guitar neck wood types here!

Examples of Guitars with Different Tone Woods

Manufacturers go to great lengths to choose the right woods for their guitars. When they design and build guitars, it’s normally with certain sounds in mind. And so, depending on what you’re looking for, here are a few examples of guitars made for certain music styles.

Check out our article on the weights of the most common guitars!

Fender Stratocaster

Stratocaster

The Fender Stratocaster is one of the most popular guitars in the world. It has been used by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton. It’s usually made with an alder body and maple neck, which gives it a classic, bright sound.

Gibson Les Paul

The Gibson Les Paul is another iconic guitar that has been used by everyone from Slash to Jimmy Page. It’s usually made with a mahogany body and maple top, which gives it a warm sound with good sustain.

PRS Custom 24

PRS Custom 24

The PRS Custom 24 is a high-end guitar that is often used by professional musicians. It’s made with a mahogany body and maple top, which also gives it a warm and full sound.

Ibanez RG

The Ibanez RG is a guitar that is often used in metal and rock music. It’s made with a basswood body and maple neck, which gives it a bright sound with good sustain.

Acoustic Guitars

Taylor GS Mini Koa Back

Acoustic guitars are usually made with woods like spruce, cedar, or mahogany. These woods all have different tonal qualities. This makes them well-suited for different styles of music.

Spruce is a bright and lively wood that is often used for fingerstyle or country music. Cedar is a bit warmer sounding and is often used for jazz or blues. And mahogany is a warm and full-sounding wood that is often used for anything from country to rock.

Conclusion

There are many different tonewoods available, and each one has its own unique sound. Finding the right wood for you is a matter of experimentation. Trying them out will be the only way to truly know what best fits your style.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!