Walnut isn’t the most popular tonewood for electrics because it’s way too heavy, but it IS used for acoustic guitars or smaller parts of electrics.
Walnut is a popular tonewood for acoustic guitars because of its warm, full-bodied sound. Guitar backs and sides made of walnut are incredibly easy to bend and carve. Walnut backs and sides can produce a very low-end and midrange response while keeping their renowned clarity.
This guide explains what walnut tonewood is, why it’s used for classical and acoustic guitars, and why walnut body electric guitars are not as popular.
What is walnut tonewood?
Walnut is a type of tonewood that is used in both electric and acoustic guitars, but it’s a preferred tonewood for acoustics.
Different types of wood have different densities, weights, and hardness, which all contribute to the tone of the guitar.
In electric guitar and bass guitar bodies, acoustic guitar sides/backs, guitar necks, and fretboards, walnut is frequently utilized as laminate tonewood. For solid bodied guitars, it is excessively heavy.
There are two main varieties of walnut: black walnut and English walnut. Both types of walnut are medium-density woods with good weight and hardness.
Walnut is a type of hardwood that is occasionally used as a tonewood for guitar bodies and tops.
It is known for its warm and balanced tone, with a slightly darker character compared to other tonewoods such as spruce or maple.
Walnut is relatively dense and heavy, which contributes to its tonal properties by providing a strong sustain and a rich low-end response. It is also fairly stiff, which allows for good projection and clarity in the midrange frequencies.
Walnut guitars are also known for their durability and versatility. The lightweight, flexible nature of the wood makes them easy to carry and transport.
Additionally, walnut is an excellent choice for acoustic and classical guitars, as it is easy to bend and work with.
While not as common as tonewoods like mahogany or rosewood, walnut can be a good choice for guitar players who are looking for a unique sound that is both warm and articulate.
What does walnut tonewood sound like?
Walnut offers a bright tone with a tight bottom end and exceptional sustain. Its tone is frequently described as having rosewood’s resonance and bottom end.
Walnut guitars have a warm, rich tone that’s perfect for jazz, blues, and folk music. They have good projection and sustain, and offer a great balance of high and low end frequencies.
They have a slightly deeper low end than koa guitars, giving them a slightly woodier sound. Walnut guitars also have a bright midrange, making them a great choice for a variety of genres.
Walnut is a dense, heavy wood with a bright and balanced sound. It has a narrow low end and produces bright treble notes in the midrange.
Walnut tonewood is known for its warm and balanced sound, with a slightly darker character compared to other tonewoods such as spruce or maple. It has a strong sustain and a rich low-end response, which gives it a full and resonant sound.
The midrange frequencies are clear and articulate, with a pleasing woody tone that can be both punchy and smooth.
Compared to other popular tonewoods like mahogany or rosewood, walnut has a somewhat unique character that can be difficult to describe in words.
Some guitar players and makers describe it as having a “sweet” or “mellow” sound, while others describe it as being “earthy” or “organic”.
Overall, the tone of a walnut guitar will depend on a number of factors, including the specific cut of the wood, the shape and construction of the guitar, and the playing style of the musician.
However, in general, walnut is a versatile and distinctive tonewood that can provide a rich and expressive sound in a variety of musical contexts.
Why is walnut tonewood not commonly used for electric guitars?
Walnut tonewood can certainly be used for electric guitars, but it is not as commonly used as other tonewoods such as alder, ash, mahogany, or maple.
One reason for this is that electric guitar tonewoods are not as critical to the overall sound as they are for acoustic guitars.
The pickups and electronic components in an electric guitar play a much larger role in shaping the final sound, so the tonal characteristics of the wood are not as important.
Another reason is that walnut is a relatively heavy and dense wood, which can make it more difficult to work with compared to lighter tonewoods like alder or ash. This can make it less practical for guitar makers who want to keep the weight of their instruments down.
That being said, some electric guitar makers do use walnut tonewood in their instruments, and it can provide a unique and distinctive sound. Ultimately, the choice of tonewood for an electric guitar depends on the individual preferences of the player and the guitar maker.
Is walnut a good electric guitar tonewood?
