The Connection Between Sound and Construction

Topwoods Cover

by Richard Johnston

How a guitar sounds, of course, depends on a wide variety of factors, including the body size and shape, wood used for the back and sides, bridge type, internal bracing, and graduation of the soundboard itself. All the luthiers I interviewed agreed that the species of tonewood chosen for the top is one small factor in the overall sound of a guitar. As Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars put it, “The whole guitar is like a recipe, and changing the top wood is merely changing the seasoning.” Guitarists familiar with different woods and their characteristics are prone to making sweeping generalizations about tone and volume, but they are often comparing instruments with a long list of other differences.

Even when the body shape is essentially the same, the structural design of the sound chamber and how it is put together is rarely the same from one maker to another. A slight difference in the radius of the guitar’s top, for example, or the position of the X-brace in relation to the bridge, could easily have more impact on the instrument’s tone and volume than whether it has a western red cedar or Engelmann spruce soundboard.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar Guide to Tonewoods: All About Top Woods

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox