A solid wood guitar has typically is made from good quality tonewoods. Simply tonewood is the wood within the guitar’s construction that contributes to its overall tone.
In the case of an acoustic, this is largely the guitar body, the top or soundboard and the back and sides. It is within the grains of these woods that a guitar’s very unique voice emerges.
If you are a total beginner, you may wonder what differences the tonewood makes to the tone of an acoustic guitar. When reading about acoustic guitars, you may have clearly noticed that cheaper instruments tend to be made of laminated wood, whilst more expensive guitars tend to be made from solid wood. Usually the laminated guitars will have a solid top with laminated back and sides, or they can come totally laminated.
Solid wood guitars means that the guitar is totally made from sold sheets of wood and will normally be made by jointing two solid sheets each to form the top and back, with a joint down the centre-line. The main advantage of solid wood is that it is far more resonant and thus has far better tone than a laminate guitar. In addition many solid tonewoods, for example Spruce does improve over time as the wood dries out and it becomes even more resonant. Using solid wood is far hardier to work with and more expensive, making solid guitars overall more expensive.
Laminated wood is relatively inexpensive and much cheaper to work with, so it can keep costs down. A solid wood guitar will often improve over time in tonal quality; laminated guitars sometimes deteriorate over a long period.
Overall sold construction is better; guitars are available with solid tops and laminated back and sides, making an economical compromise between price and tone.
When purchasing a new guitar, do research and consider the types of wood used in the guitars construction, especially acoustic guitars. You will find that each tonewood has its own unique tonal quality. This is obvious when you listen to various types of guitars. Typical woods used are, Spruce tops, Cedar tops or more exotic woods.
Rosewood or Mahogany back and sides or again more exotic woods. Today many companies are making all sold wood Mahogany guitars, top, back, sides and neck, this tonewood gives a much deeper tone, even in the much smaller bodied guitars. As mentioned each wood has its very own tonal quality, therefore it is always advisable to really take the opportunity and carefully listen to various guitars available before purchase.
For example Spruce is a common wood used, especially in guitar tops. Sitka Spruce is the most commonly found type, with grain varieties such as bear claw adding to the aesthetic appeal. Sitka is characterized by its clear harmonics. Engleman Spruce is from North America and has a much warmer tone than Sitka. Adirondack is a lesser used type of Spruce with a much louder and brasher tone. Therefore each solid tonewood will have its very own unique tonal qualities; just listen!