Explaining Tonewoods

Everyone knows that guitars and ukuleles are made out of wood, but not as widely known are how different types of wood can affect an instrument’s sound. When shopping for instruments (whether online or at your local music store!), you’re going to see a lot of mentions of woods like mahogany, rosewood, spruce, maple, ebony, and so many more! The variety of tonewoods used in crafting these instruments is enough to make your head spin, but that’s where we come in!

Below, you can find a comprehensive list of tonewoods utilized in instrument creation. The list is handily split up into “Top Woods” (tonewoods exclusively used for the top, or “soundboard”, of a guitar/ukulele) and “Body Woods” (tonewoods most often used on the back/sides of the instrument), and includes a brief description of the overall sound that each individual tonewood brings to the instrument. The top piece of wood on a guitar is the first point of contact for the vibrations coming from your strings, so it has the biggest overall effect on the instrument’s tone. The body wood expands upon that original tone, filling out the sound with tonal characteristics unique to each tonewood! 

One final thing to note: while tonewood choiceå can give a great indication of what they will sound like, every single instrument is different! The best way to get a full sense of what a guitar or uke sounds like is to drop by your local music store and hear each individual one for yourself.

Top Woods:

Spruce: Easily recognizable by its light colour, Spruce is a go-to for classical players looking to add projection and brightness to their sound, and is essentially the standard for steel-stringed players! The tightness of the wood causes increased resonance of whatever sound you transfer into the guitar, which means you can really fill the room with the sound of many different styles of playing! Spruce also comes in a few different varieties, each with their own little intricacies.

Sitka Spruce: One of the most common tonewoods there is, Sitka Spruce is a consistently-available and well-rounded wood for soundboards. A very stiff-yet-light wood, Sitka Spruce has the dynamic range to project heavy strums and folk fingerpicking with strong fundamentals.

Engelmann Spruce: As well as being a little lighter in colour that Sitka, Engelmann Spruce is a lighter and less stiff type of Spruce.This leads to a slightly richer midrange and more overtones than Sitka, making this a fantastic choice for classical and fingerpicking players!

European Spruce: This Spruce is an amazing combination of power and warmth. Able to have rich highs as well as calm lows with a soft touch, European Spruce has an incredible versatility that brings out the best in flatpicking, fingerpicking, and classical players alike!

Moon Spruce: “Moon” Spruce refers to the lunar phase in which the wood is harvested, as the rising and falling of sap is affected by the moon (just like the tides!).  By harvesting the wood at a time where the sap of the tree is at its lowest, it’s protected by insects and fungus, thus increasing its durability. This process results in a superior quality of Spruce which contracts tighter during drying, has a lower carbon footprint, and requires no toxic wood preservatives!.

Western Red Cedar: A tonewood seemingly destined for fingerpicking and classical players, Cedar is a common staple on classical guitars from the beginner to professional level! Considerably softer as a tonewood than Spruce, Cedar is much more reserved in its projection by comparison. However, Cedar’s strength comes from its wide tonal pallet and strong overtones that are brought to life by fingerpicking. Due to these strengths, classical and fingerpicking players can get warmth and character out of a Cedar-top guitar that is unmatched!

Body Woods:

Acacia: Very similar to Koa, Acacia is as close as you can get to that classic Hawaiian ukulele sound without going there yourself. Acacia shares that bright high-end and very warm mid-range with Koa, and even has beautiful, curled patterns to match! 

African Mahogany: Very similar to Mahogany, African Mahogany has a strong mid-range presence. However, this type of wood is slightly stiffer and harder than regular Mahogany, thus expanding its frequency response and giving it more overtone production. 

Cherry: A dense and hard tonewood, Cherry is a less commonly used wood but is much loved by Canadian-based Godin, Seagull, and Art & Lutherie! Thought by many as similar to Maple, Cherry has much of a presence in its mid and low ranges than the former. The mid-range of Cherry is balanced and rich, with lots of sustain in the lows and mids.  

Cocobolo: Described as a “cannon” of a tonewood by some, Cocobolo matches that energy with a truly stunning visual appearance. Sonically comparable to Koa with its bright highs and warm mids, this wood from Central Mexico expands on the former’s low end (though not as much as say Rosewood or Ovangkol). Furthermore, Cocobolo boasts a fast and responsive articulation that guarantees fantastic note distinction for faster players.  

Cypress: Treasured by flamenco players the world over, Cypress is a light and soft wood that reflects those traits in its bright yellow-orange appearance. Cypress is often referred to as “bright and percussive”, which makes it perfect for hard-hitting flamenco playing when paired with a Spruce top (this combination is referred to as a flamenco “blanca” guitar). 

Ebony: Much like Rosewood, Ebony has a striking dark look to it with dark brown streaks down the grain. A very strong hardwood, this Madagascar-harvested tonewood has an incredibly strong bass response, clear highs, and a little bit of a mid-range scoop (also like Rosewood!). Ebony takes a little extra time to open up when compared to other woods, but the wait is worth it! This tonewood tends to favor heavy-strumming or heavy-handed players, so if you’re looking for a guitar you can really give it your all with, look no further than Ebony! 

