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Tonewood - How to Pick Quality Wood For Guitar Tops

Wood that has inherent acoustic properties and is used in the fabrication of acoustic instruments, is referred to as tonewood. Although this expression can be used to apply to all aspects of wood used in guitar building, it mainly refers to the guitar top wood. This is chiefly due to the fact that virtually all the tone and volume a guitar possesses, is a result of the species and caliber of the top wood. Considering top tonewood, top bracing and the manner with which the guitar was constructed, the luthier has an incredible amount of command over the tone and volume qualities of a guitar.

The back plate and sides play a subordinate role in that they provide the expression qualities of the vibrations outwards, towards the top and sound-hole. Knowing that the guitar back and sides do definitely influence the tone and volume of the guitar, the top is really the determining factor in producing shaped tone and volume. This fact was proven by the celebrated classical guitar luthier Antonio De Torres with his notable paper mache guitar, where he installed his experimental top and top bracing on a guitar with paper mache back and sides. It was evidenced that this guitar possessed an unbelievable amount of tone and volume and proved his theory of the importance that top tonewood and bracing lend to the guitar.

The tonewood used for the top plate is thus one of the principal choices for the luthier to shape the tone quality of a fine acoustic instrument. Other factors that eventually shape the acoustic properties of a fine instrument comprise the volume of air in the body, the shape of the body, the moisture content in the woods and the ultimate mass of the wood.

The type and color of tone and volume of the guitar top tonewood is governed mainly by the wood species used and the character of that wood. One of the most important factors with regards to tonewood specifications, is the moisture content of the wood. The dryer the wood, the more tone it is subject to producing, as moisture produces a dampening consequence within the wood. Quality guitar tonewood for top plates commonly has a moisture content of about 6%. If the tonewood in correctly dried in heat and humidity controlled wood storage facilities, the desirable moisture content is often attained. Quite often you will see kiln dried tonewood to acquire appropriate moisture content. Typical lumber yard wood usually will not meet your moisture content objective and has to be acclimated in the controlled environment of your shop for a minimum of several months, to a couple of years.

Wood will continue to 'age', even after a comprehensive kiln drying. This wood should also be fittingly stacked to allow appropriate air circulation and stored in your climate-controlled shop. You will often see tonewood advertised as being aged a minimum of 2 years, and up to, and exceeding 10 years. You would be well advised to stock up on tonewood if you have aspirations of building several guitars as this is a very beneficial investment. You will have access to excellent, aged tonewood for many years. Just make sure you store and stack it properly.

For more information on this article visit: Tonewood for Guitar Building

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