Saturday 22 Oct 2016

Guitar Woods
Jane Doe

There are many types of guitars available. It’s important you choose one matches that the style of music you play; a guitar with exact tone you are looking for.

Wood used to make guitars affects tonality. Different woods vary, soft or hard. The density of wood used is another consideration.

Starting with the fret board, you are generally going to find manufacturers will use maple, rosewood or ebony. When maple is used, you will notice high overtones stand out and lower frequencies e nearly cancel out. Maple is dense, unforgiving with a percussive pick attack. Rosewood is one of the most common woods for fret boards. It has a deeper tone is more forgiving with overtones. Ebony combines the snappy sound of maple along with the darker qualities of rosewood.

The guitar neck also influences tone. Necks are usually maple, mahogany, koa and rosewood. Maple is both the most used and among the most stable woods for guitar necks. Its density helps to carry vibrations to the body of the guitar.

Mahogany provides a uniform tone, with a greater density than maple. Koa has a sound close to a blend of maple and mahogany, but with a more pleasing upper frequency resonance. Rosewood emphasizes mid-to-low overtones, has great sustain and darker high frequencies.

Finally, the body of the guitar probably has the highest wood-type effect compared with the other areas. Guitar bodies commonly use basswood, alder, swamp ash and mahogany. Less expensive guitars often use basswood because it’s inexpensive. Basswood produces somewhat dull low and high-end frequencies, with a decent mid-range. Alder takes away from the mid-range frequency and distributes it a bit more evenly due to the grain pattern. Swamp ash tone varies, by guitar, as the wood varies in density and grain. Typically, you will find swamp ash a great wood for pronouncing the widest range of frequencies. Mahogany gives a uniform tone, with a focus on the deeper tones.

When examining your guitar, ensure you determine if it is a set neck or a bolt-on neck. Generally, you find bolt-on necks on the cheaper guitars due to their cheaper manufacturing process. Set necks are more expensive, but you will benefit from adding sustain to the guitar and a greater blend of tones from the neck and fret board. Look for the body of the guitar to be a larger factor in your tone with bolt-on neck guitars and expect a bit more of an upfront, poppy tone.

Your pickups are going to have a large impact on your overall tone. Both the quality of the pickups and the style play a big part. The two most common types of pickups are single coil and humbucker. Most often, you will find single coil pickups focus on the mid-range to high-end frequencies. These pickups are a perfect choice for lead guitar, or for a rhythm guitar cuts through a mix well. Humbuckers are the combination of two single coil pickups produce a fatter and warmer sound usually desired for rhythm applications.

Jane Doe writes from the American South East.

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