The Tone of Wood (1) – Tone Woods for Acoustic Guitar Tops
While there are many details that determine an acoustic guitar's sonic profile, the two most important factors are the body shape and body wood. Each type of body wood carries its own unique tonal properties, and the natural aesthetics of these woods can make a guitar almost as inspiring to look at as it is to play.
Last month, we took a look at the various styles of acoustic guitar body shapes offered by Cort. This month, we will go through major tone woods selected for tops on Cort acoustic guitars.
Sitka Spruce is the most common and traditional tonewood used for tops on acoustic guitars due to its rigidity and superb strength-to-weight ratio. This characteristic provides very dynamic sensitivity as well as a sound that is rich in harmonic overtones and allows the top to handle powerful strumming as well as delicate fingerpicking. The versatility of Sitka Spruce makes it ideal for various musical genres and styles but is especially well suited for flatpicking due to its focused sound and projection. Visually, the grains of this wood are uniform and have a wide range of colors.
Often used for tops on classical guitars, Engelmann Spruce has denser grains and is brighter in color than Sitka Spruce. Compared to Sitka Spruce, it is also lighter weight, which produces a smoother low-end with a rich and full midrange. The abundance of harmonics makes it ideal for classical guitarists and steel-string fingerpicking stylists who put a high value on subtlety and sensitivity over powerful projection.
Sometimes referred to as Red Spruce, the Adirondack Spruce is the most rigid type of Spruce and this character allows for the construction of a thinner top on the guitars. The thinner top produces more vibrational energy and greater resonance for a very full, rich and loud sound with powerful projection. Although similar to Sitka Spruce in sonic character, it produces a more defined and richer sound that gives it a reputation as the greatest tone wood for steel-string acoustic guitars. Visually, the grains are darker and spread further apart than other types of Spruce.
Like Engelmann Spruce, European Spruce is often used on classical guitars and has similar characteristics both visually and sonically. This being said, European Spruce has more rigidity and responsiveness for a more defined and powerful sound as well as producing the sounds of different body shapes more accurately, making it ideal for all playing styles and musical genres.
WESTERN RED CEDAR
Compared to the various species of Spruce, Cedar wood is softer and has less density for a very responsive feel and an open sound. Tonally, it is darker than Spruce and has a strong and rich midrange for warm fundamentals and bright overtones. Cedar can get loud with even light picking attack and touch, making it ideal for fingerstyle and classical guitar players. It also pairs exceptionally well with various other woods used for back and sides, allowing its own sonic characteristics to come through with authority and clarity.