When many people go to buy a new guitar they go off of look and feel. However, tone-wood is a characteristic that is just as important as the look and feel of the instrument. This article serves as a guide to take some of the mystery out of Taylor guitar tone-woods. So when you go to buy your next guitar, you will have this cheat sheet which should make your choice that much easier. In this guide we cover different Taylor guitars tone-woods: Koa, Mahogany, Rosewood and Maple.
Found only in its native land of Hawaii, Koa is a wood that is revered for its universal tonality. Initially prized for canoe carving, but now more than ever we see it in fine crafted guitars. This is due to its ability to be an amazing tone-wood. There are a few main things that builders look for when selecting tone-wood: Appearance, Tone and Resonance. Koa brings all three of these to the table. Tonally, Koa has a bright crispness and clarity that would be likened to rosewood. It also offers the thick richness of mahogany. Lastly, Koa has the unique ability to take on the role of back and sides or a soundboard. Which would lead to a magnificent looking and sounding instrument. Three lovely examples of Taylor Koa guitars are the K24ceV, K26ce and the K66ce.
Mahogany, is a wood that is mainly used as back and sides in acoustic guitars. There are several key features that make it attractive for luthiers. Including. its easiness to work with, its resonance and its durability. It is also a cheaper alternative to rosewood, which offers a twangier tone. That being said it lacks some of rosewood’s brilliance. Mahogany does hold its own and has a distinct voice, but is not as big and booming sounding. It’s internal dampening create a crisp tonal equilibrium. Lastly, it is prized for its volume and articulation and has a great mid-range. This would be a great all around tone-wood for many different styles of music and playing alike. A few great Mahogany Taylor guitars are: 562ce, GSMINIMAHLH, TAY BT22012 and the TAY GSMINIMAHOG.
Rosewood has a rich and warm tone with great resonance and loud volume projection. It offers clarity in the bottom end and resonant chiming treble in the high end. It is a very hard wood, and is even harder than maple. However it is porous which helps to warm up the overall tone of the wood. Rosewood can be characterized as having a highly resonant sound, with full, booming basses and brilliant clarity. Most rosewood has a quick sound transmission which offers almost no internal dampening. This creates a rich and almost saturated sound. This feature helps to give rosewood its own tonal identity with a high end attack and a sustaining ring. Rosewood is used in the TAY 410ER and Taylor’s 700 series, 800 series and 900 Series guitars.
Maple is a wood that is hugely popular in the world of guitar building. Not only for backs and sides, but also for necks and fret-boards. Maple is often easily identifiable against other woods thanks to its bright tones, and stunning grain patterns. Tonally, maple offers up great sustain with plenty of attack and bite. Powerful and even harmonics give it a clear and present tone making maple great for standing out against other instruments. It has a tight grain that is easy to finish, and is very durable. This is a great wood for strumming and is often seen on a big bodied guitar. Since it is such a hard wood, it is generally used on slimmer bodied instruments. Taylor uses maple in the 600 series, specifically in the following models: TAY 656CEES2 and TAY 614CEV.
Wrapping things up, we covered 4 key players in tone-wood: Koa, Mahogany, Rosewood and Maple. All offering up unique tonal characteristics. Whether you want the a bright maple top to strum along in your bluegrass band, or a Koa top to alternate rhythm and leads in an acoustic duo. Taylor has different shapes and sizes in different tone-woods that can make a world of difference in both the look and sound of a guitar. So let this guide help you make the right choice for your next Taylor guitar.
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