When buying or even making a guitar, you would obviously want to get the highest quality one for the amount you’re going to be spending. This means that the guitar you’ll be investing in needs to be exactly what you want it to be and needs to sound like how you want it to sound. Selecting the right wood species is extremely important when purchasing or making a guitar as it interferes with tonal qualities and warmth. The difference between a high quality guitar and low quality one is often how the wooden board is selected for it; this article will show you exactly what you’re looking for when picking out a new guitar.
Picking High Quality Wood
Firstly, knowing what kind of wood is ineffective will allow you to eliminate the ones with these features. This should be talked about before picking the species of wood that you will be going for as these apply to every species of wood that you may be going for.
Some issues that you may come across with all species of wood include the following:
Cracks that could possibly expand to an even larger crack inevitably.
Dead Tone could be caused by lower quality wood, making it sound bland and dull.
Grain Direction includes what direction the fibers of the wood are going. Going for a quarter sawn is often the best choice.
Run Out occurs when the fibers take sudden turns along the plank, you should look for fibers that run from one end to the other without these sudden turns.
Wetness is a big issue that could cause a problem if the wood isn’t seasoned.
Warps are often seen as slightly curved planks which are irreversible.
Defects include any holes or features that may lessen the quality of the wood that you’re purchasing. Make sure to purchase one without any of these.
Flat Sawn vs Quarter Sawn
Now that you know what to avoid, it’s important to figure out if you’re going for a flat sawn or quarter sawn plank. The way that wood is sawn often indicates how strong and durable the wood is. There are multiple methods that wood can be sawn, the common method which is flat sawn, or the uncommon but better method which is the quarter sawn. Very often in stores you will come across the flat sawn, but it’s also very likely that they may have some quarter swans in their inventory.
Now for the main differences, flat sawn is often the most common industrial practice where a tree is cut from top to bottom horizontally or vertically. This is often the easiest way to cut wood, but as a result it makes it less sturdy. You’ll be able to identify this type by looking at the grains and the direction that they are going. A flat sawn wood will have grains going parallel or along the direction of the wood’s length.
A quarter sawn, on the other hand is when the logs are cut into 4 sections from the top to make a ‘+’. This often gives the log 4 pizza-shaped slices. This is a less common industrial practice but it does give the planks more durability. You can identify these by looking at the grain direction and selecting the one with a perpendicular running grain. This means that the grain should be running across the width of the plank. This is the type that you should be going for.
After you’re done selecting the ones that are quarter sawn, make sure to check for any cracks or stains that you may not like and make sure that they dont have any defects. Once you’re done with that, you can start selecting the best type of wood for your guitar.
Acoustic Guitar Wood Species
There are multiple species that you can go for with acoustic guitars. You should look for different species for different parts of the guitar this article written by Sam Beattie provides an in depth explanation of each type of wood, in addition to the short summaries that are written here.
For the back and sides, you could go for the following:
Rosewood: Employs a more luxurious appearance along with a rich and sparkly tone. Colored similar to dark chocolate and includes hints of red, purple and grey highlights. In terms of sound, it offers a clear and bright sound with an even response across almost all frequencies. The resonance is dark and complex and has rich overtones and a metallic zing. Overall, a rich sound with complex overtones as well as clear high frequencies, dark luxurious appearance and fine black lines as its grains.
Mahogany: A common type of wood, with a warm tone and excellent midrange, as well as a focus and emphasis on the bass. It’s baege-orange in color with an even grain pattern.
Sapele: A red-brown colored wood that provides a similar tone to mahogany except with more high end definition.
Maple: A bright and golden colored wood, with a rich variety of distinct grain types. In terms of sound, it’s bright and provides an immediate tone with excellent projection.
Koa: As the main type of wood used for ukeleles, it provides an extremely bright tone that mellows over time. This provides a well-rounded high and low emphasis. It’s colors consist of a caramel base with contrasting patterned grains.
Walnut: Similar to maple, it employs a bright sparkly tone. However, it includes a slightly boosted low and mid frequency compared to the Koa. In terms of color, it’s dark and includes a stripy appearance.
As for the top of the guitar, it should be carefully selected as it stands between your strings and the body of the guitar, it should also look good if you’re going with a good aesthetic. For the top of the guitar you’d be going for the following species:
Spruce: A very common and high quality species of wood. It provides an immediate, balanced tone along with a bit of complexity. It is light and unassuming in its appearance.
Cedar: A less dense wood which could provide a slightly darker tone, it has a variety of colors that it could employ such as cinnamon, honey brown, and light chocolate. It produces slightly richer overtones with less sparkle but more character.
Mahogany: It’s not very often used as the top of a guitar, but it does produce a warm tone with an excellent midrange and bass emphasis.
Maple: Provides a bright and immediate tone with excellent projection.
Now onto the necks and fretboards which are the final parts of the guitar. These are often made from either maple or mahogany mostly because they are easier to work with. However, there are some other selection that you may want to go for:
Rosewood: Popular for it’s smooth feel and durability, it is often regarded as one of the most durable species of wood making it perfect for the part that you’ll be interacting with the most. Because it’s also naturally oily, it feels smooth and natural.
Ebony: A dense and heavy type of wood with a high natural oil content. It has a very responsive bright, snappy, and crisp attack couples with a smooth sustain.
Maple: An uncommon choice for a fretboard, however, it would make sense to go with it for a darker and warmer tone for a fingerboard instead.
Walnut: A resilient wood similar to rosewood. Although it’s not as common, it is mostly due to cosmetics. Walnut offers smooth playability alongside a bright tone with the right amount of low and mid emphasis.
The type of wood that you are often going for makes a huge difference when trying to find the right guitar or perhaps even make one yourself. You will want one that reflects on what you’re doing in the music industry. Are you a casual player, maybe a professional? Or maybe you are just interested in guitar making. In any case, this article could serve as a compilation of all the types of wood and how to make sure you’re getting just the right bang for your buck. For more articles such as this, visit Mello Studio’s Website.