Granadillo: While often thought of as similar to Indian Rosewood, Granadillo has its own unique perks. While having a very similar range to Rosewood, Granadillo has much more of a ring in the high end due to its density and hardness. This combination of a Rosewood-esque low-end and high-end clarity makes it the perfect pairing with a Spruce soundboard. 

Koa: A staple in the history of Hawaiian ukuleles, Koa is like a beautiful combination of Mahogany and Maple in terms of its sound. This tropical tonewood has a very warm sound which the ukulele has come to be known for and has a lot of brightness at the beginning of the instrument’s life. As Koa is played more and more, the wood opens up and that beautiful warmth comes through to an incredible degree! 

Mahogany: Possibly the most commonly used tonewood in the history of guitars, Mahogany is a hardwood that boasts a big midrange boost that any type of player will love. Mahogany is a beautiful wood to complement both Spruce and Mahogany top woods; and while it may not have the brilliant highs and deep lows of Rosewood, it has a distinctive character to its sound that’s earned its place in guitar history.  

Mango: Another visually intricate tonewood, Mango is an immediately eye-catching wood that has the sonic qualities to match! Mango has deep resonating bass projection as well as an incredible warmth to its mid-range. This projection is matched by its lengthy sustain, meaning that Mango will absolutely make its presence known whenever it’s played! 

Maple: One of the brightest and prettiest woods you’ll ever hear and see, Maple truly has a unique place in the world of tonewoods. This very dense hardwood has a rapid note decay, a strong fundamental, and little overtones. This makes it a great choice for performers in a live environment, as the strong fundamental sits nicely in a mix of instruments and the fewer overtones reduces the chance of feedback. For these same reasons, it’s also a great tonewood for larger-body guitars!  

Myrtlewood: Native to California and Oregan and frequently used by Breedlove, Myrtlewood is a beautifully vibrant tonewood that combines the best features of Maple, Mahogany, and Rosewood. The highs, mids, and lows of a Myrtlewood instrument are pronounced, rich, and have the most elegant sustain. In addition to its sound, each cut of Myrtlewood has a unique grain pattern to it, so you can rest assured that your Myrtlewood instrument is one of a kind! 

Okoume: Native to West Africa, Okoume is often used as a substitute for Mahogany. Similar to the former’s soundscape, Okoume has a good midrange with a bit more of a warmness to it. This wood has an articulate high-end with short sustain due to the quicker decay of its higher overtones. 

Ovangkol: A highly sustainable wood from West Africa, Ovangkol shares a lot of sonic similarities with Rosewood.This includes a deep low-end and solid highs but expands upon Rosewood’s range by filling out its mid-range. A great and cost-effective tonewood that’s suitable for a plethora of styles. 


Rosewood: Among the most versatile of body tonewoods, Rosewood takes the midrange of Mahogany and expands it in both directions. A very hard wood, its deep low ends and bright, crisp highs make sure that every note in a chord is beautifully present. East Indian Rosewood ranges from a chocolate brown to a beautiful purple colour, and is used today in lieu of Brazilian Rosewood, which is highly regulated. With its massive range and stunning clarity, every player can appreciate the beauty and soundscape of Rosewood. 

Sapele: While often thought of as a variant to Mahogany, Sapele has made quite a name for itself in the world of tonewoods! This highly sustainable tonewood has a striking reddish hue, which makes it immediately recognizable when compared to Mahogany. Tonally, Sapele has a similar mid-range warmth to mahogany, but with a little extra high-end shimmer. 

Walnut: Much like Koa, Walnut is a tonewood that grows over time the more you play it! Originally having a very bright top end due to the wood’s stiffness, the low-end opens up considerably over time. In addition to these changes, Walnut’s mid-range delivers fantastic clarity and a great amount of sustain. 

Ziricote: One of the more visually striking tonewoods, Ziricote is a premium choice for players looking to match an intricate look with a sound that can fill a room. Its deep, booming bass is matched by high overtone production and long-lasting sustain. Classical, baroque, and flamenco players will appreciate the effect Ziricote has when performing, and everyone can appreciate the look of it! 

Why Tapestry Music?

Tapestry Music has been a BC family owned business since 1996.  With 3 locations in White Rock, Vancouver and Victoria, Tapestry offers in store & online shopping, music lessons and repair services. As a music education specialist, Tapestry is respected and recommended by music educators across Canada.

Best Price


Tapestry will match the selling price of any identical product from any Canadian retailer that has that item in-stock, up until 30 days after purchase.


On  orders over $149

We don't charge shipping or handling on orders over $149 (before tax and shipping calculation). There are a few reasonable exceptions like very large or heavy items as well as shipping to remote areas.



Exchange or return for full refund items purchased within 30 days if in unused new condition and in original packaging.