Brazil. Sometimes referred to as "Jacaranda", this species
of genuine rosewood ranges in color from dark brown to violet with
spidery black streaks. The smell is like roses when freshly
cut. Brazilian rosewood is considered nearly extinct and
is extremely expensive if available at all. Extremely
resonant producing full, deep basses and brilliant trebles.
Brazilian rosewood is occasionally available in very limited
quantities for custom or special limited edition orders only.
Latifolia) India. Typically richly grained with dark purple,
red, and brown color, East Indian rosewood is resinous, stable and
generally more consistent than most other rosewood species.
East Indian rosewood is extremely resonant producing a deep warm
projective bass response that is especially accentuated on large
Macrophylla) Brazil. Yellowish brown to reddish brown in
color, Genuine or "Amazon" mahogany is exceptionally
stable and consistently clear. Mahogany is much lighter in
weight than rosewood, koa, or maple. In spite of its weight,
mahogany yields a surprisingly strong loud sound with an emphasis on
clear bright trebles.
This beautiful and rare (often quilted) variety of
genuine mahogany occurs in a very small percentage of mahogany
trees. Though difficult to bend, figured mahogany shares the same
tonal properties of the unfigured mahogany.
Germany. Curly, flamed, tiger striped, or "Fiddleback"
maple refers to the characteristic alternating hard and soft
rippling which runs perpendicular to the grain in some rarer maple
trees. This particular species of European maple is very hard
and reflective, producing a loud powerful projective sound.
Uniquely figured domestic "Birdseye" maple, used on the
D-60 models, displays characteristics and tonal properties similar
to European Flamed maple.
Hawaii. Golden brown color with dark streaks and a lustrous
sheen. Koa wood occasionally develops a curly or flamed
figure. Regardless of any figuring, koa seems to have a
bass response that is slightly less than that of rosewood and treble
response that is slightly less than that of mahogany.
The result is a very equally balanced instrument.
selection with bright woodiness of mahogany when played lightly,
with much of the punchiness and power of rosewood when you dig
in. When properly braced, a walnut backed guitar can
have a unique warmth and tonal depth. This is a dark brown,
highly figured specialty wood which is grown in a wide variety of
Scleroxylon) Bolivia. Also known as Bolivian or Santos
"rosewood", morado ranges in color from a light violet
brown to reddish brown with occasional olive and black streaks.
Finer in texture than most rosewoods, morado is a close visual
substitute for East Indian rosewood, and has very similar tonal
best way to describe Myrtlewood is that it has the powerful voice of
rosewood coupled with all the clarity, brightness and balance of
maple. Myrtlewood can be found in the coastal mountain
regions of northern California and southern Oregon. With
coloration anywhere from an elegant whitish/straight grained look (a
blonde mahogany), to yellow/green with flame, the tonal personality
of Myrtlewood is consistent. Use of this wood on a guitar was
first done by Breedlove and is featured on the Breedlove
"Northwest" guitar. Prior to this, using Myrtlewood
to build a guitar has never been done.
Deeper and richer sounding than East Indian Rosewood, many would
characterize striped ebony as very similar to Brazilian
rosewood. It is dense, has similar reflective properties
to Brazilian, and it also has a high specific
gravity. It has a striking, distinctive vertical
stripe pattern, variegated dark brown, black and green. It makes a
truly exceptional twelve-string. Striped ebony comes from New
Guinea, is exclusively government controlled, and is not an
With a density and reflectivity approaching that of
maple, cherry produces a rich, projective midrange and balance
without favoring the bass or treble frequencies.
White ash was utilized on a limited but extremely popular
run of D-16A Martin guitars made between 1987 and 1990. The tonal
character of ash is surprisingly loud and bright, with a strong
midrange and a crisp bass.
