If you’re curious about basswood vs mahogany as tonewoods for your guitar, this article is for you!
I don’t often write about tonewoods.
Check out the sections below to learn more about these woods and how they perform as guitar materials.
Tonewoods: The Endless Debate Among Guitar Players
Debates about guitar tonewoods and their use are as old as the instrument itself. However, the issue has gotten more heated with the guitar’s rise in popularity. Ever since at least the 1950s, it’s something guitarists have talked about frequently.
In the practical sense, we can divide tonewoods into hardwoods and softwoods. As far as acoustic guitars go, softer wood is used for soundboards. This means that the body top will be softwood. This enables better projection, in combination with harder sides and back.
Electric guitars are a bit different. And this is where things get pretty complicated. Some believe that materials used for solid-body electric guitars don’t make a difference. Many believe that they do. This is one of the biggest points of division among guitarists.
Either way, each type of wood comes with its physical properties. There are several traits that can affect the instrument’s performance. Some of them are density, hardness, rigidity, and flexural strength.
Body woods include:
Neck woods include:
- Fingerboard woods include:
- Pau ferro
- Indian Laurel
Basswood vs Mahogany: Basswood as a Guitar Body Material
Basswood technically falls into the hardwood category. However, it’s still relatively soft compared to other tonewoods for guitars. So in this particular discussion, it’s practically a softwood.
Its properties also affect the tone and performance of an instrument. Although softer than many other kinds of wood, it has tight grains. With such a trait, it tends to “soak up” some of the high-ends.
Guitars with basswood bodies tend to be softer-sounding with weaker trebles and low ends too. Many say basswood’s tone is more balanced.
Typically, with the reduction of bottom and high-ends, the mids are proportionately stronger.
In most cases, basswood goes into cheaper and mid-priced guitars. However, some types can also find their way into high-end guitars as well. With well-made instruments, they can have a pretty great response.
Why Basswood Isn’t a Good Option for Necks
Basswood is a popular choice for bodies. However, it isn’t the best option for necks. Although considered a hardwood, it’s a relatively soft one for guitars. Such a trait makes it a weak choice for necks because necks to be stiff and made from hardwoods.
There are plenty of other, better alternatives.
Basswood vs Mahogany: Mahogany as a Guitar Body Material
Mahogany is one of the most popular tonewoods. This goes for both acoustic and electric guitars. There are different variants of mahogany. But overall, they come with very similar features.
As far as electric guitars go, mahogany often forms an entire guitar body. Or, in some cases, it makes for the main construction and is accompanied by a maple top.
But with acoustic guitars, it’s usually the back and sides where mahogany finds its place. There are, however, some acoustic guitars that have bodies made entirely out of mahogany.
It’s a harder wood, although it’s not that difficult to work with. But at the same time, mahogany provides a lot of stability.
Its features are pretty interesting. Overall, guitars with mahogany bodies tend to sound warm and resonant. This goes for both acoustic and electric guitars.
Sonically, it’s kind of similar to rosewood. However, mahogany is cheaper and thus a more economical option for entire bodies.
Mahogany is also popular among rock and metal guitars. For instance, Gibson is famous for having mahogany bodies with maple tops. But plenty of other brands also use this tonewood.
Mahogany as Guitar Neck Material
Aside from guitar bodies, mahogany is very popular as a neck material. This is mostly due to its stability. The wood is hard and stable enough to not warp. It’s a “traditional” material for Gibson guitars.
Even when mahogany is used for the neck, it also impacts the tone. Once again, it adds some warmth.
Its biggest “competitor” as a neck material is maple. Many consider it to be more responsive than mahogany. Mahogany just soaks up more string vibration.
If we were to compare it to maple, it also has a smoother attack, providing players with a slightly smoother tone. But at the same time, many say you can also feel string vibration better with mahogany necks. Try any regular Gibson Les Paul and you’ll likely feel those vibrations.
Basswood vs Mahogany
Basswood and mahogany are both pretty common. However, they also both come with different physical properties which ultimately affect the tone.
For instance, basswood typically sounds brighter than mahogany. In general, it’s a “balanced” tonewood. And mahogany is usually much smoother and “darker” compared to it.
In fact, mahogany is known as one of the darkest-sounding tonewoods. This is why it’s often popular among hard rock and metal guitarists.
With this said, there isn’t an easy way to say what’s “better.” If you’re choosing between these two options, just bear in mind that mahogany is darker.
Plus, mahogany is usually more valuable than basswood. Thus, you’ll more likely find basswood on cheaper guitars. This is because mahogany is harder, more stable, and more durable.
As far as necks go, there is little debate that mahogany is better. Not only does it resonate better, but it is much harder and stable. Basswood necks simply aren’t a thing due to the tonewood’s softer properties. And making one would not make much sense.
Basswood vs Mahogany: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you understand basswood vs mahogany tonewoods and which might be best for your situation.
As usual, let me know in the comments if you have further questions!