The term “tonewood” refers to any wood which may be used in constructing a musical instrument. Below we will briefly take a look at tonewoods as they relate to specific wood and stringed instruments. Keep in mind that tonewood properties are massive subject so we will only skim the surface here on some of the more popular instruments broken down into softwoods and hardwoods.
For the tops of the violin, mandolin, and guitar families, spruces are often used. It is used because of its high stiffness-to-weight ratio. Cedar are common for the tops of classical guitars and acoustic guitars to a lesser degree. Cedar also has a high stiffness-to-weight ratio. Other softwoods, such as redwood, pine, and fir, have been used as well, but less frequently.
Mahogany is used in the tops of some guitars as well as the back, sides, and necks of instruments of the mandolin and guitar families. Mahogany may be used for the solid bodies of electric guitars. Rosewoods are often used in the back and/or sides of guitars and mandolins. Maple is traditionally used for the backs and sides of the violin family, as well as bassoons and sometimes for other woodwind instruments. Drums are frequently made from maple, as are the necks of electric guitars. Koa is often used for most parts of ukuleles. Ebony, the blackest of woods, is often used for fretboards, fingerboards, and tailpieces, but not as a pure tonewood. Basswood (also known as lime or linden) is often used in solid body guitars and woodwind instruments.
Knowing the correct wood type for any instrument is essential for any restoration or refinishing. Perhaps you have an old antique or a damaged instrument that needs some work. Contact us for a quote. We’d be happy to take a look.