Walnut is a versatile tonewood option for electric guitars, but is rarely used for the construction of the entire body.
However, it is often used for the body and neck of laminate wood guitars.
Walnut is known for its bright, tight tone with a low end that is quite apparent in the sound. It can be a bit brittle, but it is still a great tonewood for electric guitar bodies.
Walnut is also commonly incorporated into laminate and solidbody designs, as well as hollowbody designs.
It is a great addition to laminate wood guitars, as it can brighten the overall tone and increase articulation. Walnut is also known for its fast roll off and bright harmonics.
Here’s the thing; walnut can certainly be used as a tonewood for electric guitars, but it is not as commonly used as other tonewoods like alder, ash, mahogany, or maple.
Walnut is a relatively heavy and dense wood, which can make it more difficult to work with compared to lighter tonewoods like alder or ash.
However, it can provide a unique and distinctive sound that some guitar players and makers find appealing.
The tonal characteristics of walnut are warm and balanced, with a slightly darker character compared to other tonewoods such as maple or ash. It has a strong sustain and a rich low-end response, which gives it a full and resonant sound.
Why Walnut is an awesome choice for acoustic guitars
Walnut is a popular choice for acoustic guitar back and sides, and here are some reasons why:
- Beautiful appearance: Walnut has a rich and warm brown color with striking grain patterns that add a beautiful aesthetic appeal to any guitar. It can have straight or curly grain patterns, making each guitar unique.
- Excellent tonal qualities: Walnut has a balanced tonal response with a warm and clear sound. It has a strong midrange and a slightly scooped treble, which makes it ideal for both fingerstyle and strumming.
- Versatility: Walnut is a versatile tonewood that works well with a variety of playing styles and musical genres. It can be paired with different top woods to produce a range of tonal qualities.
- Durability: Walnut is a dense and durable wood that can withstand years of use and abuse. It is less prone to cracking and warping than other tonewoods, making it a reliable choice for guitar backs and sides.
- Sustainable: Walnut is readily available and is a sustainable choice for guitar making. It is grown in many regions of the world and is not endangered or threatened.
- Bendability and tone: Walnut is a great choice for acoustic guitars thanks to its easy bendability and defined tone. It has a wide frequency spectrum, and its relative hardness and density give it an overall aesthetic appeal. This makes it a highly valued tonewood for backs, sides, necks, and fretboards.
Walnut is remarkably easy to bend and work with, making it a great choice for acoustic and classical guitars.
Many big manufacturers and brands offer guitars with walnut sides, such as the Washburn Bella Tono Vite S9V Acoustic with figured walnut sides and spruce, the Takamine GC5CE Classical with black walnut sides and spruce, and the Yamaha NTX3 Classical with walnut sides and sitka spruce.
Walnut is a good acoustic guitar body tonewood, as it produces a good loud sound. Soundboards are generally made of lightweight and stiff pieces of softwood or soft hardwood.
Of course, luthiers can also stop at walnut for an acoustic wood that looks magnificent. Its density makes it lead to a quieter, more harmonically dead sound, but walnut is still resonant and clear.
In summary, walnut is an excellent choice for acoustic guitar backs and sides because of its beautiful appearance, balanced tonal response, versatility, durability, and sustainability.
Is walnut used as a neck wood for guitars?
Yes, walnut is sometimes used as a neck wood for guitars. While more commonly used for the body or back and sides of acoustic guitars, it can also be used for the neck.
But walnut wood is mostly used as a neck wood in electric guitars instead of acoustics.
Walnut is a hardwood that is known for its stability and strength, which are important qualities for a guitar neck. It has a warm, balanced tone with good sustain, making it a popular choice for guitar builders.
Walnut can be a good neck wood for electric guitars for several reasons:
- Stability: Walnut is a hardwood that is known for its stability, which means it is less likely to warp or twist over time. This is important for the neck of a guitar, which needs to remain straight and true to ensure proper intonation.
- Strength: Walnut is also a strong wood, which can help prevent the neck from snapping or breaking under tension from the strings or pressure from the player’s hands.
- Tone: Walnut has a warm, balanced tone with good sustain, which can contribute to the overall sound of the guitar. While the neck wood may not have as big an impact on the guitar’s tone as the body wood, it can still make a difference.
