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The Pros and Cons of Mahogany Guitars: 2022 Edition

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If you’re interested in learning about the pros and cons of mahogany guitars, this post is for you!

So what are the pros and cons of mahogany guitars?

Generally speaking, mahogany adds a darker twist to the tone. So an acoustic guitar made entirely of mahogany may sound smooth, but it likely won’t sound as fresh and crisp as guitars made with other materials.

I’ll unpack this and more pros and cons in the sections below.

Guitar Tonewoods

As you may already know, almost all guitars are made out of wood. Sure, some other materials are also fair game, but they’re far less common.

We refer to these different types of wood as tonewoods. And, of course, each different wood type brings its own twist to the tone. This is especially the case with acoustic and hollow-body electric guitars.

The impact of different materials on the tone of solid-body electric guitars isn’t that noticeable. In fact, whether it has any effect at all on electric guitars is one of the most common things that guitarists debate.

In any case, these are some of the most common tonewoods for electric and acoustic guitars:

  • Mahogany
  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Poplar
  • Basswood
  • Spruce
  • Koa
  • Walnut
  • Maple
  • Rosewood
  • Ebony

In particular, maple is common as a top for electric guitars. It’s also very common as a neck material. Meanwhile, rosewood is easily the most common material for fretboards. It’s also not uncommon for acoustic guitar backs and sides or their bodies.

Ebony is also a common wood for fretboards. However, it’s not as nearly as common as rosewood.

Koa is less common, and you could say the same about walnut. They’re more common for some high-end guitars. And, as far as spruce goes, it’s a common wood for acoustic guitar tops or so-called soundboards. 

Mahogany

However, in this post, I’ll be discussing mahogany as a tonewood and its impact on the guitar. The material is pretty widespread. You can find different types of mahogany on both cheaper and more expensive guitars.

Generally speaking, it’s a dense and heavy wood. There are some variations depending on the exact type of mahogany. However, the density is usually around 600 to 700 kilograms per square meter.

It’s also incredibly durable. But the biggest advantage, in the eyes of manufacturers, is the price to quality ratio.

But let’s dig deeper into the issue and see what mahogany is like on acoustic and electric guitars. 

Mahogany Acoustic Guitars

As far as acoustic guitars go, mahogany is pretty common. And it usually finds use as the body back and sides material.

So why is this the case?

Well, mahogany is one of the hardest tonewoods. The idea is to keep the back and sides harder than the top.

And I’m talking about a noticeable contrast here. For instance, spruce is the most common choice for the top, or the soundboard. Such a combination of materials gives you a much stronger projection from the front of the instrument.

At the same time, mahogany comes with its specific sonic properties. This wood provides a smooth and dark tone. Some say it even gives a softer attack and a boost to the bottom-ends.

Many agree that a spruce and mahogany combo has a balanced tone. You get projection, bottom-ends, and high-ends. This is why acoustic guitars with this combo are so common among all price categories.

Meanwhile, we also have acoustic guitars with bodies made entirely out of mahogany. That includes the back, sides, and the top. These aren’t that common, but you can find them on the market. And they usually attract a very specific buyer who loves mahogany.

For instance, an acoustic guitar with an all-mahogany body sounds noticeably darker. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing. It still has its use. But don’t expect it to sound as crisp as some other acoustic guitars out there.

All of these sonic traits are even more noticeable with mahogany necks. They’re also pretty common on acoustic guitars.

Mahogany Electric Guitars

We usually associate mahogany with Gibson or Gibson-style guitars. And, due to its properties, it’s a fairly popular material for solid-body electrics. SG and Les Paul are just some examples of lines that use this material.

However, we have two common combinations here. The first one is an all-mahogany body. The second one is a mahogany base with a maple top. This is what we find on most Gibson Les Paul guitars. The top is carved and has distinct features.

Once again, we have a combo with a thick back and a soft top. This helps with an instrument’s projection. And it’s especially pronounced if it has a chambered body.

However, mahogany’s impact on the tone of a solid-body electric guitar isn’t that pronounced.

Most Gibson Les Pauls have their specific feel due to mahogany bodies and necks. While we can debate about the wood’s impact on the tone, the guitar really vibrates. This is all enhanced with a set-in neck and body construction. Along with these traits, mahogany allegedly adds more sustain due to its unique properties. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mahogany guitars?

For starters, mahogany is a great tonewood in many ways. Not only is it economically viable, but it also has great acoustic properties. It’s also fairly durable and easy to work with.

However, there are some traits that certain guitarists might not like. Generally speaking, mahogany adds a darker twist to the tone. An acoustic guitar that has a body entirely made out of mahogany will sound smooth. It won’t be as fresh and crisp as guitars with other materials.

This doesn’t necessarily make mahogany a bad material. But if you prefer to have a different kind of tone, you should probably avoid such instruments.

As far as electric guitars go, most of the tone relies on pickups and electronics. But mahogany allegedly smooths out the tone. This is why mahogany electric guitars are also popular among jazz, blues, hard rock, and metal players.

Finally, there’s also the issue of what mahogany feels like in one’s hands. However, this is purely a personal preference. In my experience, most players have no issues with it. And those who don’t like may be overly picky.

To conclude this post, I’ll share this video by Johan Segeborn where he tests different tonewoods on electric guitars. It’s a fun little experiment involving solid boards, guitar necks, hardware, and pickups.

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you think through the pros and cons of mahogany guitars!

As usual, feel free to message me in the comments below if you have any questions about this or another subject related to the guitar.

And if you want to read more about guitar materials on this blog, check out:

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