Sounds and Styles Of Acoustic Guitar Woods
Knowledge of the woods used to make starter acoustic guitars is important when choosing the
right instrument for the style of music you want to play. Understanding how different types of
woods affect a guitar’s sound will help you make an educated purchase when shopping for your first
guitar. Luthiers (craftsmen who make guitars) choose combinations of woods in order to obtain a
desired tone. Different types of wood affect the weight, sound and appearance of the guitar.
Types of Guitar Top WoodA guitar’s top wood (the front of the guitar’s body) is usually a
softer wood that amplifies the sound of the guitar. Listed below are a few common types of
top wood and their sound properties:
Spruce — This is a very common top wood choice, and is generally taken from the
Sitka Spruce. This is a semi-hard material that amplifies the guitar’s sound and creates a
well-rounded tone. It is lightweight, yet durable and provides good sustain and clarity. Yamaha
nylon string guitars frequently feature a spruce top.
Cedar — This is a soft wood that emphasizes the sparkle of a guitar's upper
registers. It is an ideal top wood for classical or finger style acoustic guitars and is best when
used in smaller style bodies. Red cedar is commonly used for classical guitars because of its
warm, mellow tone.
Mahogany — This wood is usually reserved for the body and sides of an acoustic
guitar, but it can on occasion be used as the top wood as well. A Mahogany top adds boost to the
guitar’s the mid-range tones and reduces the “booming” that is sometimes heard in dreadnought style
guitars. Mahogany produces strong, solid sounds for country and blues musicians.
Types of Guitar Body WoodThe body wood compliments and amplifies the tones of the top
wood. This is generally a denser variety of wood. Listed are a few of the most common types of
woods used for starter acoustic guitar bodies:
Maple — Maple strongly emphasizes the tonal characteristics of the top wood used,
while adding little sound coloration from the rest of the body. The dry tone of maple can sometimes
emphasize the upper end of the tonal spectrum.
Mahogany — When used as the body wood, mahogany accentuates the higher-end
frequencies while producing a fairly even tone. The Epiphone DR100 Acoustic Guitar is a great
starter guitar that uses mahogany as the body wood.
Rosewood — Two main types of rosewood are used for a guitar's body: Brazilian and
Indian. Brazilian rosewood has excellent clarity that results in strong high and low tones. Indian
Rosewood is virtually identical tonally, but is more likely to be used on a starter acoustic guitar
because of its low cost.
Types of Guitar Neck WoodA guitar’s neck wood needs to be a durable material that resists
warping. Some types body wood are also used for the neck, but usually you will find combinations of
three different types of wood to tailor the guitar for a specific tone.
Maple — Maple is one of the most common neck woods used today. It is a durable
material that can withstand warping better than most other hard woods. Maple necks generally
amplify the tone of the body wood as opposed to adding their own tonal qualities.
Nato — When used as a neck wood, nato provides a warm, smooth tone, similar to
mahogany (leading to its nickname “eastern mahogany”). The Yamaha F325 Acoustic Guitar features a
durable nato neck that provides a warm, full tone.
Rosewood — Brazilian Rosewood helps strengthen a guitar's mid-range sounds and is
great for clarity and articulation in tone. Indian Rosewood is one of the most popular fingerboard
woods because of its ability to sustain notes. Indian Rosewood is occasionally used as the full
There are many combinations of neck, body and top woods, and each will produce a different
sound. If you have a style of music you’re most interested in playing, it’s best to test guitars
made with different wood combinations to hear how they work together. For your starter acoustic
guitar, having an understanding of different woods' sound properties will help you decide which
combination is best for you.