Ash: What Makes This A Good Tonewood For Guitars?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  September 16, 2022

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Ash is easily one of the most popular tonewoods used in guitar construction today, prized for its excellent resonance and sustain.

It’s also easy to work with and has a beautiful grain pattern – making it the perfect wood for guitar builders.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why ash is so popular, as well as what makes it such a good tonewood for guitar construction.

What is ash wood

Overview of Ash

Ash is one of the most popular tonewoods used in guitar building, both electric and acoustic. Ash is a species of tree known for its resilience to both decay and wear, making it a great wood to use for guitars. The timber falls under two main categories: northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Both of these types have different characteristics, but work well for many guitar builds.

Northern red oak has stronger tonal properties than white ash, providing a slightly brighter sound with more defined overtones. It also is more resonance-friendly when compared to white ash, making it an ideal choice for resonator guitars and even reverbs or chorus works. White ash on the other hand tends to have softer tone qualities with rounder sounds that focus more on bass rather than highs or mids. It has a classic look when stained dark and produces big sustain tones in amplifiers – perfect for blues or jazz styles.

Both types of Ash are highly sought after by guitarmakers because of their durability, strength and resistance to aging which make them very reliable tonewoods in the long run. In addition, they both provide tonal clarity as well as powerful tones which give them an advantage over cheaper woods like Alder or Mahogany in certain applications. Ash is an incredibly versatile wood that can be used in many types of builds so it can benefit any musician looking for either a bright sound or darker tone qualities – depending on the species chosen!

Benefits of Ash Tonewood

The use of ash as a tonewood for guitar manufacturing has been popular for many decades, due to its combination of hard and softwood characteristics. Ash is a mid-weight wood, one of the denser kinds of domestic wood available. Generally, ash falls into the hardwood category, but it also has some softwood qualities. Ash’s top-end frequency response is known to be bright in comparison to other tonewoods and it creates generous overtones with a subtle sweetness that has made it one of the most sought-after materials used in high-end electric guitar construction.

In addition to its excellent acoustic quality, ash provides several benefits that make it ideal for use as a tonewood:
-It’s lightweight yet durable: Ash tonewoods are far lighter than other types of hardwoods like alder or oak, yet they remain highly durable even with very thin body walls and necks. This means that guitars with an ash body will often feel very comfortable to play over long sessions.
-It offers great versatility: One of the main advantages of ash as a tonewood is its versatility; its ability to produce an ear pleasing range of sounds from warm jazz tones all the way up to loud rock distortion make it ideal for any genre or playing style.
-Its sonic resonance is superior: The strong sonic resonance generated by an ash body provides beautiful sustain and clarity when playing clean tones at lower volume settings and more compressed output when pushing the amps harder at higher volume levels.
-It has an attractive grain pattern: The beautifully defined grain silhouettes found in solid bodies made from light colored Northern White Ash makes it aesthetically pleasing without compromising on tone or function. Its striking grain pattern also contributes to its overall structural integrity.

Physical Properties of Ash

Ash is a common tonewood used in the construction of electric and acoustic guitars. Ash is often chosen because of its unique physical properties that make it a great tonewood. In this section, we will look at the physical characteristics of ash and how they can affect the sound or playability of a guitar.

Grain Pattern

Grain pattern of ash wood can vary depending on whether the wood comes from a white ash or a black species. White ash tends to have an irregular, open grain while the grain on black ash is straighter. Regardless of the species, it is unlikely to find any figure when looking at cold ash. Softness of ash varies greatly depending on the tree’s growing conditions and age, however generally speaking it is considered to be relatively less dense than other tone woods.

Depending on the type of ash used for guitar construction,the finish applied and amount of wear will also affect the characteristics of this tonewood. The openness of the grain however does make using lighter finishes more attractive as this will display natural beauty more prominently through pours in any unevenness in color or markings that occur naturally due to age or growth patterns.


Weight is one of the key physical properties in determining the quality of a tonewood. Ash tends to be lightweight and as a result, makes it an excellent choice for use in guitar bodies. The lighter weight of Ash allows guitar players to move around on stage without being weighed down by their instrument, without sacrificing its strength. In addition, the low weight causes less strain on the neck and headstock while playing complicated fingering exercises or loud chords with heavy strings. This makes it an ideal tonewood for fast-paced, complex genres such as jazz or country music that require intense fretwork.
The average dry density of ash ranges from 380-690 kg/m3 (23-43 lbs/ft3). This slight variation allows you to choose customized pieces that offer brightness and clarity in sound due to its lightness, or create a more powerful tone by opting for heavier pieces that have a different resonance compared to other Lightweight woods.


