Tone woods are the woods used to make guitars, particularly acoustic guitars, and they have a huge impact on the sound and price of an instrument. Different woods have different sound qualities, particularly when used for an acoustic guitar's top, which is the instrument's most important wooden tonal feature.
However, when it comes to acoustic guitars, the wood configuration is arguably more essential. If you take electronics and hardware out of the equation, the wood choices for the body, neck, and fretboard account for upwards of 90% of the construction of an acoustic guitar, and they're almost entirely responsible for the way an acoustic guitar sounds. Nowadays, acoustic guitar manufacturers use a wealth of different wood types, with exotic and alternative woods being used more commonly to avoid hefty fees and maintain consistent output
Why does it have to be wood?
As time passes, technology evolves, substitutes for wooden guitar are being tested to this day. But everyone still prefers their guitars to be made of wood rather than anything else because of three main reasons. Reason one being the most important that wood resonates better. Compared to other materials wood tends to produce more cleaner sounds that is preferred by many luthiers. Second is that the tone of the wood improves with the age of the wood. You would get a more prominent tone as the wood ages. Third and finally the wooden guitar looks good, it gives the guitar a more rustic look.
Since acoustic guitars must be manipulated into a form that fits with the intended design, the pieces of wood used to create them are naturally thin. Laminated wood, as the name implies, is made up of several thinner layers of wood that are adhered together with adhesives and pressure to form a board. One of the most common reasons for this practise is to give the guitar a nice natural grain without having to use a thicker piece of wood. The luthier actually takes the thinnest possible piece of wood and reinforces it with less expensive materials, resulting in a versatile piece of wood that can be used for a variety of instruments.
The solid wood solution is the polar opposite. Simply use the more costly, thicker piece of wood. The solid piece of wood is divided into two and mirrored in some cases (particularly for guitar tops) – you'll note a distinct divide in the centre of a guitar top when this is the case. Though solid wood is more costly, it is thought to produce better results. Because of its compound composition, laminated wood is more likely to warp or label. Because of the uniform grain and thickness, many argue that solid wood has a more resonant tone. Better vibration equals better tone and sustain!
Let's discuss some popular tonewoods and their characters that many luthiers use for the guitar projects.
The Two Kings of Rosewoods
Rosewood is without question one of the most popular and enduring tone woods known in acoustic guitar construction. For decades, it's been used to great effect, and there are two key varieties that have been used: East Indian rosewood and its more difficult and costly counterpart, Brazilian rosewood. Brazilian rosewood is highly sought after due to its luxurious appearance and rich, gleaming tone. It has become less popular as a result of the aforementioned changes in CITES legislation, with the East Indian variety being used more frequently in acoustic guitar construction. East Indian Rosewood is much simpler to produce and therefore much less expensive.
A cheaper alternative to Rosewoods - The Mahogany
People often tend to misinterpret when the words cheaper alternative is used. They tend to believe that it's of much less quality and therefore the reduction in price.As a matter of fact it is of a rich dark reddish-brown colour, mahogany is very easy to spot. It's a wood with a distinctly woody and warm tone that's stiff, rough, and thick. Mahogany can take on some of the sonic characteristics of rosewood in denser sets, but in general, it's a tone wood that produces a punchy and balanced tone with a relatively emphasised midrange, particularly when compared to rosewood's enhanced highs and lows.
Mahogany’s cousin - The Sapele
Sapele is an African tone wood that resembles Mahogany in both appearance and sound. Sapele trees are protected from overharvesting, making it a relatively healthy and ethically harvested wood. Sapele has a similar rich, pronounced grain to mahogany, but it's a little lighter red/amber in colour and can be striped between big dark and light areas.
Koa Perfect for ukuleles
Koa has a tendency to sound bright right out of the box, and it takes a lot of ‘playing in' before the tone finds its sweet spot. However, many argue that it is well worth the effort and wait to get there! The light fades with time, leaving a warm rounded sparkle and a rich low end. Due to its pronounced brightness, Koa would not accommodate plectrum players, but finger-pickers who use the pads of their fingers or those who like to strum with their thumbs should certainly consider it. If you ever decide to purchase a Koa guitar, keep in mind that it will appear bright at first and will need some time and attention to mellow out.
To know more about the different kind of exotic woods, to purchase and to know about all the crazy projects that you can do with them visit https://exoticwoodzone.com/