Sitchensis) Canadian Northwest & Alaska. Sitka spruce is the
primary topwood for Martin Guitars. It is chosen because of
it's consistent quality as well as it's straight uniform grain,
longevity, and tensile strength. Tonally, Sitka spruce is
extremely vibrant providing an ideal "diaphragm" for
transmission of sound on any size and style of stringed instrument.
Claw Sitka Spruce
named variety of Sitka Spruce. A randomly figured Sitka, due
to genetic or environmental factors. It looks like a bear
has clawed across the grain of the wood. This particular
variety is highly coveted for it's unique patterns. From the
Engelmannii) United States. Englemann spruce is prized for its
similarity in color to European (German) White spruce as well as its
extreme lightness in weight which seems to produce a slightly louder
and more projective or "open" sound than Sitka
spruce. Englemann spruce grows in the alpine elevations of the
American Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Cascades. It is
considerably more limited in supply than Sitka spruce.
wood that Martin used for its tops throughout its golden years came
from the East Coast, from the Southern Mountains into New England
and upper New York State. Called both Appalachian and
Adirondack spruce, it has a creamy white color. Similar to Sitka, Adirondack responds
well to either a light or firm touch. It has more overall
resonance than Sitka. Interesting grain color variations make
this another visually desirable top. Adirondack has been unavailable since
the mid-1940's. Virgin growth has been (fortunately) preserved
in National parks, the rest is all second growth, plentiful but too
small to be usable for guitar tops until recently. Guitar
makers have started finding second growth of at least 100 years old
that is big enough to be used for tops again.
of all spruce species. Extremely clear and bell like, with the
versatility of Sitka. Exceptional sound for light to
very firm techniques. Very white in color.
United States, particularly the
Western Red Cedar has long been utilized as a soundboard material by
classical guitar makers for its vibrance and clarity of
sound. It is extremely light in weight compared to
spruce and the tonal result is generally a slightly louder, more
open response. Balanced,
warm and rich with bright trebles. What is most characteristic
of Red Cedar is that it sounds broken-in, even when new.
Exceptional sound for light to very firm techniques.
Coloration runs from light (almost as light as Sitka) to a very dark
A great choice
for the fingerstylist with
somewhat more richness in the bass than cedar. Redwood responds to subtle
playing with a crisp balanced sound. The bass response is
particularly round and full with a
piano-like crispness. Lacquer
and glue do not bond quite as well as the spruces. Because of
this (as with Cedar), some Luthiers (Goodall) recommend light gauge
strings only on guitars with these tops. Originally from Northern California,
many luthiers (i.e. Breedlove) get redwood from recycled
lumber and timber salvage.
Occidentalis) United States. Western larch has clearly marked
annual rings and a fine uniform texture. Larch is harder and
stronger than most conifers including spruce. It bears a close
visual resemblance to Sitka spruce and due to its increased
stiffness, it is an appropriate choice for scalloped braced models
yielding a projective and crisp response.
Hawaii. Historically, koa tops have appeared primarily on
small bodied 0 & 00 size Hawaiian guitars and ukuleles although
recent koa Dreadnoughts and custom guitars have been popular.
Koa produces a predominately bright treble response with less volume
than spruce, but the slight loss in volume is overshadowed by the
extreme beauty of the grain. Koa tops are available on special order
and custom instruments.
Macrophylla) Brazil. Mahogany was first introduced as a
topwood in 1922 on the lesser expensive Style 17 guitars. Tonally,
mahogany is less projective than spruce, producing a subdued
response that is crisp and delicate with emphasis on the
midrange. Mahogany tops are usually available only custom
instruments, but has recently become a standard top in
the Baby Taylor travel guitars.
Using a highly figured
walnut for a top wood, matched with walnut back & sides, was a
first of the Breedlove company but is now offered by Taylor guitars
and others. Rich and warm bass with plenty of crispness
on the mid and treble side is typical of an all-walnut guitar.
Walnut offers a lot of value for your dollar; with the beauty and
visual impact of an all Koa guitar, but at a much lower price.
Coloration is dark brown with a lot of figure and flame.