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Discussion Starter #1
Looking at all the guitars out there its a bit confusing trying to understand the benifit of different woods.
I have seen all the popular types as well as some cool stuff like the bodies made from logs which have been underwater for maybe hundreds of years.

So not including the finish can you guys give us some education on what is what...eg Maple is a light in-expensive wood which has a good sustain well suited for blues ( just made that up but you get the idea )

Also is there a reason that one company is selling the same guitar (same spec) at double the price as another?

Thanks in advance
Bev
 

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excerpt from Harmony Central

Spruce - Spruce, though not as pretty as maple, is the all-time winner for the "top" of flat top acoustic guitars. According to Fritz, spruce is light and has a tight grain. This enables the wood, when properly cut, to vibrate much like a speaker cone. Better yet, as the guitar ages, the sap hidden in the grain of spruce gradually dries and crystallizes, further accentuating the bright, resonant quality of the wood. "Engleman Spruce," according to Fritz, is the best for making guitar tops.

Rosewood - Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood in particular, has become the gold standard for the backs and sides of acoustic guitars. Dense and beautiful, rosewood lends a full bass, good high-end bite, and a distinctive "piano-ey" midrange to the tone, according to Fritz. While rosewood is obviously great for fretboards, guitar makers have had limited luck using rosewood elsewhere in solid-body electrics. The guitars are too heavy, too bright, and/or cost prohibitive. This is because the wood is rare and expensive. Plus its porous nature requires a good deal of "pore fill" (and subsequent labor) before lacquer can be applied.
The Martin 00-15 Grand Concert and 000-15 Auditorium guitars with solid mahogany top, sides, and neck.

Mahogany - Mahogany became popular in guitars because it is beautiful and cheaper to get than rosewood. Whereas the high-end Martin D-28 would have rosewood back and sides, the lower-end D-18 used mahogany. According to Fritz, Mahogany lends more of a "parlor" kind of tone to the guitar. In other words, it's twangier but not as brilliant. It's not as "big" sounding either, but possesses a distinct character. This character graced most of the acoustic guitar sounds on early Beatles recordings since they used Gibsons of mahogany construction. As far as electrics are concerned, you can construct an entire guitar (except the fretboard) out of mahogany. The electric tone is marked by a warm sound with lots of low to mid-range frequencies.

Alder - Alder is the classic Stratocaster body material, though the original models were made of ash. Alder is easy to work with because it doesn't require a lot of pore fill. Alder has a full-bodied sound, but doesn't have quite the "bite" of ash.

"It's like the Chevrolet of hardwood," joked Fritz, adding that he sometimes uses alder in semi-hollows too.

Ash - Twangy, porous, and heavy are words that describe ash, the classic ingredient of the Telecaster sound. It also has good bottom end.

"It's an ash kicker," Fritz said.
A flamed maple back

Maple - Maple's two main uses are in necks and as a "cap" on an electric guitar. Maple is extremely hard and dense. While this makes them ideal to support the stress of string tension as a neck, they are too heavy and too bright-sounding for use as a solid guitar body. The Les Paul Standard utilized the maple cap to add brilliance to the body while retaining the warmth of the mahogany. "Figured" maple also adds beauty to the guitar since patterns in the grain can be enhanced in the finishing process. Maple is sometimes used for the sides and back of acoustic guitars, but not nearly as often as rosewood or mahogany.

Ebony - Ebony, when not used in pianos, is a great material to use in fretboards. The wood is extremely strong, bright, and durable. Gaboon Ebony comes only from the Gaboon Province in Africa. It is marked by deep black color. Macassar Ebony is a tad less expensive, and features brown stripes in the black, though it is often dyed to be all black.

Walnut - Walnut is a good alternative to mahogany. It is strong, warm-sounding and naturally beautiful. It works well for solid guitar bodies, and acoustic back and sides. If properly "quarter-sawn" (perpendicular to the wood's annual rings, or a slice down the center of the log), Walnut is stable enough to use in guitar necks as well.

Cedar - Cedar is one of few alternatives to spruce for acoustic guitar tops. Cedar is bright, light, and the deep red color adds a distinctive look to a guitar... plus you won't get any moths in your guitar case!

Though Fritz says you could "go on for days" talking about other "alternative woods," he thought he'd mention the more common ones.

Note: of all the guitars I've had or played (acoustic) Cedar top has to be my favorite, with spruce a close second.
DF
 

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Spruce - Spruce, though not as pretty as maple, is the all-time winner for the "top" of flat top acoustic guitars. According to Fritz, spruce is light and has a tight grain. This enables the wood, when properly cut, to vibrate much like a speaker cone. Better yet, as the guitar ages, the sap hidden in the grain of spruce gradually dries and crystallizes, further accentuating the bright, resonant quality of the wood. "Engleman Spruce," according to Fritz, is the best for making guitar tops.

Rosewood - Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood in particular, has become the gold standard for the backs and sides of acoustic guitars. Dense and beautiful, rosewood lends a full bass, good high-end bite, and a distinctive "piano-ey" midrange to the tone, according to Fritz. While rosewood is obviously great for fretboards, guitar makers have had limited luck using rosewood elsewhere in solid-body electrics. The guitars are too heavy, too bright, and/or cost prohibitive. This is because the wood is rare and expensive. Plus its porous nature requires a good deal of "pore fill" (and subsequent labor) before lacquer can be applied.
The Martin 00-15 Grand Concert and 000-15 Auditorium guitars with solid mahogany top, sides, and neck.

