When considering woods during the build process, the soundboard is without a doubt the most important aspect of the guitar. A properly seasoned, cut and braced soundboard will be the back-bone and motor of your instrument. It is with great pride that we treat each soundboard individually to maximize their potential. Every top will be jointed, thinned, braced and voiced to achieve a consistently great sounding top. Our methods also allow us to tailor each instrument to its owners playing style, from a heavy strumming hand to a delicate pluck. Below are photos and characteristics of tonewoods, and can be used as a starting point in the build process towards making your ideal guitar.
Sitka Spruce is a fairly common top wood, used both in factory and hand-made guitars. It can vary from cream to pink in color and will golden slightly over time. This wood display strong fundamentals and low overtones. This species would certain be a great choice for fingerpickers and strummers alike as it retain clarity across various styles of right-hand technique. A high strength to weight ratio make it a loud and punchy ressource.
Englemann Spruce, while growing in North America just as Sitka Spruce, shows very different properties. It is a creamy white color, and is a slightly more expensive cut of wood. While it has a light weight, it is generally less stiff than Sitka Spruce and will present higher overtones and mids than its cousin. While Englemann tops generally have lower headroom, playing it with a heavy strum or picking technique results in less definition. The rich and complex sounds produced by Englemann Spruce would be best exploited with a softer touch.
Adirondack Spruce, or commonly called Red Spruce, is considered by most as the Holy Grail of tonewoods when it comes to steel-string guitars. High quality cuts are currently hard to come by in large quantities, but still make great tops. This particular species will offer very high headroom and can be driven very loudly all while retaining clarity. It shows a strong fundamental, higher mids when compared to Sitka Spruce and lots of overtones. This stiff and heavy material will yield a rich and full sound. Red Spruce is a strummers best friend for a reason.
European Spruce is the general name for Spruce harvested from several different locations in Europe, either German, Italian or Carpathian Spruce. European Spruce is very similar to Englemann Spruce in color and texture, being white and will turn golden with time. This wood has a very clear voice, is very responsive to light touch, shows signs of high overtones and best of all has high headroom which means it can be played harder and still retain clarity. This is a great choice for any fingerstyle guitar player.
Western Red Cedar has been for a very long time a staple in traditional classical and flamenco guitar making. While being lighter compared to any Spruce, WRC will offer quickness of sound and punchyness. What this top wood lacks in projection, it makes up for in great bass response. Contrary to Spruce, Western Red Cedar has a short break-in period and will attain its acoustic maturity early on in its life as an instrument. Spruce will generally take up to several years before its voice is attained, WRC will reach that potential in the matter of months of regular player.
The back and sides act as a rim or enclosure supporting the soundboard. Choosing an appropriate set of back and sides for the player's style is just as important as a good top, and will contribute greatly to the overall sound of the instrument. Every Vellone Guitar is made with laminated sides, which allow a maximal amount of energy to be transferred on to the top. In other words a stiff rim will allow for better energy transfer between the top and back. The role of the back is to project energy back on the the soundboard. Some species will play this role better than others, but most hardwoods have their place and can be used successfully depending on the genre of music played.
Arguably one of the most popular hardwoods used in guitarmaking, Indian Rosewood is often utilized on both steel-string and nylon string guitar with great success. Indian Rosewood can be used very well by both finger-pickers and strummers alike. Offering thick low-end, brighter high-ends and overtones to spare, this tonewood is useful in many applications. Rosewood is “bell-like” with a 3D quality to its fullness.
Honduran Mahogany is considered to be the opposite of Indian Rosewood when it comes to tone. It generally generates a crisper sound with very pronounced mids. While it lacks the rich harmonics of Rosewood, it is a very clear and crisp sounding wood. When comparing Mahogany to Rosewood, it is clear that Mahogany is “woodier” and dry with a strong fundamental.
Wenge is a relatively new wood in the world of guitar-making. It is of African origin and premium grade Wenge can be found in abundance. Many consider this a viable alternative to Brazilian Rosewood, as it share many of its characteristics. While it is chocolatey-brown, it has very good projection and sustain. This hardwood displays great acoustic features, its “bell-like” nature higher than many Rosewoods and has pronounced mid-range.