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

Is panga panga a good guitar tonewood? Panga panga is a lively, bright, responsive tonewood. However, its high density, brittleness, and irregularity make it impractical to work into many designs. It’s often ignored due to the difficulty it presents in working, though it can be a decent laminate neck and fretboard material.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how panga panga 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 panga panga 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 Panga Panga Tonewood

Panga panga is a tonewood from the species Millettia stuhlmannii of the legume family (Fabaceae). It is native to eastern Africa.

Wenge is also part of the genus Millettia (Millettia laurentii) and is a similar and more popular option. To learn more about wenge as a tonewood, check out my article Is Wenge A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass.

Panga panga heartwood, which is the portion used in tonewood, has a deep, dark brown colour with noticeable black streaks. Its grain is straight, and its texture is coarse. The large pores of the wood will require filling for a smooth result, and the wood’s colour can turn nearly black upon finishing.

Panga panga is a relatively difficult hardwood to work. Though it’s not the densest or hardest tonewood to be used, it will have a rather significant blunting effect on woodworking tools. Furthermore, the variations in density between the lighter wood and darker streaks can be challenging to plane, sand and finish. It also splinters easily, which is a concern worth noting.

Panga panga is not listed in the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

As a tonewood, panga panga is relatively bright, though it also boasts a lively and responsive mid-range and booming low-end. Its high-end shines through particularly well, providing a bright top-end with beautiful articulation, giving panga panga a bright tone overall.

Here are a few notable panga panga specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: dark brown with black streaks
  • Grain: straight
  • Texture: coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 870 kg/m3 / 54.31 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 7,310 N / 1,643 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 15.73 GPa / 2,281,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): bright
  • Price: 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 Panga Panga 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.

Panga panga is a viable electric guitar tonewood, well-respected by many luthiers. It’s similar to wenge and works well as a neck material, particularly in laminate designs. It’s also hard and durable enough when finished to be a practical fretboard material.

However, the difficulty in working panga panga combined with its relatively high price point makes it a relatively uncommon tonewood, especially in commercially-viable electric guitars.

Is Panga Panga A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Panga panga is considered too heavy and brittle for practical use in commercial electric guitar bodies. Solidbodies would be uncomfortably heavy. Furthermore, panga panga tops/veneers would be liable to splinter and split during or after construction.

Of course, when worked and finished properly, the lively tone of panga panga can certainly enhance the overall sound of an electric guitar, particularly in the low-end and the very top-end of the guitar’s harmonic range.

Is Panga Panga A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Panga panga’s bright, articulate top end and resonant low end work well, tonally speaking, for guitar necks. The wood is a bit heavy and liable to splinter and break during construction, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a terrible choice.

For those willing to work with it, panga panga is a great, albeit heavy, neck option. Investing even more work, panga panga can enhance other neck woods as part of multi-wood laminate neck designs.

Ibanez uses panga panga in some of its electric guitar necks, though it’s always laminated with other woods and never a solid piece by itself.

Ibanez is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Bass Guitar Brands In The World
Top 13 Best Electric Guitar Brands In The World

Examples of electric guitars with panga panga necks:

Is Panga Panga A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Panga panga can be a good choice for electric guitar fretboards, though it’s rarely ever used commercially.

There are harder, more durable and more musical options for electric guitar fretboards, many of which are less liable to tear-out, splinter or crack.

Examples of electric guitars with panga panga fretboards:


Is Panga Panga A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Though panga panga is found in some notable electric guitar models, it doesn’t enjoy the same notoriety in acoustic and classical guitars.

Though the tone of panga panga can be nice, it’s often regarded as being too difficult for viable use in acoustic and classical guitars.

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

Beyond blunting tools, panga panga is a pain to bend, sand, plane and finish due to its irregularity and relative brittleness. It’s liable to break when working, making it difficult to incorporate this otherwise beautiful wood into the back and sides for acoustic and classical guitars.

Is Panga Panga A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Panga panga is dense, irregular and brittle. Optimal soundboards/tops are made from lightweight, softer woods (often softwoods like spruce and cedar) with high stiffness. The mechanics of panga panga aren’t supportive of good projection and volume.

Is Panga Panga A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Panga panga is a decent, albeit heavy, neck wood for acoustic guitars. However, it’s largely disregarded in lieu of the more standard, workable, affordable options.

Is Panga Panga A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Panga panga is not normally a fretboard material, though it certainly can be. Its fast attack can be of great benefit to the overall tone of an acoustic or classical guitar.


Is Panga Panga A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Panga panga can be utilized, with difficultly, as a neck and fretboard tonewood in bass guitars (just as is the case with electric, acoustic and classical guitars).

When it comes to notable brands that utilize panga panga in their basses, Ibanez is the stand-out, known for its experimentation with a variety of non-standard guitar tonewoods.

Examples of bass guitars with panga panga tonewood:


Other Tonewoods

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