Guitars are built from wood!
We wouldn’t have it any other way. But how does one choose the right woods for a guitar? Is there a “best wood combination”? The choice is very personal and involves music style, size, appearance, budget and sometimes politics- all the basic “Stuff” of life.
While not ignoring body shape, workmanship, bracing and of course the vision of the builder, wood is the probably the most influential single component in sound production. The selection of tops and backs and sides is a very individualistic endeavor because different species of wood produce different sounds. Even within a particular tree there will be differences from one set of wood to the next one. This is part of its beauty; no two pieces are ever alike, so no two guitars are ever exactly the same.
Please know that the subject of guitar woods ranges far beyond beauty and acoustics; the world’s resources and rapidly becoming depleted and guitar woods rank high in the discussion of sustainability and conservation. For example, species including Brazilian and Madagascar rosewood are highly endangered and there is a definite effort by builders to use less threatened species. If you would like to become more educated about the subject, links to articles and web sites about the politics, nature and future of guitar wood are listed at the bottom of this page.
Many of our wood descriptions are in part courtesy of Dana Bourgeois.
Back and Side Woods
Links about woods:
- Learn more about Koa in Hawaii
- Dana Bourgeois talks about guitar tone woods. There are several fine articles on the Bourgeois web site.
- Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars) sociology and politics of tropical hardwoods, has some good information on his site about their use of these woods.
- For a brief and depressing article about the history, sociology, politics, and future of endangered woods, check out what Laurence Juber’s has to say.