Tap Tones of Common Guitar Tonewoods

A question we're often asked is what wood will produce the right tone for a guitar. Every piece of wood has a different sound and once it is used for the guitar it colors the tone heavily. It’s common to hear the rosewoods are warm and maple is bright. We wanted to figure out exactly what this means and provide a way to be objective and compare them. To do this I recorded a few common tonewoods and took pictures of the frequency graphs to provide a comparison. Some are "woodier" and some have more delicate overtones and brightness. 

A few things to keep in mind are that the thickness of the wood plays a major effect. The goal for a guitar top is to make it as thin as possible while retaining structural support. The thinner pieces of wood “open up” and the higher resonances come out. This can be seen between the two pieces of sitka spruce. Another effect on the sound is where the piece is tapped and how it is held. It doesn’t change the fundamental resonances, but it does bring out different ones. The last note is that once the bracing is applied and the body is put together the outcome will change.

When I played this on my laptop and computer speakers everything sounded woody, it’s hard to pick up on the subtle differences. On higher quality desktop PC speakers and certainly with a small sub-woofer it’s possible to hear that they are all unique pitches.

Here are the recordings followed by a graph of the frequency response. Where the peaks are shows the characteristics of the wood. The thickness, bracing and note played will affect which of those peaks are excited most.

I hope that these are helpful in some way! Let me know if you have and questions or woods you'd like to see tested out. 


Bubinga at 0.12in



Caro Walnut at 0.12 in



Brazilian Rosewood at 0.12in




Adirondack Spruce at 0.12in



Sitka spruce at 0.11 in


Sitka spruce at 0.17 in



Western red cedar at 0.16 in


Spanish cedar at 0.17in