Mahogany - Mahogany became popular in guitars because it is beautiful and cheaper to get than rosewood. Whereas the high-end Martin D-28 would have rosewood back and sides, the lower-end D-18 used mahogany. According to Fritz, Mahogany lends more of a "parlor" kind of tone to the guitar. In other words, it's twangier but not as brilliant. It's not as "big" sounding either, but possesses a distinct character. This character graced most of the acoustic guitar sounds on early Beatles recordings since they used Gibsons of mahogany construction. As far as electrics are concerned, you can construct an entire guitar (except the fretboard) out of mahogany. The electric tone is marked by a warm sound with lots of low to mid-range frequencies.

Alder - Alder is the classic Stratocaster body material, though the original models were made of ash. Alder is easy to work with because it doesn't require a lot of pore fill. Alder has a full-bodied sound, but doesn't have quite the "bite" of ash.

"It's like the Chevrolet of hardwood," joked Fritz, adding that he sometimes uses alder in semi-hollows too.

Ash - Twangy, porous, and heavy are words that describe ash, the classic ingredient of the Telecaster sound. It also has good bottom end.

"It's an ash kicker," Fritz said.
A flamed maple back

Maple - Maple's two main uses are in necks and as a "cap" on an electric guitar. Maple is extremely hard and dense. While this makes them ideal to support the stress of string tension as a neck, they are too heavy and too bright-sounding for use as a solid guitar body. The Les Paul Standard utilized the maple cap to add brilliance to the body while retaining the warmth of the mahogany. "Figured" maple also adds beauty to the guitar since patterns in the grain can be enhanced in the finishing process. Maple is sometimes used for the sides and back of acoustic guitars, but not nearly as often as rosewood or mahogany.

Ebony - Ebony, when not used in pianos, is a great material to use in fretboards. The wood is extremely strong, bright, and durable. Gaboon Ebony comes only from the Gaboon Province in Africa. It is marked by deep black color. Macassar Ebony is a tad less expensive, and features brown stripes in the black, though it is often dyed to be all black.

Walnut - Walnut is a good alternative to mahogany. It is strong, warm-sounding and naturally beautiful. It works well for solid guitar bodies, and acoustic back and sides. If properly "quarter-sawn" (perpendicular to the wood's annual rings, or a slice down the center of the log), Walnut is stable enough to use in guitar necks as well.

Cedar - Cedar is one of few alternatives to spruce for acoustic guitar tops. Cedar is bright, light, and the deep red color adds a distinctive look to a guitar... plus you won't get any moths in your guitar case!

Though Fritz says you could "go on for days" talking about other "alternative woods," he thought he'd mention the more common ones.

Note: of all the guitars I've had or played (acoustic) Cedar top has to be my favorite, with spruce a close second.
DF
Nice explanation!
 

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Yeah very good info! What about swamp ash or basswood?
 

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from Jemsite

Basswood:
Basswood is a soft wood with tight grains. Its relatively inexpensive of all the usual guitar woods, and it’s easy on router bits in the factory, easy to sand, and easy to seal and finish. The softness of basswood means that sharp highs are dampened and smoothened. That helps offset the tinny sound associated with knife edged tremolo contacts. The softness also fosters a weaker low end. It’s light in weight, but not because of large pores. Rather it’s low in mass overall. Deep, breathy sub-lows aren’t resonated in Basswood. The reduction in these outer frequencies leaves the mids pronounced in a hypothetical response curve. Its very suitable for the typical guitar range, and very suitable for lead guitar, because of its pronounced “out front” sound. Complex overtones are muted along with the highs leaving a strong fundamental tone.

Production notes: Japanese factories like Ibanez seem to get a tan colored, more uniform Basswood while other Asian factories get a more flawed yellowish basswood. And there seems to be a big difference in tone. A clearer, darker Basswood should produce more sound, while the yellowish lower grade seems to have more of the undesirable tonal qualities of Poplar. A hardtail emphasizes the reduced dynamics of the outer frequencies.
Swamp Ash:
Not to be confused with Northern “Hard Ash” Swamp Ash has huge, open pores with hard and soft layers within each ring of the tree. So you basically have a very rigid skeleton with open and softer pores throughout. It is very resonant across the whole frequency spectrum. It has clear bell-like highs, pronounced mids, and strong lows. It has some random combing away of mid frequencies, which will vary the sound per guitar more than Alder or Basswood. Two Ash bodies are more likely to sound more different from one another, whereas Basswood and Alder are more consistent. A heavier piece, or a piece from higher up on the tree will be more dead and lifeless. More dull sounding, because the wood is harder and more uniformly dense. So the sweetness of the soft open pores is gone, and left is the compressed sound of a rigid, non-responsive wood, without all the brightness and sustain of a harder wood or the openness of a softer wood.

Production notes: An Asian mass produced factory guitar should be checked for weight, and openness of grain if the finish allows. Ash used at the big factories has a higher ratio of poor pieces than with smaller boutique builders, or other US builders, probably because it is a US wood.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks that was great!!

Some people say the finish on the body affects the tone of the wood, true?
Thinking of what paint will do to a piece of metal to dampen the sound makes me believe it will affect tone aswell.

Bev
 

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Also watch out for Asian guitars that have Nato and are marketted as mahoghany. They can legally do this, but the fact is, Nato is shit mahoghany which explains why one mahoghany guitar can sell for twice the price of another..............
 

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this discussion can be had all year. The honest answer is - no one knows what a guitar will sound like until its done. You can get a good guess but you never know. I've had some strats with knotty alder that sounded great and some nice ash bodies that were dead.

Acoustics are even worse. Anyone who rambles about tight grain or so many lines per inch is a hypster lost in their own BS (in my opinion)

Wood matters, no doubt, but there is way to much hype out there regarding "tone wood"

Good wood properly cured. Thats all I look for. I do not care if it came from the mountains of Egypt or the tree in my neighbors yard. As I know each body I make from the same tree will be a shade different.
 
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