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In recent years, mahogany acoustic guitars have become increasingly popular. Guitars can be made from mahogany for a variety of reasons. Besides having a unique sound and feel, it is also medium-lightweight. Find out more about the benefits of mahogany tonewood guitars.
Mahogany Tonewood: What Is It?
In Central and South American rainforests, mahogany (Swietania macrophylla) is native to the colonial history of those areas. Mahogany furniture was introduced to Europe by designers such as Thomas Chippendale, and the exotic timber became popular around the world. Central American history is so entwined with the wood that the flag of Belize still depicts two loggers beneath a mahogany tree.
Even though mahogany has a long colonial history, its sharp decline began in the 1950s, when demand from the growing middle class in the United States skyrocketed. Since high-quality mahogany was becoming scarcer at that time, guitar manufacturers saw their market grow exponentially, but their costs also rose.
More than 70 percent of the world’s genuine mahogany was cut between 1950 and 2003. Thus, CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – finally took action to protect mahogany by restricting trade. With controlled growth and usage, guitar manufacturers still are able to get their hands on this amazing tonewood.
There is no doubt that mahogany is one of the most popular tonewoods used in fretted instruments. Although it lacks dramatic visual appeal and breathless testimonials from wood sniffers, it more than compensates in terms of its suitability for the construction of musical instruments.
In the event aliens land tomorrow and decide to take all the tonewoods back to their home planet while leaving one species behind for us to continue making guitars out of, what else could we use to make nearly every part of the instrument?
Despite the fact that maple makes a better fingerboard, mahogany is one of the few hardwoods that can also serve as a decent top wood. It is also suitable for necks, blocks, kerfed linings, and virtually every other part of a guitar.
Its greatest strength, however, lies in its use for the back and sides of steel-string acoustic guitars. Despite its lighter weight and open grain than rosewood, the wood produces both warmth and punch, de-emphasizing the bass register while emphasizing the vital midrange, after all, the guitar’s home territory.
Those looking for a dry, crunchy, punchy sound should choose mahogany over rosewood, which has a rum-jug bass and metallic overtones.
Sound of Mahogany Guitars
An Acoustic Guitar
The sound of a mahogany-topped acoustic guitar is preferred by some guitarists because it has a strong midrange tone that works well for blues, while others find that it lacks the complex overtones of the spruce-topped guitar.
The use of mahogany in custom acoustic guitars has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it produces a warm, resonant tone that lasts for a long time.
Acoustic guitars are commonly made of mahogany for the back, sides, and neck, with a spruce top. As a result, the guitar will sound brighter, with the mahogany balancing out the spruce to provide great tonal range.
An Electric Guitar
Gibson has built a reputation for using mahogany for solid body electrics that combine well with humbuckers to give those solid punchy midrange sounds such as those found in rock music.
Mahogany is used by other manufacturers as well, but there are different types, with the species grown in Central and South America being the most sought after due to its sound quality.
Advantages of Making Guitars from Mahogany
Due to its high resilience and good resistance to wood rot, it has been used by furniture makers and boat builders for a long time. This has led to it being a very popular choice for both acoustic and electric guitar construction. As a result of extensive plantations intended to maintain stocks, Honduras mahogany is one of the most commonly used species.
The weight of mahogany tonewood will be felt more on your shoulders than basswood, alder, and ash, although it is less dense than some brighter-sounding woods. As it matures, its color will change from a yellowish hue to a salmon pink hue, and eventually to a deep rich hue of red or brown. Due to its fine grain and more even grain pattern, this wood is often used for translucent finishes because of its reddish-brown coloring.
For years, this has been a favorite tonewood among guitar makers, producing a warm, mellow sound with excellent low frequencies, a pronounced lower midrange, and a smooth, yet subdued high end.
In rock music, mahogany is preferred for its punchy growl and excellent sustain. In addition to aging well, mahogany tonewood sounds better with age as well. Additionally, it is extremely stable and is less likely to warp than most other types of wood.
There are many other wood tones that can be described in relation to mahogany, making it an excellent wood for anchoring a discussion of tones. In terms of its essential sonic profile, the midrange frequencies are well represented. The sound of acoustic guitars generally falls within the midrange portion of the sound spectrum, but mahogany in particular is known for its midrange characteristics.
Guitarists sometimes describe that thick, present midrange sound as meaty, organic, or even chewy; wherever a player digs into the fretboard, they are tapping into the harmonic content of the instrument. Overtones produced by those great midrange frequencies stack up, giving the sound an additional layer of thickness.
In addition to the chewy tone, the harmonics of the resulting tone offer a large portion of midrange. Mahogany has been the tonewood of choice for many decades on old-school acoustic recordings, and its sonic heritage has been preserved across a wide range of roots genres, from blues to folk to slack key.
A wide range of players and musical styles; those who prefer a well-balanced tone, good dynamic range, and a healthy dose of overtones. Mahagony’s midrange characteristic is well suited to blues players and other rootsy musicians.
Fingerstyle players may prefer a mahogany guitar with a smaller body (GC or GA) whereas aggressive flatpickers may prefer a mahogany dreadnought or GS. In terms of versatility, a mahogany GA is a good choice. It is due to mahogany’s midrange that players with “dark hands” tend to sound darker on mahogany guitars. It is normal for a bright player to sound slightly less bright.
If you have anything else to add in terms of the mahogany tonewood, please head over to the comment section below and add additional insights – we would like to elaborate more on it if there is something that we didn’t covered in this article.
Here is a video from Breedlove Guitars on their Mahogany Acoustic Guitars!