Is Monkeypod 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 monkeypod is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is monkeypod a good guitar tonewood? Monkeypod has rich harmonics across the frequency spectrum, a strong bass response, transparent highs, but below-average sustain. It’s a medium-density, stable wood that works easily. Though it excels as a body and neck wood, it’s rare to find monkeypod in electric or acoustic guitars/basses.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how monkeypod 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 monkeypod 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 Monkeypod Tonewood

Let’s begin by clearing up the confusion over what monkeypod tonewood actually refers to since its name is associated with many different species.

We may find species called monkeypod in the genera Pithecellobium, Albizia or Samanea. At some point in history, some species from the genus Pithecellobium were moved to the genus Albizia. Before becoming part of the genus Albizia, the most popular “monkeypod” tree was classified under the genus Samanea. Today, both Albizia saman and Samanea saman are used to classify the typical species of monkeypod tonewood.

The term monkeypod is still used for certain species of Pithecellobium. It may also refer to certain species with the genera Cassia and Senna (Senna now holds some species that used to be part of the genus Cassia).

Monkeypod tonewood is from the species Albizia saman or Samanea saman (same species, different name). This tree is native to Central and South America but also grows in Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands, notably Hawaii. Other names include saman, rain tree, mimosa and trembesi.

Monkeypod tonewood has a dark, golden brown, frequently with darker streaks. Its grain is often straight, though highly figured interlocked and wavy patterns are also common. It’s a diffuse-porous wood with large pores, and its texture is medium-coarse.

Monkeypod is not listed in the CITES Appendices, nor is it included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Monkeypod tonewood is relatively easy to work. It glues and finishes nicely and is easy on tools. The wavier, more interlocked pieces are prone to tear-out, so care should be taken with these more complex pieces.

As a tonewood, monkeypod has a very rich overtone profile, which, combined with its bass presence, gives the wood a full and warm character. The high-end is transparent and clear. The overall sustain is average at best, which helps in its articulation but may not be the right quality for some guitar builds.

Here are a few notable monkeypod specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: golden to dark brown, sometimes with dark streaks
  • Grain: usually straight, sometimes interlocked or wavy
  • Texture: medium to coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 600 kg/m3 / 37.46 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 4,010 N / 901 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 7.92 GPa / 1,149,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
  • Price: moderate to high

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 Monkeypod 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.

Monkeypod has the potential to be a great electric guitar tonewood, particularly as a body top or neck material. It’s a bit on the heavy side as far as bodies go, though its tone is among the best of the best.

Is Monkeypod A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Monkeypod can serve as a superb solid-body wood or laminate material. With a similar density as mahogany, monkeypod is relatively heavy, though still within what can be considered the normal range of body weights.

The rich tonal characteristics of monkeypod extend across a guitar’s frequency range. It provides an excellent tonal base to build upon, which can be further shaped by the neck and fretboard wood choice and especially by the electronics.

As a laminate top, monkeypod can enhance the look of the guitar body while also imparting some of its low-end strength and midrange fullness to the sound of the electric guitar.

Examples of electric guitars with monkeypod bodies/tops:

Is Monkeypod A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Monkeypod’s medium-density and strong stability make it a great wood for electric guitar neck construction.

Its rich harmonic production and articulate tone can offer guitar designs a beautiful, distinct sonic character.

Is Monkeypod A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Monkeypod is generally considered too soft and porous for use as an electric guitar fretboard tonewood.


Is Monkeypod A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Monkey is unpopular in commercially-viable acoustic and classical guitars, though that’s not to say it’s a bad tonewood. Actually, monkeypod’s physical characteristics make a well-rounded wood for constructing acoustic necks, backs and sides, and even tops in some cases.

Tonally, monkeypod’s average-to-below-average sustain may compromise its effectiveness as an acoustic/classical guitar tonewood. However, its articulation and wide frequency response can certainly sound great with proper projection.

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

Monkeypod can serve as a strong back and sides material for acoustic and classical guitar, though it seldom does. Its warm yet transparent tone will translate to a defined overall sound, though perhaps it won’t be as loud as the more resonant, sustaining woods.

Monkeypod bends decently well and can certainly hold its own structurally when it comes to acoustic bodies.

Is Monkeypod A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Though monkeypod has similar density and hardness ratings as mahogany, it’s not nearly as popular for acoustic tops. It’s much less stiff, which is a major factor for great projection. Tonally, monkeypod has decent characteristics. However, its relatively low sustain and projection mean there are better choices for acoustic/classical top woods.

Is Monkeypod A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Monkeypod is a strong and stable wood with great hardness and density specification for use as a neck wood. Additionally, it looks and feels amazing.

Its sonorous overtone profile and clear note separation make it a fairly unique tonewood for acoustic guitar necks.

Is Monkeypod A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Monkeypod is generally considered too soft and porous for use as an acoustic guitar fretboard tonewood.


Is Monkeypod A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Monekeypod’s usage in bass guitars is very limited as well. It’s not a common tonewood in commercial models, nor is it offered much by custom designers.

Of course, the tone of monkeypod can surely enhance the natural frequencies of bass guitars, imparting a warm character and pronounced low-end to the notes. However, we won’t come across many basses with this beautiful tonewood.


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides monkeypod. 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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