Within the realm of physical properties, ash has an intermediate level of porosity. In general, the more porous a wood is, the more responsive it will be and the brighter tone it will produce. A medium level of porosity gives ash wood an aesthetically pleasing solid look. It also provides some resonance to the tonewood and exists as a great mid-ground between soft woods and hard wood that provide exceptional resonance and intonation. Therefore, it tends to suit many acoustic and electric guitar styles in its own unique way, bringing together some of the best qualities from all these other type of tonewoods.

Tonal Characteristics of Ash

Ash is often used as the tonewood for electric guitars due to its unique set of tonal characteristics. Ash is known for providing a balanced tone with a pleasing midrange attack that is great for rock or blues music. The sound is also quite articulate and clear, with a noticeable snap that is ideal for clean sounds and defined lead tones. Let’s go deeper and discuss the tonal characteristics of ash in more detail.


Ash is known for its bright and focused tonal characteristics. It has a strong fundamental frequency and high-end attack that allows for a full range of clarity without adding too much in the mids or low-end. Ash can project well with a quick sustain, especially when combined with certain pickups.

There are two main types of ash available for guitar tonewoods: hardMaple and softMaple. Hard maple has a tighter grain and denser texture than soft maple. It is also one of the hardest tonewoods available, but it doesn’t come without some caveats. The stiffness of the wood can make it difficult to shape, since it requires more force during sanding and finishing processes in order to take on its desired shape. Additionally, hard maple tends to produce brighter tones that can be tiresome over time if not blended with softer tones from other sources such as rosewood or mahogany.

Soft Maple is more forgiving meaning it takes well to shaping and finishing processes which makes it easier to work with than hard maple. Despite being more pliable than its hard counterpart, softmaple still produces bright tones that stand out in mixes while retaining warmth and depth at low volumes. This makes it a great choice for clean sounds or just adding contrast to solo lines during leads or fills on an album track.


Tonally, ash is known for its sustain and articulate sound. The thick core of ash gives an even balance of warmth and brightness in the frequency spectrum. When playing chords on a guitar made with an ash body, there’s no mistaking the clarity of each note ringing out distinctly. This makes it a great choice for players who want definition in their sets.

At high gain levels, ash shares some similarities to maple; both woods produce a similar sparkle when distorted and remain very articulated thanks to the dense core. At low gain levels, on the other hand, ash gives off a warm tone that’s excellent for playing clean parts without making them feel too thin or thinning out your overall guitar sound.

Also important are the tonal inflections that come from something called “sustain decay” — once you hit a note, about 15-20% of that note will die off quickly during what we call the “attack” stage. This attack stage can then lead into something called “dynamic sustain” where this ‘decay’ becomes spread out longer over time to create an appealing tonal texture as if sounding through several cascading echoes — think of this as something like a wider than standard vibrato spectrum where notes continue echoeing away over time rather than simply fading quickly from one after another like a standard vibrato would provide.


The acoustic properties of ash can best be described as resonant. It is a lightweight hardwood with a tight grain structure, wide grain spacing, and even texture. This combination gives ash tonal characteristics that help maintain the resonance of the instrument without overpowering other elements like the strings. As such, this type of wood is well suited for traditional electric guitars or solid body instruments that require greater sustain and response over different frequencies.

Ash produces bright tones and clear highs due to its wide grain spacing and light weight, which helps to create an impressive level of clarity in its sound waves. All these factors combine to make this wood an ideal material for guitar construction as its tonal balance offers excellent levels of warmth, sustain and articulation. On top of that, it looks great due to its attractive grain pattern – solid ash bodies are some of the most aesthetically pleasing finishes seen in guitar designs throughout the years!

Best Uses for Ash Tonewood

Ash tonewood is one of the more popular types of tonewoods used in stringed instruments, especially in guitars. It’s known for its bright, full tone and can be used to produce a variety of sounds. The wood is also easy to work with and can be used to produce instruments that look great and sound great. In this article, we’ll discuss the best uses for ash tonewood.

