Having spent the last few months working with the guitar makers at Alhambra on my Signature Guitar Model, I realized my taste have dramatically changed.
It was even without thinking about it that I opted for a Spruce top… like quite always when I pick up a guitar. A lot of folks are unconditionally love Spruce, others just live by the Cedar…
Where is the truth?
It actually really depends what you are looking for… and you have different qualities of Spruce and Cedar used to build guitars. All with different characteristics.
Let’s a take a look.
Its high stiffness combined with the lightweight characteristics of most softwoods, makes it a natural for high velocity of sound.
A strong fundamental-to-overtone ratio gives Sitka spruce a powerful direct tone capable of retaining its clarity when played forcefully.
Sitka Spruce from North West Canada and Alaska -Its high stiffness combined with the lightweight characteristics of most softwoods, makes it a natural for high velocity of sound.
Red spruce is relatively heavy, has a high velocity of sound, and the highest stiffness across and along the grain of all the top woods.
Like Sitka, is has a strong fundamental, but also a more complex overtone content.
Engelmann Spruce from North America is prized for its similarity in color to European (German) White spruce as well as its extreme lightness in weight which seems to produce a slightly louder and more projective or “open” sound than Sitka spruce.
Western Red Cedar from Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.It has long been used as a soundboard material by classical guitar makers for its vibrance and clarity of sound.
It’s extremely light weight compared to spruce, and the tonal result is a slightly warmer tone, more open response.
An interesting characteristic of Red Cedar is that it sounds broken in, even when it’s new.
Cedar looks a lot like redwood:
darker and reddish compared to spruce.
Since World War II, cedar has been used extensively by makers of classical guitars. Cedar-topped guitars are characteristically lush, dark-toned, and bursting with flavor. They are often less powerful in projection than their spruce cousins, however, and they tend to lose clarity near the top of their dynamic range. Having enough bottom end is never a problem for a cedar guitar, although preventing the sound from getting muddy sometimes is. Because of its pronounced weakness along the grain, I find cedar to be used to its best advantage in smaller-bodied guitars or with non-scalloped braces. Redwood is usually darker in color than cedar and often displays the same general tonal characteristics, leaning slightly toward darker tones, less definition in the bass, and lower velocity of sound.
Those are the big lines to pick up your wood… but the bracing is really critical too and the way the builder will “tune” the wood. Therefore, after picking up a beautiful spruce… I finally chose a cedar! Extremely responsive, it also offers a very bright sound when needed. The bracing on the Signature Guitar Model incorporates all the features I love in my other guitars such as the harmonic bars in my Luthier India
and the floating bracing in my Linea Profesional.
I will post pictures of it as soon as we have the patent. The guitar will be completely finished in April and commercialization will start next October.
Stay tuned… and Happy Playing!