It’s not just the inside form of the guitar that affects tone as far as the body goes. The choice in wood plays a huge role too. A popular title given to woods commonly used to make instruments is “tone woods,” naturally. But remember, just like anything else on an instrument, whether or not the choice of wood contributes to a player’s sought after tone is up to the interaction with the rest of the guitar’s components. Here are some of the most popular tone woods around along with some of their sound characteristics.
Mahogany – This type of wood is a very pretty, dark to light golden-brown wood used for bodies and, less often, necks. There are many different types of mahogany, but they all have a uniform density, open grain and large pores. It accentuates bass and low-mid frequencies, and cuts high-mids a bit resulting in what some call a "nasal" sound. Also, this wood is known to produce a fat sound with nice harmonic overtones. Gibson Les Pauls are often made of mahogany.
Swamp Ash – This is the classic Stratocaster tone wood. It has inconsistent density between its rings with soft pockets scattered throughout, giving it an even frequency response with scattered drops in the mid frequencies. Different cuts of Swamp Ash are likely to sound different from each other due to the varying abundance of soft spots. Cuts that are from further up on the tree have a more uniform density and generally get the same mid frequency dips. This creates the perception of less exciting harmonics and bass. Usually, heavier pieces of swamp ash sound dull, and lighter pieces sound more alive.
Basswood – This wood is soft and has tight pores, which make it more economical to build guitars with. It has a very pronounced mid range, which is good for cutting through a mix. If you want a complex timbre, however, basswood might not be your choice. It has muted highs and less bass than some higher end wood choices.
Alder – Similar to basswood but has a bit more highs and lows so its sound is a little more complex.
Maple – This is a very hard wood and makes for pronounced upper-mids and highs. The low end isn't left behind, though. Using other components that accentuate the bass frequencies produces a very tight bass sound.
Don't forget, there's a lot more than wood that goes into a guitar's tone, especially if its an electric guitar. If you need a little help finding the perfect acoustic or electric guitar that's right for you, don't be afraid to chat with one of our professionals, drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us toll free at 1-877-671-2200!