- Appearance: Walnut has a beautiful, dark color with a distinctive grain pattern, which can make for an attractive and unique-looking neck.
However, the choice of neck wood ultimately depends on the builder’s preference and the desired tone and feel of the instrument. Other popular woods for guitar necks include maple, mahogany, and rosewood.
Is walnut used to build fretboards and fingerboards?
Yes, walnut is sometimes used to build fretboards and fingerboards for guitars and other stringed instruments.
Walnut has a relatively smooth texture and a moderate hardness, which makes it suitable for use as a fretboard material. It also has a beautiful and distinctive grain pattern that can add visual interest to the instrument.
However, the use of walnut for fretboards is less common than other woods, such as rosewood or ebony. This is partly due to the fact that walnut is not as hard as these other woods, which can make it more prone to wear over time.
Additionally, some players prefer the feel of harder, smoother woods like rosewood or ebony under their fingers.
Ultimately, the choice of fretboard wood depends on the builder’s preference and the desired tone and feel of the instrument.
Different woods can have a subtle effect on the sound and playability of a guitar, so it’s important to choose a fretboard wood that complements the other components of the instrument.
What makes walnut a great tonewood for bass guitars?
Walnut is a great tonewood for bass guitar necks, and here’s why:
Warm tone: Walnut has a warm, balanced tone that can provide a strong foundation for a bass guitar’s sound. It has a natural midrange emphasis that can help the instrument cut through a mix without sounding harsh.
Good sustain: Walnut has good sustain, which can help notes ring out and provide a full, rich sound. This is important for bass guitars, which typically play longer notes and need to fill out the low end of a mix.
Low-end response: Walnut is a species of wood that helps bring out strong fundamentals and low notes in bass guitars. It’s a denser wood than some other tonewoods, which helps to bring out the brightness of the bass.
What type of Walnut is used to make guitars?
There are several types of walnut that are commonly used to make guitars, each with its own unique properties and characteristics. Here are some of the most common types of walnut used in guitar making:
- Black Walnut: Black Walnut is a common type of walnut used in guitar making. It is known for its rich, warm tone and attractive, dark brown color. Black Walnut is also a relatively dense and heavy wood, which contributes to its sustain and clarity.
- Claro Walnut: Claro Walnut is a type of walnut that is found primarily in California and Oregon. It is known for its beautiful figure and striking grain patterns, which can range from straight and uniform to highly figured and irregular. Claro Walnut is prized for its balanced tonal response and warm, full-bodied sound.
- Bastogne Walnut: Bastogne Walnut is a hybrid species of walnut that is a cross between Claro and English Walnut. It is known for its tight, consistent grain patterns and warm, clear tone. Bastogne Walnut is also a relatively lightweight and responsive wood, making it a popular choice for fingerstyle guitarists.
- English Walnut: English Walnut, also known as European Walnut, is a type of walnut that is native to Europe and western Asia. It is a relatively soft and lightweight wood, which gives it a warm, mellow tone with a fast attack and quick decay. English Walnut is also known for its beautiful, varied grain patterns, which can range from straight and uniform to highly figured and swirling.
What does a black walnut guitar sound like?
Black walnut guitars are known for their warm and rich tone, making them suitable for a variety of genres, from jazz to blues to folk music.
They have good projection and sustain. Black walnut is best when combined with other tone woods. The combination of mahogany, rosewood, and black walnut hardwood gives a guitar a unique sound.
Black walnut has a heartwood with shades of brown and dark yellow, and its interlayers are often flamed. It’s a popular choice for electric guitar necks because of its medium density and stability, which means it won’t warp or crack like some other tonewoods.
Walnut vs mahogany tonewood
When it comes to acoustic guitar tonewoods, there’s no denying that walnut and mahogany are two of the most popular choices.
But which one should you choose? It’s a tough decision, but we’ve got the scoop to help you out.
Let’s start with walnut. This tonewood is known for its bright, clear sound and its ability to project sound well. It’s also quite lightweight, making it a great choice for those who want a guitar that’s easy to carry around.
On the downside, walnut can be a bit brittle, so it’s not the best choice if you’re looking for a guitar that will stand up to a lot of wear and tear.
