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 ziricote is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.
Is ziricote a good guitar tonewood? Ziricote is a full-bodied tonewood with warm overtones, notable sustain, and a beautiful “spider-webbing” aesthetic. It is rare in guitars but is a good choice (tone and looks-wise) for tops/veneers or backs/sides. Ziricote is sometimes used in fretboards but not in solid bodies or necks.
In this article, we’ll discuss if and how wenge 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 ziricote 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 Ziricote Tonewood
- Is Ziricote A Good Electric Guitar Tonewood?
- Is Ziricote A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?
- Is Ziricote A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?
- Other Tonewoods
Characteristics Of Ziricote Tonewood
Ziricote (Cordia dodecandra) is a tonewood from a tree in the borage family (Boraginaceae). It is native to southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Ziricote is sometimes referred to as “Mexican ebony,” though it’s not truly an ebony wood (from the genus Diospyros).
Ziricote is not listed in the CITES Appendices, nor is it on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The heartwood of Ziricote has a dark grey/brown colour with a subtle green or purple hue. It features black streaks from its growth rings and a notable “spider-webbing” or “landscape” grain figure, which ranks it high in aesthetics amongst its enthusiasts.
Though it’s somewhat brittle and sensitive to humidity (before and after building), Ziricote is otherwise easy to work. This is particularly true considering its high density (805 kg/m3 / 50.25 lb/ft3). The wood is stable once dry and tends to glue, turn and finish quite well.
As a tonewood, Ziricote has superb low-end dampening qualities, offering clarity and resonance in the low-end. It’s a full-bodied tonewood, with beautiful overtones and sustain and a balanced yet warm tone.
Comparing Ziricote to more widely-used examples, its tonal properties fit somewhere between Macassar ebony and Indian rosewood. It offers richer overtones than Macassar ebony but greater clarity than Indian rosewood.
Here are a few notable ziricote specs:
- Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
- Colour: medium to dark brown with green or purple hue
- Grain: straight to slightly interlocked
- Texture: medium to fine
- Pores: diffuse-porous
- Density: 805 kg/m3 / 50.25 lb/ft3
- Janka Hardness (Typical): 8,780 N / 1,974 lbf
- Elastic Modulus: 10.93 GPa / 1,585,000 psi
- Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
- Price: high
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 Ziricote 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.
Ziricote is an excellent tonewood for electric guitar laminate tops and fretboards, though it’s not overly common in commercially-available models.
Is Ziricote A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?
Ziricote’s complex tonal characteristics and beautiful aesthetic (particularly those pieces with the “spider-webbing” grain) make it a sought-after wood for guitar bodies. However, its density and price make it rather heavy and expensive for use as a solidbody slab wood. Rather, ziricote makes an excellent top wood for electric guitars, helping to improve the tone and look of the main body wood.
Examples of electric guitars with ziricote bodies/tops:
- EVH Wolfgang WG Standard Exotic: solidbody with ziricote top (basswood body)
Is Ziricote A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?
Ziricote is rarely used in electric guitar necks, though it certainly can be, and with great results. It can make for a heavy neck, and its relative brittleness can make it difficult to work with and maintain over time.
Note that the density and hardness of ziricote are similar to that of wenge, which is a popular neck tonewood.
Is Ziricote A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?
Ziricote is a cherished fretboard wood among those with an eye and ear for exotic tonewoods, even though it’s rarely found in commercially-available guitars.
Paul Reed Smith (PRS) is among the few large manufacturers that regularly uses ziricote in its designs.
PRS is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Electric Guitar Brands In The World.
Ziricote is hard enough and can be cut thin enough for use as a fretboard wood. It offers its visual appeal in addition to its beautiful tonal character, which can spice up any neck material in an electric guitar.
Examples of electric guitars with ziricote fretboards:
- PRS Wood Library Custom 24: solidbody with ziricote fretboard
- PRS Wood Library McCarty 594 Hollowbody II: hollowbody with ziricote fretboard
Is Ziricote A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?
Ziricote isn’t super-popular in acoustic guitars, though it makes a fantastic tonewood for acoustic backs, sides and fretboards.
Those who dare to work ziricote into acoustic guitar designs are rewarded with superb tone and, oftentimes, and remarkably beautiful-looking instruments. However, the price, weight and time it takes to work are factors that make ziricote a lesser-used acoustic guitar tonewood.
Is Ziricote A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Back/Side Tonewood?
Ziricote is relatively brittle, making it a patience-testing wood to shape. However, its volume and rich tonality are worth the effort for acoustic guitar back and sides.
As we’d expect, ziricote is most often seen in custom builds or high-end models. It’s a superb choice for both steel-string acoustics and nylon string classical guitars.
Examples of acoustic guitars with ziricote backs and sides:
- PRS SE Angelus A60E: acoustic with ziricote back and sides (Sitka spruce top)
- Cordoba 55FCE Negra: classical with ziricote back and sides (European spruce top)
Is Ziricote A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?
Ziricote isn’t as common in acoustic guitar tops as it is in back and sides. However, it can be used to provide a deep, rich soundboard for the instrument.
Most luthiers prefer the brighter, more projecting top woods that dominate the market (spruce, cedar, sapele).
That being said, ziricote can sound amazing as a top wood and will certainly look amazing.
Is Ziricote A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?
Ziricote isn’t a popular choice for acoustic guitar necks, though it can be used.
Is Ziricote A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?
Ziricote’s hardness, tone and look make it an appealing tonewood for acoustic guitar fretboards. However, it’s rarely seen and is usually only considered in custom builds.
Is Ziricote A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?
When it comes to electric and acoustic bass guitars, the same information from the above paragraphs applies. Ziricote is a beautiful tonewood to the eyes and ears but can be a bit difficult to shape and work with. Like the guitars mentioned earlier, ziricote is generally used as electric bass tops, acoustic bass back and sides, and bass fretboards.
It’s an exotic wood that is mostly used in custom or small-shop designs. This tonewood isn’t popular in brand-name bass guitars, though that definitely doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic wood for bass.
Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides ziricote. Here is a list of other tonewoods with links to check out more in-depth articles on each:
- Panga Panga
- Pau Ferro
This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.