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What are guitars made of?

Wood and strings and musical things;
That's what guitars are made of.

This is the first article in a new series on DLG about guitar construction materials. I’m not a luthier but I am fascinated by how guitars are built and what they are built from. Wood and strings is a good start for traditional materials for acoustic guitars. The types of woods used for each part of the guitar can affect the sound and the appearance. Knowing what to expect from different materials might help you choose your next guitar.

But it is also fascinating to discover the range of materials that have been used to build guitars.

The type of spruce used for a guitar top might be chosen for tonal qualities but a large part of the decision must often be availability. European guitar makers are more likely to build with German (European) spruce than those in the United States.

Some materials have been used due to scarcity of preferred materials. This was the case with mahogany when it was used for guitar tops after World War II because of scarcities of spruce. These weren’t the first mahogany topped guitars but it was a case of availability influencing the materials for the guitar.

Sometimes the materials were chosen in order to hold down the cost of the guitar This was done on Danelectro guitars built from low cost plywood and pressboard.

But other materials have been tried just for experimentation – to see what would happen and how the guitar would sound. Plastics? There has also been experimentation to achieve specific characteristics such as resistance to changes in humidity or temperature or simple a more rugged guitar or a lighter weight guitar. Carbon Fiber.

Many older or traditional guitar construction materials are now on endangered species lists. Owners of guitars that contain genuine tortoise shell pick guards or ivory bridge pins will have their guitar confiscated if they travel internationally. Certain woods and other materials are also banned. Most larger guitar companies are looking for renewable materials for their guitar construction.

What is your guitar made of? Traditional, unusual, renewable or alternative materials?

Next Article in Series: Acoustic Guitars – Traditional Materials.

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