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

Is mutenye a good guitar tonewood? Mutenye is an excellent tonewood with a strong bass presence, clearly-defined mids and highs, and a soft, rich harmonic profile in mids and upper-mids. Warm yet balanced, this wood resonates well as a back and sides wood. Its strength and stability are great for building necks and fretboards, too.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how mutenye 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 mutenye 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 Mutenye Tonewood

Mutenye tonewood is from the species Guibourtia arnoldiana, a legume tree native to tropical western Africa. It’s also known as benge and is sometimes sold interchangeably with ovangkol, though the two are different species from the genus Guibourtia.

Other tonewoods from the genus Guibourtia include bubinga and ovangkol. Learn more about these tonewoods in the following My New Microphone articles:
Is Bubinga A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass
Is Ovangkol A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass

Mutenye has a beautiful golden to reddish-brown colour with dark stripes. Its texture is uniform, ranging from fine to medium, and its grain is typically straight, though sometimes slightly interlocked.

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

The different silica and sap contents will affect how a specific cut of mutenye will work with tools. Higher silica content blunts tools faster, while sappier pieces will clog tools faster and are more difficult to glue. However, mutenye is a relatively easy wood to work, overall. It’s stable and bends relatively well.

As a tonewood, mutenye is well-defined in the mids and highs, though its rich overtone profile gives it a definite warmth. The tone is evened out with notable presence in the low-end.

Here are a few notable mutenye specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: golden to reddish brown with dark streaks
  • Grain: usually straight, sometimes interlocked
  • Texture: fine to medium
  • Density: 800 kg/m3 / 49.94 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 7,340 N / 1,650 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 18.60 GPa / 2,698,000 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 Mutenye 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.

Mutenye can be a good option for electric guitar construction, though rarely incorporated in commercial models. When we do, it’s generally used as the fretboard or neck material.

Its low-end presence can bring out the fundamentals of the instrument, while its high end and midrange are clean and well-defined.

Is Mutenye A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Mutenye looks and sounds great, though it’s rather dense for use as a solidbody wood. It would make for a relatively heavy guitar, something to be avoided in electrics.

This tonewood looks wonderful, adding considerable character to the visual aesthetic of an electric guitar. Its warmth can be harnessed when used as a top/veneer material in electric guitar bodies.

That being said, it’s rarely seen in commercial guitar models.

Is Mutenye A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Mutenye is easy to work and stable, making it a durable choice for neck constructions. However, its weight can again be an issue. It’s not a light as the standard neck woods (maple, mahogany, walnut, wenge, etc.). It is largely ignored as a scalable option thanks to its relatively high price and low availability.

Is Mutenye A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Mutenye is a great fretboard material. It’s dense and hard enough and is rather easy to work compared to many of the much harder fretboard options (blackwood, ebony, rosewood, etc.). This tonewood looks and feels great, offering warmth and clarity to the overall tone of the guitar.


Is Mutenye A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Mutenye is certainly an exotic and rare tonewood for acoustic guitars but is well-respected by many who are afforded the opportunity to hear it in action.

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

Mutenye is definitely a viable tonewood for acoustic and classical backs and sides. It’s easy to bend and has great stability. Its density is an asset, adding notable resonance to the guitar body without being overly heavy.

Using mutenye can allow for a big low-end and clear mids and trebles with great volume and a lovely warmth in the midrange.

Martin is a notable big-name brand to have experimented with mutenye as a back and sides material.

Martin is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Acoustic Guitar String Brands On The Market
Top 10 Best Classical Guitar String Brands On The Market

Examples of acoustic guitars with mutenye backs and sides:

Is Mutenye A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Mutenye is considered too dense for practical use as an acoustic top wood. The best soundboards are made from lighter woods with high stiffness-to-density ratios.

While there are no strong reasons why mutenye couldn’t work structurally as a top, the sound would be relatively quiet will low projection compared to the standards (spruce, cedar and mahogany).

Is Mutenye A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Mutenye can be a viable option for acoustic guitar necks, though it hasn’t yet been accepted as a go-to option. As an exotic wood, the price of mutenye and lack of experimentation in the large companies can hold it back. That being said, it can offer superb sustain to the notes of an acoustic or classical guitar as a durable and sturdy neck wood.

Is Mutenye A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Mutenye is a great acoustic fretboard material for the same reasons it’s a great electric guitar material. It comes down to the feel and durability, both of which are features of mutenye. Its tonal compliment is a definite addition to an already great fretboard wood.


Is Mutenye A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Bass guitars can benefit greatly from mutenye tonewood, particularly in their fretboards and necks. However, like the aforementioned 6-strings, bass guitars are seldom designed with this beautiful tonewood.


Other Tonewoods

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