Now let’s talk mahogany. This tonewood is known for its warm, mellow sound and its ability to produce a wide range of tones. It’s also quite durable, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a guitar that will last for years.
The downside? Mahogany is heavier than walnut, so it might not be the best choice for those who want a lightweight guitar.
So, which one should you choose? Well, it really depends on what kind of sound you’re looking for and how much wear and tear you plan to put your guitar through.
If you want a bright, clear sound and don’t mind a bit of extra weight, go with walnut. If you’re looking for a warm, mellow sound and want a guitar that will last, mahogany is the way to go.
Black walnut is an underrated guitar material, and it has a sound similar to koa guitars. It’s also typically cheaper than mahogany, so if you’re looking for a guitar that matches your taste and style, black walnut is a great option.
Here are some of the benefits of walnut tonewood for your guitar:
– Brighter end of the spectrum than mahogany
– Present midrange and low end
– Slightly stronger sound in the low end
– Deeper sound
– Cheaper than mahogany
Walnut vs rosewood
Ah, the age-old debate: walnut tonewood vs. rosewood tonewood. It’s a classic conundrum that guitarists have debated for decades.
On one hand, you have walnut, a hardwood known for its deep, warm tones and rich sustain. On the other, you have rosewood, a softer wood that produces a brighter, more vibrant sound.
So, which one is better? Well, it really depends on what kind of sound you’re looking for. If you’re after a warm, mellow sound, then walnut is the way to go. It’s great for jazz, blues, and folk music, giving you that classic, vintage sound.
Rosewood, on the other hand, is perfect for rock, metal, and other genres that require a brighter, more aggressive tone.
Walnut and rosewood are both tonewoods that are used in the construction of guitars, but they have some key differences in terms of their sound, appearance, and physical properties:
Sound: Walnut has a warm, balanced tone with good sustain, while rosewood has a more pronounced bass response and a slightly scooped midrange. Rosewood also tends to have a more complex and articulate sound than walnut.
Appearance: Walnut has a rich, chocolate-brown color with a distinctive grain pattern, while rosewood has a reddish-brown color and a more uniform grain. Both woods are considered attractive and can be finished in a variety of ways.
Physical properties: Walnut is a relatively hard and stable wood that can withstand the tension of guitar strings without warping or twisting over time. Rosewood is even harder and denser than walnut, which can make it more resistant to wear and tear.
Sustainability: Rosewood is considered a threatened species in many parts of the world, and its use in guitar construction has been restricted in recent years due to concerns about overharvesting. Walnut is a more sustainable alternative that is widely available and can be harvested in a responsible manner.
Walnut vs maple
Walnut and maple are both tonewoods that are used in the construction of guitars, but they have some key differences in terms of their sound, appearance, and physical properties:
Sound: Walnut has a warm, balanced tone with good sustain, while maple has a bright, clear tone with good note separation. Maple also tends to have a tighter and more focused sound than walnut.
Maple is known for its bright, punchy sound that’s great for rock, metal, and other genres that require a lot of power. It’s also great for strumming, as it has a lot of attack and sustain. Plus, it’s a bit heavier than walnut, so it’ll give your guitar a bit more heft.
Appearance: Walnut has a rich, chocolate-brown color with a distinctive grain pattern, while maple has a lighter color with a tighter and more uniform grain. Maple can also have visually striking figuring patterns like birdseye or flame.
Physical properties: Walnut is a relatively hard and stable wood that can withstand the tension of guitar strings without warping or twisting over time. Maple is even harder and more stable than walnut, which makes it an excellent choice for necks and fretboards.
Walnut vs alder
Let’s talk alder. It’s a softer wood, so it’s lighter than walnut and produces a brighter, more vibrant sound. It’s also much more affordable, making it a great choice for those on a budget.
The downside is that it doesn’t have the same depth of sound as walnut, so it may not be the best choice for those looking for a more complex tone.
Walnut and alder are both tonewoods that are used in the construction of guitars, but they have some key differences in terms of their sound:
Sound: Walnut has a warm, balanced tone with good sustain, while alder has a more pronounced midrange with a tight low end and a slightly scooped upper midrange. Walnut can be described as having a more “vintage” tone, while alder is often associated with a “modern” sound.