Electric Guitars

Electric guitars constructed with ash body can deliver a variety of tones depending on the wood choice. Ash can be used for both vibrant clean and warm crunchy sounds. It is most commonly seen on electric guitars manufactured in the United States.

The most popular American-made ash tonewood is swamp ash, a lightweight wood with tight grain and high resonance that allows it to impart warm tone. It has strong mids, balanced low end and bright highs, making it great for rock and blues playing. Swamp ash-bodied instruments generally have an open, airy sound with lots of natural overtones similar to those found in semi-hollow body models but without the inherent feedback issues of hollow bodied-instruments.

Blonde ash tonewood also provides similar sonic characteristics as swamp ash. However, what sets it apart is its increased density which provides extra tight bass response especially when using heavy gauge strings making it ideal for bassists who need heavy lows as well as bright highs. Blonde greyish hues also look distinctive when applied to electric guitar finishes – allowing instrument makers to create strikingly attractive looking custom color guitar finishes.

Acoustic Guitars

Ash is especially well-suited for acoustic guitars due to its combination of pleasing tones, lively fundamental along with its strength and durability. The hardness gives ash a nice and even attack when played acoustically; however, it can be overly bright when used in a guitar body construction. To balance this tonal quality, some guitar makers combine ash with a more softer wood such as Sitka spruce or mahogany. This adds warmth and depth to the tonality of the instrument.

Ash’s tight grain structure provides great clarity, definition and resonance to an acoustic guitar’s tone that can remain consistent over time, specially when properly cared for. This tightly grained structure also makes it very stable, resistant to climate changes and helps all components stay in tune longer than many other tonewoods; therefore, providing the player better overall intonation.

It is also a lightweight wood – making it ideal for acoustic guitars as weight does affect the comfortability of an instrument as well as sustain and sound projection. One drawback is that it can crack easily if not properly humidified – making them insecure during cold/damp climate changes.

Bass Guitars

Bass guitars are well suited to ash tonewood by virtue of its sonic characteristics. Ash has a balanced tone across the entire frequency range, meaning that when used on bass guitars, it delivers an assertive bottom-end with superb definition. Furthermore, critical lower mids – which are “missing” from several other tones woods – are nicely present in ash-topped basses and give the overall sound a punchy texture. Overall, this is why the Fender Precision Bass — among the most iconic electric basses in history — has been associated exclusively with ash tonewood since its introduction in 1951. Additionally, ash tends to be quite light on weight, which allows for more comfortable playability while keeping bas players energized during lengthy studio sessions or live gigs.


In conclusion, ash is a great wood for electric guitars thanks to its crisp and bright tone, strong grain patterns, and low weight. It’s a great option if you’re looking for an instrument that has a clear, balanced sound and that looks great too. Ash is also relatively easy to work with, so it’s a good option for DIY guitar makers. Overall, ash is a great tonewood for electric guitars and something worth considering if you’re in the market for a new six-string.

Summary of Benefits

Light roasts are mild with a higher level of caffeine, while dark roasts have a pronounced bitterness and lower acidity. Medium roasts are the most popular in the United States, while the continental roasts are the darkest. Each roast offers its own unique flavor profile, and it’s important to experiment to find what you like best.

Overall, coffee is an incredibly versatile beverage that allows you to explore different flavor profiles and find something perfect for your taste buds. Whether you prefer light and mild or dark and intense, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to selecting your roast preference.

Recommendations for Ash Tonewood

It is important to note that ash is a harder wood than other popular tonewoods like mahogany. This means it takes more force when carving and also provides a brighter tone because of the added stiffness and strength. Despite being hard, ash is still considered one of the best tonewoods out there, making it an ideal choice for most players.

In terms of recommendations, ash works great in combination with other light woods such as maple or with heavy woods like rosewood or ebony. The combination allows the player to experience different tones without needing to change out their information entirely, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Ideally, it’s best to find bodies made by luthiers who understand the importance of grain orientation in relation to sound production in guitars. Generally speaking, you want grains running length-wise along the guitar body so they interact more with vibrational frequencies produced from plucking a string directly along its path. As this interaction amplifies certain frequencies, the result is a clearer overall tone that resists becoming muddy or flat when notes are joined together in a phrase.

By sticking to these recommendations for considering ash as your tonewood choice, you can be sure that your instrument has been constructed from quality materials that will give you an enjoyable playing experience for many years!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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