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An Introduction to Acoustic Guitar Tonewoods
CATEGORY: Editorial, Product News
8/13/2017

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Common Acoustic Guitar Wood Combinations


For an acoustic guitar, the tonewood that it is constructed of plays a significant role in the sound of the guitar. While it is hard to debate if a tone is "good" or "bad", it is obvious that guitars made with different woods produce different tones. Understanding and appreciating what to expect from different tonewoods can help you find the perfect guitar for any situation. 

While there are dozens of possible combinations of tonewoods, understanding the most popular combinations is a great start to your quest for perfect tone.

Below we will explore four different popular tonewood combinations, starting with a classic, spruce, and rosewood. 

 

 

Sitka Spruce Top | Rosewood Back and Sides

Martin D28 Acoustic Guitar FrontMartin D28 Acoustic Guitar Back

One of the most famous guitars utilizing this combination is the Martin D28. Martin uses this combination of wood for many of its guitars and is common for most acoustic guitar makers. 

There are 6 species of Spruce in the Northern hemisphere alone, each which can sound subtly different. Sitka spruce is a very popular choice for many guitar makers as is very well rounded and can be appropriate for many different styles of music. 

“Sitka is the most consistently available, good-quality spruce there is, and that’s why we use it as stock for the majority of our guitars,”  -Dick Boak, director of the museum and archives | Martin & Co.


Rosewood on the back and sides of an acoustic guitar helps produce a deep low end and bright high end. Most of the rosewood used on modern acoustic guitars is Indian Rosewood, which has taken the place of Brazilian rosewood, which is now a protected species, making it very difficult to import into the states. 



SPRUCE TOP | MAHOGANY BACK AND SIDES


Gibson J45 Natural FrontGibson J45 Natural Back

Another common pairing is Spruce with Mahogany back and sides. Mahogany has more mid-range dynamics and a warm tone. In situations where rosewood brings too much bass, mahogany can be a great choice. 

A very popular guitar uses this combination is the Gibson J45.

 

SPRUCE TOP | MAPLE BACK AND SIDES

Taylor 612ce Acoustic Guitar Taylor 612ce Acoustic Guitar Back

While not as common as rosewood or mahogany, maple is still an often found tonewood used on the back and sides of acoustic guitars. Maple has a tendency to take on the sound of the top of the guitar, adding less color than the previously mentioned tonewoods. Maple can be loud and project sound very nicely. In addition to tone, maple is often praised for its stunning appearance which can range from a tight flame to almost 3d looking quilts. 

Maple is the standard tonewood for 600 Series Taylor Acoustic guitars.

 

ALL KOA

Taylor K28e Guitar FrontTaylor K28e Guitar Back
Koa's first documented use on an acoustic guitar was 1917 when Martin Guitars used it to try to catch the wave of consumers wanting all things Hawaiian. 

As a tonewood, Koa falls between Mahogany and Rosewood. It can be warm, without too much bass, and a more even response.

Koa is commonly seen in ukulele manufacturing but has found a home amongst acoustic guitar manufacturer as well. 

Koa is used in Tayor's KOA line, such as the K28e.
 


At Music Villa, we take pride in understanding what makes a guitar sing and are here to help you find your next dream instrument. Come on in, or give us a call at (406) 587-4761.
 




 

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