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

Is nato a good guitar tonewood? True nato (genus Mora) is not a good tonewood. However, nyatoh (genera Palquium/Payena) is a great “budget” tonewood and is often referred to as “nato.” True nato (mora) is very dense and hard and is only practical as fretboard material, though it’s never used in electric, acoustic or bass guitars.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how nato 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 nato 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 Nato Tonewood

Before we get into the characteristics of nato tonewood, we should clarify what we’re discussing. True nato wood is from the Mora excelsa and Mora gonggrijpii species of the genus Mora. These are hardwood legume trees.

“Nato” is a term that is often used to refer to Nyatoh, particularly in the United States. Nyatoh is the proper trade name for the hardwood timber of many species within the genera Palaquium and Payena.

Nato (mora) is not to be confused with nyatoh (Palquium/Payena), though the two often are. Furthermore, nato (mora) is not to be confused with “eastern mahogany,” which is another name given to nyatoh.

True nato wood (Mora excelsa and Mora gonggrijpii), which we’ll be discussing in this article, is from the legume family (Fabaceae). This wood is native to northern South America, southern Central America and the southern Caribbean island.

Nato/Mora heartwood is light to medium brown with a reddish tint. It’s a diffuse-porous wood with relatively large pores and a medium-to-coarse texture. Its grain patterns range from straight to interlocked.

Nato/Mora is not listed in the CITES Appendices, nor is it listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Nato/Mora is a relatively hard hardwood and has a notable blunting effect on tools. Furthermore, pieces with interlocked grain are prone to tear-out when sanding and planing.

True nato is very hard and dense, unlike the more workable nyatoh (which is often given the nato name).

True nato is not popular as a guitar/bass tonewood. To learn about “nato” (nyatoh), please skip over to my article Is Nyatoh “Nato” A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass.

Here are a few notable nato specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: light to medium reddish brown
  • Grain: straight to interlocked
  • Texture: medium to coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 1,050 kg/m3 / 65.55 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 10,230 N / 2,300 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 19.24 GPa / 2,791,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): bright
  • 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 Nato 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.

Nato/mora is not a popular electric guitar tonewood.

Is Nato A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Nato/mora is far too heavy for use in practical electric guitar solidbody designs and even hollowbody designs. Where ergonomics are important in electric guitar design, the weight of true nato is too great.

Is Nato A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Solid nato/mora necks would throw off the centre of gravity of the electric guitar unless the body were impractical heavy as well. True nato could potentially be a viable laminate material in guitar necks, though there are plenty of superior options to choose from (maple, mahogany, walnut, wenge, and more).

Is Nato A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Nato/mora has similar hardness and density to common fretboard tonewoods like ebony and rosewood. Though it can be a viable option as an electric guitar fretboard material, it is not popular with small shops or large manufacturers.


Is Nato A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Nato/mora is not a popular acoustic guitar tonewood.

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

Nato/mora is relatively difficult to bend and is rarely even discussed as a back and sides material for acoustic and classical guitars. That being said, it could work. It would offer superb durability, strength and sound to the guitar, though it may be a bit heavy.

Is Nato A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Nato/mora is largely rejected as top wood due to its dense, heavy nature. Acoustic tops typically benefit most from thin, lightweight tonewoods with high stiffness-to-density ratios (spruce and cedar come to mind). True nato does not have such characteristics.

Is Nato A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Solid nato/mora necks could potentially be a viable laminate material in guitar necks, though like the electric guitar counterparts, there are plenty of superior options to choose from.

Is Nato A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Nato/mora has similar hardness and density to common fretboard tonewoods like ebony and rosewood. Though it can be a viable option as an acoustic guitar fretboard material, it is not popular with small shops or large manufacturers.


Is Nato A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Nato/mora is not a popular bass guitar tonewood for either acoustic or electric basses.

Like with electric and acoustic guitars, true nato could potentially be a great option for bass fretboard material but is largely too heavy and dense for practical use in the body and/or neck of bass guitars.


Other Tonewoods

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