Solid Wood Guitars – Why They Are Better

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

An argument for solid wood guitars

solid top acoustic guitar

Solid top acoustic guitar

Acoustic wood guitars are made from a variety of woods, each one designed to make the guitar sound as good as it can. They come in two construction forms, solid wood and laminate. Although there are a number of well-made laminate guitars, and laminate models are generally more affordable, solid wood models are usually far superior. Let’s take a closer look.

Probably the most important element in the sound a guitar makes is the type of wood used in its manufacture. Many of the woods used for the manufacture of guitars include spruce and mahogany for the bodies, and maple and rosewood for the necks and fretboards. The wood used will determine the richness of the tone as well as sustain of the sound.

As the name implies, a solid body guitar is made from solid pieces of wood, normally a heavier wood for the back and sides and a lighter wood on the top where the sound comes out.  Being solid-bodied, they tend to be more durable than laminate body guitars.

What is laminate? In the manufacture of guitars (or furniture, for that matter), laminated woods are thin sheets of wood that are glued together to make a thicker piece. These laminates can be very durable, are lighter, and tend to cost a lot less than their solid-wood counterparts.

Many leading guitar manufacturers offer almost-identical models featuring a choice between solid wood and laminate. Cosmetically, it’s hard to tell them apart. Pick each one up, however, and a different tale is told.

As laminates are at least partially made from glue, they simply cannot have the depth of tone and sustain that solid wood models do. A solid body resonates for longer, and the sound is much more consistent. Play models side-by-side, and you will generally be able to feel and hear the difference.

The other advantage, as stated earlier, is durability. You want your guitar to last. A laminate model is apt to deteriorate more quickly, even if you take perfectly good care of it. A solid wood model will better handle the normal dings and scratches that result from long-time use and still sound great.

When shopping for an acoustic guitar, here is an important thing to consider: if a guitar is in fact a solid-wood model, the guitar maker will go out of its way to inform you of that fact. Generally speaking, if a guitar is not advertised as solid wood, it probably isn’t. Check with your dealer to make sure.

If you can only afford a laminate model, don’t despair! There are some very well-made laminate models available. Your local music store can show you some great models. Then, when it comes time to replace or upgrade, you’ll know which way to go.

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