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Rosewood/walnut/cocobolo, Etc.


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I have never, ever seen an acoustic guitar with a rosewood, or walnut, or cocobolo, or zircote, etc, etc, top? Why is this? what would an acoustic sound like with a top of one of the above woods? Would it sound bad? I'd really like to know, because I've never seen one, and most of those woods are so beautiful that if there weren't any negatives as to having a top of one of them it would seem a given to have one. Explain?

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To be effective, acoustic guitars tops have to be light (so that can respond to string energy, and effectrively act as a diafragm to ampify the strings) but also strong (so they don't implode). As such, a light, stiff wood like spruce is used, since it's stiffness to weight ratio is extremely high.

A dense wood like those you listed would be far too heavy to produce any decent volume. If you thinned it to the point where it weighed the same as a spruce top, it would be far too weak to withstand the string pull, and it would collapse.

So yes, an acoustic made from one of those woods would sound bad. Or implode. Most likely, both :D

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Setch is right on the money. Strength to weight ratio is critical for a soundboard to do it's job well. You would also have to think about your bracing. Bracing and the soundboard have to work as a unit to have enough strength and still be able to vibrate well. You would really have to experiment to try to find that balance, and most likely you would find most hardwoods are just not going to produce good volume. Then again if you feel like giving it a try and have enough experience with soundboard construction. Maybe you will make something of it. I have seen Mahogany used, but I have never tried it myself.

Peace,Rich

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I've seen a couple all-koa guitars (larrivee comes to mind) but they were meant as 'show guitars'.

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Just to be contrarian...while spruce/cedar/redwood and similar are optimal in terms of weight to strength ratio, a significant number of successful, wonderful sounding guitars have been made with Mahogany tops, and Koa's a traditional topwood for Ukuleles at the very least. All-koa guitars by Larrivee and (f'r instance) Taylor are showy, but they can also make great instruments. They sound different, are probably less 'efficient' than spruces or cedars are at producing sound, but I wouldn't rule them out. Several guitar builders who's work I respect have been 'converted' from the 'only softwoods make good tops' school upon hearing small mahogany-topped instruments. So much so that I'm going to order a few extra sets of honduran for tops for some parlours in the future.

One builder in the UK, Dave White, has made at least one small maple-topped instrument (parlour sized; hardwood tops may work best on smaller guitars, I suspect), the recordings of which sound surprisingly good. I'd still opt for spruce over maple, but there you go.

The rosewoods, however, strike me as uniformly unsuitable candidates, purely due to their weight. A string only has so much energy to give.

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I'm confused. I have this guitar with a flame maple top*. It sounds very nice to me. Does that mean that I don't know what sounds good or is Ibanez lying about the wood? :D

Seriously, hardwood-topped acoustics don't sound as good as spruce-topped ones, but there are a lot of other factors there too. There are an awful lot of spruce guitars that sound like a pile of bat crap next to my Ibanez.

*I know, it's probably plywood.

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Nothing is set in stone as far as what you use. If you have actually made an acoustic soundboard. You will hopefully understand what you want out of the wood. Most of the figured wood you see on soundboards will most likely be veneer over spruce(as Mattia mentioned). The soundboard is a great place to try new ideas and improvements. Just be sure you understand the construction and demands placed on it.

All that said, don't debate... build it and see if you can make it sound great. Build up and brace a spruce and also a hardwood you want to try out compair the two before you attach them. Hopefully that will give you some of the answers you are looking for.

Peace,Rich

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