Tone Woods in an Electronic Environment

Well here we are. One of the most divisive and weird arguments in the guitar world: Does tone wood make a difference?

Now I would never infer tone woods do not have any impact on sound. Wood choice on acoustic guitars is very important. Particularly as it pertains to the soundboard; koa, cedar, spruce, mahogany - these woods all impart something unique to the resonance, and luthiers spend many hours carefully selecting the woods they use to ensure the quality of their builds. 


So that’s the part most people agree with.... Now for the hotly debated part. Do tone woods effect the sound on electric guitars? 

In my opinion, very minimally.

A nice acoustic resonance on an electric guitar is certainly important sustain wise, but resonance is less dependent on woods with solid body electric guitars than excellent build quality and good setup. I have worked on guitars made of masonite and plywood that had great resonant sustain. At the other end of the spectrum some guitars made of lovely woods such as korina (limba), buckeye burl and indian rosewood that had pretty average results considering the extra cost. A good snug neck pocket, well-crafted nut, adjusted truss, and a well-adjusted bridge has a far more significant impact on your sound.

And we haven’t even discussed the glaring reason for tone woods minimal consequence in this situation, the electronic harness.

Signal path in the amplified medium is really what dictates tone. 

The pickups, leads, amplifier, speakers, power sources, pedal choices all have a big impact on sound. Wood has some impact but not in ways as drastically obvious as the aforementioned electronics. 

Now nobody's out there advocating you upgrade your guitar tone by stuffing your guitar cavities with cedar to improve the tone. It just isn’t that important.

So why use these sought-after woods to create solid electric guitars?... Simple.

Because it's cool!

Utilising beautiful woods to create guitars with high quality finishes is just good business acumen. Guitars are objects of desire not necessity, so the more desirable the guitar the more chance of a sale. That's the long and short of it!

So that's my two cents on the issue. I’m sure some people will be a little ruffled but ya know what? It’s my blog and I’ll broach an opinion if I want to.

Till next time, stay safe and riff hard.

Chris Re-Animator

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