The Best Wood for a Guitar

By Simon Foden
This aocustic guitar has a dark, wood body and a pale, wood top board.

If you are making your own guitar, your choice of wood will impact the cost, quality, sound and look of your guitar. In a typical guitar, there at least two different types of wood. One for the body and one for the finger board. Some acoustics have a different wood for the top board and the body.

Acoustic Body Woods

Taylor is a premium quality acoustic guitar manufacturer. They select their woods based on tonal quality. According to Taylor, tropical mahogany accentuates the mid range frequencies of an acoustic guitar, Madagascar rosewood accentuates the highs and adds sustain, while walnut provides a deep low-end.

Acoustic Top Woods

While the body wood influences the sustain and frequency of the sound, the top wood influences the resonance. Light-colored woods, such as Sitka spruce or Englemann spruce, are strong for their weight with rich, bright resonance and deep overtones. Koa creates a denser, mellower tone.

Electric Body Woods

Slash with his mahogany body Gibson Les Paul.

Solid-body electric guitars are carved from either one or two pieces of wood. More expensive guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul and PRS 513, are typically carved out of mahogany, sometimes with a maple top. This creates a rich tone with lots of sustain. For lighter, brighter tones use ash. Fender Telecasters are known for their characteristic "twang" and are typically made from ash.

Finger Board Woods

Fender Telecaster with an ash body and maple finger board.

Acoustic guitars typically have ebony or rosewood fingerboards. Electric guitars may have one of ebony, rosewood or maple. The latter is a distinctly light-colored wood that has an almost satin finish. It is less grainy than rosewood. The darker fretboard woods, ebony and rosewood, allow for a more sustained tone, but the lighter maple feels smoother to touch.

About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.