The Right Wood For Guitars


Guitars spruced up

When to comes to versatility as a workable material spruce takes a lot of beating. Stradivari picked up on its qualities but it had been in use long before his time. And when the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville were pioneering flight, spruce was their choice for aircraft prototypes.

It seems that instrument makers plus inventors had latched on to the fact that there was a simple reason spruce stood head and shoulders above other woods: it had a really high strength-to-weight ratio.

Luthiers (guitar makers and repairers) have used cedar and redwood, to a lesser extent, to make acoustic guitar soundboards over the years but spruce has become the market leader. And guitar makers have found that although different types of spruce may look alike they produce different tones.


Sitka spruce, the largest in the family, has been the predominant wood used for steel-string acoustic guitars for the past 60 years. Sitka is is used because it is very durable and can stand up to robust handling and frenetic playing.

Nowadays other woods get more publicity but the consensus of opinion among guitar makers is that Sitka is not given the credit it deserves mainly because it is abundant and relatively cheap.

Adirondack spruce was used before the Second World War but it made a comeback in the 1990s when retro mania turned its sights on guitars. Top guitar builders rate Adirondack highly because of its strength along the grain, a springy quality, the high range of sound it possesses and its wide range of tone.


Western red cedar has been used to make classical guitars for many years and more recently has been used for steel-stringed instruments. Cedar is normally a rich brown hue whereas the spruce tends to be a more yellowy shade. But some cedar guitar tops can be a very light brown and not that different in colour from darker types of Sitka spruce.

Luthiers and players have to take more care with cedar as the softer wood is more delicate than the spruces used to build guitars.


Redwood used to make guitars is usually from the Pacific coastal trees. Redwood is more similar in appearance to cedar than spruce and shares the same sound. But like cedar, redwood can be prone to cracks across the grain if the guitar is damaged in any way or dropped. Soundboard cracks following the grain can be easily repaired but splits across can leave the wood weakened and unable to be fixed.

  • Image courtesy of ShakataGaNai

Peterborough Music offer a large range of Freshman Guitars as well as Bass and Electric models

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