Is Basswood A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass


Guitars are made of numerous different parts, many of which are made of wood. The choice of wood in the guitar body (the solid body and laminate in electric guitars and the sides, back and top of acoustic guitars), neck and fretboard all contribute to the overall playability, feel and, of course, tone of the instrument. Since basswood is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is basswood/linden a good guitar tonewood? Basswood (linden) is a soft, lightweight, and affordable wood with a tight grain pattern. It offers a warm tone with accentuated mid-range frequencies. Basswood (linden) is a popular choice in solid-body electric guitar/bass but isn’t used in acoustic guitars or guitar necks, or fretboards.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how basswood tonewood is used in electric, acoustic, classical and bass guitar construction with a keen focus on its tone.

Note: in my research for this article, I used Sweetwater’s extensive guitar database to find examples of guitars with basswood in their construction. The links to the guitars in this article will send readers to Sweetwater’s site for more information. Sweetwater is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Online Audio Gear/Equipment Retailers.


Table Of Contents


Characteristics Of Basswood Tonewood

Basswood (“bass” is pronounced like the fish rather than the instrument) is a tonewood from the Tilia americana, a deciduous tree native to eastern North America (the United States and Canada). Other names for basswood include American basswood, American lime, and American linden.

Nore that the terms linden and lime are typically given to Tilia species that grow in the United Kingdom and greater Europe.

Basswood is not listed in the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List.

The heartwood of basswood has a uniform colour ranging from pale white to light brown. Its grain is straight with a fine and even texture and medium-sized pores.

Basswood hardwood is relatively soft and light and is easily worked. The wood is easy to finish but somewhat difficult to bend.

As a tonewood, basswood produces a relatively warm tone with a focus on the mid-range frequencies due to the softened high-end and lack of resonance in the low-end.

Here are a few notable basswood specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: pale white to light brown
  • Grain: straight
  • Texture: fine, even
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 415 kg/m3 / 25.9 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 1,824 N / 410 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 10.07 GPa / 1,460,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): slightly warm
  • Price: low

Sources: wikipedia.org and wood-database.com

Here are links to the official website of the IUCN and Cites:
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)


Is Basswood A Good Electric Guitar Tonewood?

Before we begin, I should mention that tonewoods don’t have nearly as much of an effect on the overall sound of an electric guitar as they do on an acoustic guitar. The guitar pickups, strings, the signal chain and the amplifier all play a huge role in the overall tone of an electric guitar. It’s not all about the wood, though it is a factor.

Basswood is a lightweight hardwood that is very easy to machine, making it a good choice for mass production. Furthermore, its tone is relatively neutral, which arguably makes the impact of the tonewood in an electric guitar even less significant (its effect is larger in acoustic instruments).

Is Basswood A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Basswood/linden is a lightweight and affordable tonewood with a fairly neutral tone. Some argue it sounds cheap, while others call it balanced, though lacking in deep bass and brilliant highs. Of course, the pickups, strings, and gain stage also have a significant impact on the guitar’s overall tone.

Basswood is generally considered too soft and not strong enough for use as a laminate tonewood for electric guitar bodies. However, it made a superb solidbody wood, keeping the weight of the guitar low and its tone neutral.

As for hollowbody electrics, basswood is relatively easy to shape, making it a good choice for this style as well.

The softness of basswood (1,824 N / 410 lbf) means the wood is relatively easy to dent, so basswood guitars should be handled with extra care.

Note that Ibanez calls it linden, while nearly all the other big brands refer to its as basswood.

Examples of electric guitars with basswood bodies and/or tops:

Is Basswood A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Basswood is generally considered too soft and not strong enough for use as an electric guitar neck tonewood.

Is Basswood A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Basswood is generally considered too soft and not strong enough for use as an electric guitar fretboard tonewood.


Is Basswood A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Basswood isn’t nearly as popular in acoustic and classical guitars as it is in electric. However, it still makes a decent tonewood, especially considering that acoustic guitars are more dependent on their woods for their overall tone. Like the electrics, basswood will typically only be practical in acoustic bodies.

Is Basswood A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Back/Side Tonewood?

Basswood can be a bit difficult to bend, though certainly capable of being shaped into proper sides. Its midrange sustain gives a boost in the important harmonics (and many of the fundamentals) of the instrument.

Examples of acoustic guitars with basswood backs and sides:

Is Basswood A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Basswood is a hardwood with similar characteristics to softwood, notably in that it’s soft. Spruce and cedar are the top choices for acoustic and classical tops, respectively. Basswood is definitely not as great as either of these top materials, though it is a viable option to try out.

Its projection, like its tone, is strong in the midrange, which can give a unique character to the instrument. Basswood also has a good dynamic range, making it a versatile acoustic/classical body top wood for quiet and loud playing styles alike.

Examples of acoustic guitars with basswood tops:

Is Basswood A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Basswood is generally considered too soft and not strong enough for use as an acoustic guitar neck tonewood.

Is Basswood A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Basswood is generally considered too soft and not strong enough for use as an acoustic guitar fretboard tonewood.


Is Basswood A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Like in electric and acoustic guitars, basswood is generally only found in bass bodies. Its midrange-heavy tone can enhance the presence of a bass guitar while bringing out a more aggressive tone if need be. This is true of solidbody and hollowbody bass designs.

Examples of bass guitars with basswood tonewoods:


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides basswood/linden. Here is a list of other tonewoods with links to check out more in-depth articles on each:


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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