Tonewoods


Special thanks to builder John Mayes for the information and images below

TOP WOODS
Adirondack Spruce (Picas Rubens) Adirondack Spruce (Picea Rubens)
This was the choice wood used on pre-war martins. Because it was logged so heavily the use of it was slowed drastically. Also known as Red spruce this wood offers a wonderful tone. It has lots of headroom to strum the guitar aggressively without distorting. It also has a high Overtone content. For strumming and flatpicking you can’t beat Red Spruce.
Sitka Spruce Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis)
Standard on most production guitars now, and for good reason. This topwood offers a punchy direct sound although it tends to have low overtone content. Many bluegrass players prefer Sitka Spruce for this reason.
Englemann Spruce Englemann Spruce (Picea Englemannii)
This light colored wood is one of the primary choices for fingerpicking guitars. With is High overtone content and strong fundamental tone Englemann Spruce delivers a warm mellow tone that is well suited for light strumming and fingerpicking.
European Spruce European Spruce (Picea Excelsa)
Although the quality of European Spruce is steadily declining it is considered by many to be the premier tonewood. It yields a rich tone with a strong fundamental and good overtone. It does, however, take a few years to open up to it’s full potential.
Western Red Cedar Western Red Cedar (Thuja Plicata)
Western Red Cedar is primarily used on classical guitars. Although lately it has become more popular for steel string guitars. It has a lush dark color and a Warm tone. With a dark mellow tone is tends to be a great choice for fingerpicking and Celtic style guitars. Another benefit is that is sounds “open” almost immediately.
Redwood Redwood (Sequoia Sempervirons)
Slightly darker and more red in color than Western Red Cedar. Redwood lends a very similar sound when compared to Cedar. It does, however, have slightly more punch and ability to handle harder strumming than Cedar.
BACK AND SIDE WOODS
Bigleaf Maple Bigleaf Maple (Acer Pseudoplatanus)
Cream in color this domestic hardwood gives a very tight and quick sound. It has sharp midranges and high ends but lacks the depth of Rosewood.
Mahogany Mahogany (Swietenia Macrophylla )
Light in color, this wood yields a crisp punchy woody sound.
Hawaiian Koa Hawaiian Koa (Acacia Koa)
A golden brown wood only found on the Hawaiian islands. Like Mahogany it offers a crisp snappy sound with a strong midrange and sparkling high end.
Claro Walnut Claro Walnut (Juglans California)
This rich brown colored wood offers a sound that falls somewhere between Indian Rosewood and Mahogany. It gives the woody sound of Mahogany, but also adds some of the bottom end of Rosewood.
Indian Rosewood Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia Latifolia)
This dark colored hardwood offers a warm, rich tone with excellent reverb.
Cocobolo Rosewood Cocobolo Rosewood (Dalbergia Restusa)
This beautiful orange red colored wood comes from Latin America and is a true Rosewood (Dalbergia Retusa). It offers a very robust, warm sound much like that of Brazilian Rosewood.
Brazilian Rosewood Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra)
Easily recognized by its interlocking spider web type grain. Although now placed under the CITES Restriction, some high quality sets are still available. It is considered by most to be the premier tonewood for steel string guitars. It offers a loud, warm, and rich tone.
Madagascar Rosewood Madagascar Rosewood (Dalbergia Baroroni)
If there was ever a Brazilian Rosewood copy-cat then this would be the one! It has a rich red-brown color with the classic spider webbing found in Brazilian. Tonally it combines deep lows and rich highs with strong mid-ranges to rival the best of Brazilian.
Honduran Rosewood Honduran Rosewood (Dalbergia Stevonsonii)
Although more light purple in color than other rosewoods Honduran Gives a rich complex sound. It has one of the best tap tone that I have heard in hardwoods.
Amazonian Rosewood (Dalbergia spruceana)
Many sets have a similar color to Brazilian Rosewood, sharing tight grain lines but with less figure.
Guatemalan Rosewood (Dalbergia tucerensis)
Possesses similar tonal qualities to Brazilian, and is used as a replacement by several prominent builders like Martin.
African Paduk African Paduk (Pterocarpus Soyauxii)
Although this wood has just recently been introduced into the guitar making world, it is receiving much praise. When freshly cut it is a bright orangeish-red, but over time it oxidizes to a golden brown. Its sound falls somewhere between Maple and Mahogany.
Massacar Ebony Macassar Ebony (Diospyrus Celebica)
This black wood has prominent cream colored streaks through it. It provides a warm, loud sound. Paired with an Englemann Spruce top it can make a wonderful guitar aesthetically and tonally.
African Blackwood African Blackwood (Dalbergia Melanoxylon)
Black in color, and often with sapwood showing up in the guitar pattern, African Blackwood trees are quickly becoming harder and harder to find large enough to make two-piece backs. Ithas a tight, but robust sound. Not as deep as Brazilian Rosewood but not as tight as Mahogany.
Ziricote Ziricote (Cordia Dodecandra)
With its intense Spider webbing figure colored with olive greens and blacks it is one of the more beautiful and striking woods in the guitar world. Its tone is comparable to Brazilian Rosewood in that it has a deep boomy sound with sparkling highs.
Myrtlewood Myrtlewood (Umbellularia California)
Beautiful golds and yellows swirled with cream make up the palette of this wood. Often with a flame similar as to what is found in Koa. Was first pioneered into the guitar world by Steve Henderson of Breedlove Guitars. It offers a rich sound that is a cross between mahogany and rosewood. That is, to say, it has a crisp, woody sound, but also offers a hint of depth.