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 bocote is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it's worth investigating whether it's a good tonewood or not.
Is bocote a good guitar tonewood? Bocote is an articulate tonewood with full-bodied overtones from the bass to the treble range. Its sustain is present but not overbearing, and its figuring is remarkably beautiful. It is expensive and rare in guitars but is a good choice for fretboards, tops/veneers or backs/sides.
In this article, we'll discuss if and how bocote 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 bocote 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 Bocote Tonewood
- Is Bocote A Good Electric Guitar Tonewood?
- Is Bocote A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?
- Is Bocote A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?
- Other Tonewoods
Characteristics Of Bocote Tonewood
Bocote is a loose term for several species of trees from the genus Cordia (in the borage family Boraginaceae) that are native to Central America. As for the tonewood, Bocote usually refers to the species Cordia Gerascanthus.
Ziricote is also from the Cordia genus. Learn more about Zircote in my article Is Ziricote A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass.
Bocote is a beautiful tonewood with yellowish-brown wood featuring dark brown, nearly black stripes running parallel to each other. The “eyes” of bocote are particularly striking, resembling knots, though they do not present the working challenges that real knots do.
Bocote is regularly chosen as a tonewood thanks to its aesthetics and, therefore, figured pieces (with interlocked grain) are often chosen. That being said, the wood can also have straight grain. The end-grain of bocote is diffuse-porous, and its texture is considered medium and uniform.
Bocote is not listed in the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Though it's relatively hard and dense, bocote is typically easy to work. Note that some species contain higher amounts of silica, which will dull tools more rapidly. The wood has a relatively high amount of natural oil, but gluing typically isn't overly difficult. As a whole, bocote finishes well.
Bocote can sound big, though its sustain is relatively short-lived. There's a tone of overtones in this tonewood, offering notable warmth in the midrange and brilliance in the top-end. It's articulate at the expense of resonance, though it's still a fairly loud wood overall.
Here are a few notable bocote specs:
- Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
- Colour: yellowish brown body with dark brown or black stripes
- Grain: usually interlocked, sometimes straight
- Texture: medium uniform
- Pores: diffuse-porous
- Density: 855 kg/m3 / 53.00 lb/ft3
- Janka Hardness (Typical): 8,950 N / 2,010 lbf
- Elastic Modulus: 12.19 GPa / 1,757,000 psi
- Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
- Price: high
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 Bocote 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, signal chain and 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.
Bocote is a superb alternative tonewood for electric guitars. It looks incredible and offers a strong and articular tone. It's strong and durable, though its high density largely keeps it from being used as a solid body or neck material. Look out for bocote fretboards and veneers on rare and custom electric guitars.
Is Bocote A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?
Bocote is a bit too heavy for practical use as a solidbody electric guitar wood. However, its strong, clear tonal character can be introduced to the guitar by using bocote as a top/veneer wood.
By using a thin veneer of bocote on top of lighter wood, we can get some of its superb tone without all the weight. However, the more realistic reason why bocote is chosen as a top/veneer is for its beautiful figure and visual aesthetic. Rather, it's the tone that's a bonus.
Examples of electric guitars with bocote bodies/tops:
- EVH Wolfgang Standard Exotic Bocote: solidbody with bocote top (basswood body)
Is Bocote A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?
Bocote is rarely used in electric guitar necks, though it is certainly an option that can yield great results. It makes for a heavy neck, and its relative stability allows it to maintain its form over longer periods than other, more brittle woods.
Note that the density and hardness of bocote are similar to wenge, a popular neck tonewood.
Is Bocote A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?
Bocote is an impressive fretboard material, though its relative obscurity and high selling point make it rare. It looks great and feels even better. It's super-durable and holds frets well.
Is Bocote A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?
Bocote isn't popular in acoustic and classical guitars. There is potential for it to be a great acoustic back, sides and fretboard material. The price, weight, and workability keep its uses limited except for in the more experimental builds, so we won't see much of it in acoustics or classicals.
Is Bocote A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Back/Side Tonewood?
Bocote's relatively high volume and rich tonality are worth the effort required for building it into an acoustic guitar back and sides.
As we'd expect, bocote is most often seen in custom builds or high-end models. It's an excellent choice for steel-string acoustics and nylon-string classical guitars alike.
Bocote is less brittle and easier to bend than its relative ziricote, which is better known and respected as a back and sides wood. There's something to be said about that and its relevance to bocote as a viable back and sides tonewood.
Is Bocote A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?
Bocote can produce a deep, rich sound as the top wood of an acoustic or classical guitar. However, this sonic performance isn't par for the course with acoustic guitars. Rather, brighter tones and more projection are the way to go, by which spruce and cedar have bocote beat for a fraction of the price.
That being said, bocote tops would look fantastic on acoustic guitars.
Is Bocote A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?
Ziricote isn't a popular choice for acoustic guitar necks, though it can be used.
Is Bocote A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?
Bocote is an awesome alternative fretboard material option for acoustic and classical guitar, even though it's practically never seen in commercial models.
Is Bocote A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?
Like with the aforementioned 6-string guitars, bocote is a rare find in bass builds, too. It has the potential to be a superb neck and fretboard material, though it is most likely to be found as a beautifully-figured veneer on a solidbody instrument.
Examples of bass guitars with bocote tonewood:
- ESP LTD B-1004: solidbody electric bass with bocote top
Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides bocote. Here is a list of other tonewoods with links to check out more in-depth articles on each:
- Panga Panga
- Pau Ferro