Is Korina/Limba 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 korina is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is korina/limba a good guitar tonewood? Korina is a relatively light hardwood with fine grain. It offers a warm tone with defined lows and mids and great sustain. Korina is a good choice for solid body and even laminate electric guitars/basses but is too dry for acoustic sides/backs and top or guitar fretboards and necks.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how korina 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 korina/limba 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 Korina/Limba Tonewood

Korina is a tonewood from the Terminalia superba, an African tree native to tropical western Africa. Other names for korina include superb terminalia, limba, afara, frake, and ofram. In fact, the name korina came about as the common name for the tonewood thanks to Gibson circa 1950. The more widely-accepted common name for Terminalia superba is limba.

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

The heartwood of korina is a light yellow to golden brown with grey-to-black streaks and veins. Korina with dark streaks/veins is typically referred to as “black korina” or “black limba,” while korina with lighter greyish streaks/veins is called “white korina” or “white limba.” That being said, both are from the same species.

Korina’s grain is straight or slightly interlocked, and its texture is coarse with medium-to-large pores.

Korina hardwood has a very slight blunting effect on woodworking tools and is very pleasant to work. Its pores are small enough that finishing is optional.

As a tonewood, korina/limba offers a warm tone with defined lows and mids and great sustain. It’s lively, clear and balanced, though the sustain of the midrange overtones makes it a relatively warm tonewood.

Here are a few notable korina/limba specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: light yellowish to golden brown
  • Grain: straight to slightly interlocked
  • Texture: uniformly coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 555 kg/m3 / 34.6 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 2,990 N / 670 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 10.49 GPa / 1,521,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
  • Price: moderate

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 Korina/Limba 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.

Korina/limba is a great electric guitar tonewood choice thanks to its easy workability, decent price and balanced yet warm tone.

Builders will generally use korina as a body or neck tonewood, though it’s considered too soft for practical use as a fretboard material.

Is Korina/Limba A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Korina/limba offers a balanced tone with a clear bottom end and articular treble, though its midrange harmonics are largely what makes it a great tonewood.

As it’s on the heavy side (compared to common body woods like alder, basswood and swamp ash), korina is sometimes incorporated into laminate designs. Otherwise, it makes an excellent solid body, back, sides and top material for the various standard electric guitar designs (solidbody, semi-hollowbody, hollowbody).

Reverend uses korina for many of its solidbody electric guitars.

Examples of electric guitars with korina/limba bodies:

Is Korina/Limba A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Korina is typically considered an impractical choice for building solid-piece electric guitar necks due to its dryness and susceptibility to splitting. However, with proper and patient working, it can certainly be done. Its tone is rich and clear enough for it to be considered a good choice.

To integrate korina into the sound of a guitar, many builders incorporate it into laminate necks, where its tonal characteristics are mixed with other more stable woods.

Examples of electric guitars with korina/limba necks:

Is Korina/Limba A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Korina is an impractical choice for building electric guitar fretboards due to its dryness and susceptibility to splitting.


Is Korina/Limba A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Korina/limba can sound great as an acoustic/classical tonewood, though it’s virtually ignored by all large-scale manufacturers and even by small shops.

Is Korina/Limba A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Back/Side Tonewood?

Korina back and sides will yield a strong low-end and midrange response while maintaining the clarity it’s known for.

The sustain korina offers can surely improve the overall loudness and fullness of the guitar’s tone.

However, the wood is rarely considered as a back and sides material.

Is Korina/Limba A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Though korina can look stunning as a top material, its relatively lacklustre projection capabilities make it an unpopular choice for acoustic soundboards/tops.

Is Korina/Limba A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Korina is an impractical choice for building acoustic guitar necks due to its dryness and susceptibility to splitting. Though laminate necks are an option, they aren’t as popular with acoustic or classical guitars as with electrics.

Is Korina/Limba A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Korina is an impractical choice for building acoustic guitar fretboards due to its dryness and susceptibility to splitting.


Is Korina/Limba A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

From what we’ve discussed thus far, we could guess how korina is used in bass guitars. Its defined low-end and meaty midrange make it a superb choice for bass guitars. However, its physical limitations mostly designate it as a solidbody material or as part of laminate neck designs.

Examples of bass guitars with korina/limba tonewood:


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides korina/limba. 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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