Tonewoods Used For Acoustic Guitar Soundboards

Soundboard (Top) Tonewoods

The right tonewood depends on what kind of sound you want and how you play your guitar. A fingerstyle player will want wood that responds to his or her delicate playing as opposed to a wood that requires more force like in rock & roll to fully resonate. Luthiers believe that the wood chosen for the top is the single most important factor in determining what the instrument will sound like.


Spruce is the most standard material for tops.  Sitka Spruce has high rigidity and has the lightweight characteristics of most softwoods.  This makes it great for high velocity of sound. Sitka spruce has a powerful direct tone which keeps its clarity when the guitar is strummed hard.  Well broken in Sitka Spruce is in my estimation the best all around sounding soundbaord for varying styles of playing.  It is sensitive to light playing and will not be over driven when strummed hard such as in rock & roll or country.  Fingerstyle players would probably prefer Englemann Spruce wich is not as stiff and responds to a light touch better than Sitka but can be over driven when strummed hard.  European or silver spruce is used for classical guitars.  It has simalar characteristics to Englemann.  It has a potentially quicker response and  greater headroom.  Red spruce is difficult to find, is stiffer than Sitka, complex overtones, and has the highest volume ceiling of any of the Spruces.


Cedar is a popular top wood for its balanced warm broken in sound when new.  It is favored by fingerstyle players for its quick response to the lighter playing style.  Repairmen generally hate to work on guitars made of cedar because it is so soft.  Replacing a bridge for instance would be very prone splitting the soundboard.


When used as a top mahogany has a relatively lower response.  It is more dense, and has low overtones.  Mahogany topped guitars have a punchy tone that is suited to country blues playing.


Maple is a very dense hardwood with quick note decay.  Its clarity of tone is more acoustically transparent. Its tone will cut through while performing with others.


Similar to Mahogany in sound.  Punchy with more midrange sound is good for rhythm & Hawaiian style music.


Similar to Cedar with higher density and headroom.


Similar to Mahogany.


Bob, Gman ( o )==#


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