Tonewood Basics: The "Big Three"

While the top woods of an acoustic guitars dictate the lion's share of an acoustic's voice and volume, the back and sides are there to color what the top is doing. Think of it as the spice in the broth, or an accent in a language... the reflective and coloring aspects of the back and sides are the flavors of what the top woods are projecting.

As a primer, we can give a glimpse into what the three most common tonewoods used for guitar back and sides provide. These three are Rosewood, Mahogany, and Maple. Let's break them down generally.

Rosewood
Rosewood has traditionally been used as the most common back and side tonewood on acoustic guitars. Rosewood adds a drum-like bump on the bottom end and a glossy sheen to the top end. Midrange is very even tempered and sometimes even a bit subdued. The response is swift and has a small amount of bloom. This is a great wood for flat-picking and smooth strumming.

P5DC

EF75M TT

EF400SC TT

GB7C

Mahogany
Mahogany is known for being warm and full, with very pronounced midrange and soft warm bottom. Higher frequencies are smooth and syrupy. The response of this wood has a slower, more blooming quality to the notes and chords. It's less punchy and more smooth than rosewood. This is a great wood for singer-songwriters or bluesy music.

CP771MC

GD30 CE

TSF40C

EF340S TT

Maple
Guitars with maple back and sides are known for being bright, punchy and glossy, with tremendous ability to cut through a mix. Maple is a very quick, articulate (some say unforgiving) wood with great highs, balanced mids and a tempered bottom end. This is a great wood for high speed strumming, glossy contemporary sound and for playing in large ensembles, as it cuts so well.

EF341SC

P6N BSB

EF250TK

EF450C TT

Of course, all these woods have variants and sound-alikes, and some of the other tonewoods that have been more recently implemented in high-end acoustic guitars, such as sapele, ovangkol, and others, each offer their own distinct tonal characteristics. This is what makes choosing instruments great, and in some cases gives you a reason to add another instrument to your collection! Try our some rosewood, mahogany, and maple-backed guitars at your Takamine dealer today.

Comments
The Fatguy

Love the article. 

"This is what makes choosing instruments great, and in some cases gives you a reason to add another instrument to your collection!"  Ya, because we needed another reason.  

Bob B.

Very

Informative. Now a little more info on Ovangkol and koa back and sides would be welcome as well. Thank you