Density: Alder is a relatively light and porous wood, which can contribute to its bright and lively tone. Walnut is a denser wood with a more even grain structure, which can give it a more consistent and balanced tone.
Appearance: Walnut has a rich, chocolate-brown color with a distinctive grain pattern, while alder has a light tan color with a straight, even grain. Alder can also have interesting figuring patterns, but they are generally less pronounced than those found in walnut.
Sustainability: Alder is a relatively sustainable wood that is widely available and can be harvested in a responsible manner. Walnut is also a sustainable choice, but it may be less readily available and more expensive than alder.
What kind of walnut does Gibson use?
Gibson uses English walnut for its famous acoustic guitar, the J-45 studio. This guitars has a Sitka spruce top and walnut back and sides.
What makes it special is that the J-45 studio Walnut is handcrafted. The flatter fingerboard and greater underarm comfort of the small body depth allow for smoother playability.
Gibson is known for its famous, flawless playability and rich tone, and it’s no surprise that they use premium walnut for their guitars.
Walnut is a popular tonewood in the U.S.A and has been used for centuries by boutique builders, so it’s no wonder why Gibson has chosen it for their guitars.
Walnut has a mature, round sound that is similar to mahogany and rosewood, but with its own unique character. It also has a great response, making it easy for fingers to fly across the fingerboard.
Gibson’s walnut guitars are a great choice for those looking for a monster tone, as they provide a velvet-like brick of ceramic pickups. Unplugged, the walnut guitars sound great, too!
Do walnut guitars sound good?
Walnut guitars sound great! They offer a bright, tight tone with a good low end response that retains clarity.
Walnut is a dense, heavy tonewood, so it’s perfect for electric and acoustic guitar bodies, necks, and fretboards.
It’s also a great choice for laminate wood in guitar design. Walnut is a versatile tonewood that can be used for a variety of different guitars, from electric to classical. Plus, it’s known for its beautiful figuring.
Black walnut and English walnut are the two most common species used in guitar tonewoods. Black walnut has a warm, powerful midrange with overtones, while English walnut tends to produce a slightly brighter tone.
Other walnut varieties worth mentioning are Claro walnut, Peruvian walnut, and Bastogne walnut. Each of these offers their own unique tones, so it’s worth researching to find the one that best suits your needs.
In short, walnut is an excellent tonewood for guitar construction. It offers a bright tone with a tight low end and good sustain.
Plus, it’s easy to work with and looks great too! So if you’re looking for a great-sounding guitar, walnut is definitely worth considering.
Is walnut better than mahogany?
Comparing tonewoods like walnut and mahogany is not a straightforward matter, as different tonewoods have different tonal properties and characteristics that can suit different playing styles and musical genres.
Both walnut and mahogany are commonly used tonewoods for guitar making, and each has its own unique properties and strengths.
Walnut is known for its balanced tonal response, with a good mix of lows, mids, and highs. It has a rich, warm mid-range, and its tonal properties tend to improve with age and use, resulting in a more nuanced and complex sound over time.
Walnut is also a relatively stable wood that resists warping and cracking over time.
Mahogany, on the other hand, is known for its warm, rich tone with a strong midrange emphasis. It has a relatively soft, warm sound with a slightly compressed dynamic range, making it a popular choice for players who prefer a vintage or bluesy sound.
Mahogany also has good sustain and projection and is often used for guitar necks and bodies.
Ultimately, the choice between walnut and mahogany will depend on the specific tonal characteristics and aesthetic qualities that the player is looking for.
Both woods have their own unique strengths and are popular choices for guitar makers and players alike.
The best way to determine which wood is better for a particular guitar is to try out different guitars made with different tonewoods and see which one sounds and feels the best for the player’s individual preferences and playing style.
Now you know walnut’s still popular for its balanced tonal response with a good mix of lows, mids, and highs. The wood’s mid-range is particularly rich and warm, giving it a pleasing tonal character.
Although this tonewood is best for acoustic guitars (Gibson uses it, for example), SOME electric guitars are made with walnut components and sound great!
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.
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