View Full Version : Atypical soundboard selections

Matt Clara
11-10-2009, 09:50 AM
Most of the luthier supply places offer cedar and two or three kinds of spruce. That's pretty limited in terms of the sounds you can produce, regardless of what back/side woods you pair it to. Does anyone use other woods for soundboards? For instance, why not slap some mahogany on walnut sides and back, or, instead of mahogany, why not koa--we know both of those make decent soundboards. And if they do, surely there must be others, like american cherry, or, I don't know what all else. What have you tried/heard about?

11-10-2009, 11:06 AM
Seems like hard maple used to be more popular.

11-10-2009, 11:36 AM
What I've played on steel string guitars (Domestic woods)

Black cherry top sounds really nice
Walnut almost sounds nice
Maple is alright

11-10-2009, 12:50 PM
In addition to spruce and cedar we have used mahogany, cherry, maple, pear, cypress... as topwoods - all with really memorable results.

Our uke with the cherry top is one of my very favorite instruments - honestly, somebody is always playing it. I really have to go and take it away if I want to play it myself.

Mahogany is a classic and works really well for the whole instrument (except for the fretboard). I mean you can actually make top, sides, back, neck and bridge out of mahogany and all you need is a piece of rosewood (maple, ebony...) for the fretboard.

Maple is the same way, inasmuch as you can use it for backs, sides, tops, necks and fingerboards, but you really need to combine it with other woods to get the best out of it, as in maple+mahogany or maple+spruce, maple+cherry...

I would say the topwood is what drives the instrument (the motor) and the neck and sides are what hold it together (the chassis), so you don't want to stray too far from the "treaden paths" that others have found by trial and error. I mean, you wouldn't buy a car with a cardboard motor and a sugar cane chassis ;).

BTW we have not had the pleasure of working with koa, as it is simply not available here, but we have cerainly also seen many stunning ukuleles with koa tops.

11-10-2009, 12:53 PM
Here are some to consider;
Douglas fir, myrtle, redwood, pine, yellow cedar ( very stable with respect to humidity changes). What you are looking for in a good wood for tops, is something that is relatively light but stiff.