The usage of German Spruce for guitar tops (soundboards) is very old
and is based on its mechanical-acoustic characteristics which makes
it an excellent conductor for soundwaves.
RESONANCE-WOOD or TONE-WOOD, is the wood of which the guitar tops are
made of, "PICEA", (German: "FICHTE", Italian: "ABETE", French "SAPIN"
and English: "SPRUCE"). When the wood is more whitish the scientific
name is "PICEA ABIES" or "PINUS ABIES", "ABIES PECTINATA" or "SILVER
FIR". If it is more reddish the name is "PICEA EXCELSA" or "SPRUCE FIR".
The best trees come from the Bavarian, Austrian and Italian Alps, where
they can be found today in some areas above 1100m altitude. Earlier
guitar makers preferred the wood from these areas more than wood from
other countries along the Alps or the Carpathians.
These days practically nobody has the chance to buy a whole log. The
guitar makers have to be satisfied with cut guitar tops delivered by
the tonewood-dealers. In past times spruce logs were bought as a whole
and they were often selected at the forests were they are grown.
It was of course a big advantage, if you had a whole log available.
Like this the guitar makers could deepen their knowledge of the
mechanical and acoustic characteristics of the wood of their log in
an empirical way, and thus improve the construction instrument by
The beautiful straight and tight grained spruce, should theoretically be
the most appropriate for the guitar construction. There are however
many exceptions. One wonderful and beauty spruce top does unfortunately
not always have the hoped for sound quality!
There are magnificent old guitars with wood though which does
absolutely not show a regular grain not to mention a symmetrical optic
like certain famous guitars which have knots and structural deviations
which a modern guitar maker would hardly or rather not tolerate.
Purely intuitive, with much mastery they used a material that is so
variable as wood is. They know about the difference between the
flexibility of a cut board in lengthways direction and in crossways
direction. The master builders knew all the properties of the woods they used,
all their nuances and they did not disclaim taking guitar tops from
the best parts of the log, even if these from the optical aspect were
not perfect. For the guitar tops they used spruce wood with wide grain structure
just as successful as harder wood with tighter grain structure. The
material was so close to them that they chose it how it appeared them
technically the most beneficial to create a best sound out of an
Nowadays, the skepticism for things out of norm and standards from
uniform optics is higher than ever before. A big part of this
popular-half-wisdom can be assigned to the trivial
world-wide-web-knowledge. Maybe it leads many guitar makers on the
I already do my work with passion and science a very long time, and
I try to sell my wood honestly. The customers trust, is very important
for me to maintain long business relationships.
I have dissected hundreds of logs and each one has told me his own story
of hundred years of life. So it can be that a lower grade top has a
much better tap-tone as a master-grade top which is so beautiful and
free from all errors. This ambivalence are mostly is misunderstood by
Less and less customers ask me about the individual physic properties
of my tonewood. From beginner to professional, mostly the guitar
players need a "uniform, white evenly colored guitar top with very tight
and straight grain! But how many knowledge has the guitar player about
the woods physic? Is this the right way, that our customers tell us
the "truth" about good tonewood? I think, no!
It even goes so far that customers persuade me from attached photos
of my offered guitar tops, which tops are sounds or not. If you like
to order tops from me, should be clear for everybody, that I know about
my wood and I find best sounding tops for you, if requested.
The kind of luthiers they tell me "Yes, I know but the customers are
so picky and they don't like the guitar, therefore I need the best of
the best!", are mostly builders with less experience in the physics
of wood. The more advanced a luthier is, the more the visual characteristics
of a guitar top recede into the background. The luthiers from the glory
days possessed the self-confidence and pride to define their guitars
by the sound. That's why we should open more our ears instead of our
This is a trend that worries me as a tonewood producer. If everyone
builds the same beautiful stringed box, we're all carpenters, and not
luthiers, and the art of sound and wood is lost someday.
The operation word is and was "TONE-WOOD"!