If you’re interested in learning more about a cherry guitar neck and if this material works as a guitar neck, you’ve come to the right post!
Cherry as Tonewood
If you’re like me, you’re delighted when cherry season comes because of this delicious fruit. But the plant’s wood also has plenty of other uses. One of those is being a tonewood for both acoustic and electric guitars.
In particular, luthiers use wood from black cherry or Prunus serotina. So when someone mentions cherry as a tonewood, they’re talking about black cherry.
The wood’s properties come in handy for this purpose. Firstly, the wood is resistant to rot. Sure, might not seem like a lot to an average guitar player. But it’s an important trait to consider.
Secondly, it makes for a pretty hard material. But, at the same time, it’s fairly easy to work with from a wood-working perspective. But it still retains enough elasticity. When we take a closer look at all of these features, there are some similarities with mahogany. From the perspective of luthiers, they’re almost identical to work with.
The Visual Aspect
The appearance, however, is a bit different than mahogany. It has a nice reddish shade of brown. And in some cases, it can be slightly lighter. Some even call it UV sensitive as it appears to change shades depending on exposure to sunlight (even more so than other woods).
To me, it has some pretty great aesthetic features. With an appropriate finish, you get a beautiful mixture of brown and red that patinas nicely over the years.
These are, of course, some pretty favorable visual traits. But I’d just add that cherry is more for fans of darker colors. It makes for a great contrast on some instruments when combined with a brighter-looking wood.
Uses in Guitars
With all of these features, cherry is mostly popular for the back and sides of acoustic guitars. As far as the tone goes, it’s just slightly brighter than many other tonewoods. However, it mostly pronounces the midrange frequencies.
There have been some comparisons to maple. But its tone is richer. There’s also noticeably more sustain to it. It’s clear, it’s punchy, and it makes for great backs.
Just like with mahogany, you usually pair it up with a softer soundboard on top. This is most commonly something like solid Sitka spruce. But you will also find examples with solid cedar tops. Martin and Seagull are some of the brands that use cherry for this purpose.
Overall, that’s the same use as mahogany. However, it does bring a different twist to the tone. From my experience, acoustic guitars with cherry backs are not as dark sounding compared to those with mahogany backs.
As far as electric guitars go, you won’t see cherry that often, at least not with mass-produced commercial models. After all, we have mahogany for this same purpose.
The only exception to this rule, as far as I’m aware of, is Godin’s 5th Avenue Kingpin. This is a hollow-body archtop guitar with an all-cherry body.
We could argue about its impact on the tone with solid-body electric guitars. But I’d say you won’t notice a difference between mahogany and cherry in electric guitars.
Nonetheless, you could make a body out of black cherry tonewood. Many luthiers have done it so it’s not an issue.
Cherry Guitar Neck: Does It Work?
But then we get to the neck. Maple and mahogany are the most popular for this use. However, that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t use something else.
And, as I already mentioned, black cherry is pretty similar to mahogany. You have some pretty similar properties. So there’s absolutely no reason not to use it.
We could discuss the impact tonewood has as a neck material. But according to some experiences, it can add more sustain. After all, it’s a harder wood.
When done properly, you could also feel its impact under your fretting hand. Not only can it feel great, but it could potentially transfer vibrations from the body. And you could feel every note that you play.
What’s more, the visual aspect is another reason for it. In my opinion, it would make for a gorgeous neck. Especially if you leave it with a lighter transparent finish where you can see the grain.
Just bear in mind that it could slightly change its shade over years. But it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
But Is It Worth It?
The final question that I’d like to pose here is whether the whole thing is worth it. After all, you don’t exactly see your standard brands doing it. So should you?
If we’re talking about a smaller batch of guitars, then this shouldn’t be an issue at all. Cherry isn’t hard to work with and it has some properties similar to mahogany.
The only issue that comes to mind is availability. It’s not what you’d call a standard tonewood, especially not for necks. But that should only concern you if you plan on making a bunch of these guitars.
Otherwise, if you’re a consumer planning to build a custom guitar or get a luthier to build one for you, a cherry guitar neck should work great!
I hope this article has helped you think through this topic.
And if you want to read more about guitar materials on this blog, check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!