Handmade acoustic guitars – is cedar and mahogany the perfect combination?

Well, is what is it about a handmade acoustic guitar with a cedar top and a mahogany back and sides? Why does that combination sound so special? For some, it’s the perfect tonewood combination regardless of who makes the guitar. Is it the woods? Or is it the maker?

One thing about my work is the clarity. and the separation. The sound is clear. You’re going to get those two qualities regardless of the materials. I couldn’t make a muddy sounding guitar if I tried.

Cedar and mahogany is a wood combination we associate with warmth. And warmth isn’t something we associate with clarity. But can both qualities exist at the same time?

Have a listen and decide for yourself.

What about spruce and mahogany custom acoustic guitar?

Well, compare the guitar above with this one – both are NK Forster Model C-SKadv. Both have mahogany back, side and neck. It’s Ian playing the same tune, in the same room with the same mic set up. He’s sitting on the same chair in the same trousers. Mind, he is wearing a different shirt. Though I doubt that would have affected the sound. It might though…Does it depend on what the shirt is made of? Sorry, I’m being silly.

Anyway, have a listen, first to the cedar top, then the spruce. They are quite different from each other yet related. We have all the physical similarities (woods, body shape etc…) but both have that “Forster” sound. And they would, wouldn’t they?

I guess what I’m trying to encourage you to do is to keep an open mind. How many cedar and mahogany handmade acoustic guitars have you heard like the Model C-SKadv? I stress handmade acoustic guitars. Because we’re talking about the upper end of the market, not the stuff you can get in your local music store.

The maker has a huge influence on the sound. What I do with cedar/mahogany may sound very different from another maker. The sound my spruce and rosewood work makes is nothing like that made by other makers.

It’s not about the wood.

So why do we bang on about woods? We, luthiers, like to tell you about the fantastic, exotic or rare materials we use. Why do we do it?


It’s not about the wood.

It makes it easier to sell “something for more” if you add this aura of luxury. I do it myself a little bit. But watch out.

Can you remember in the 90s when food adverts changed? It was no longer “clotted cream” you were putting on your scone? It became “hand churned, clotted cream from Cornwall’s finest dairy herds.” First time I heard it, one of my eyebrows raised. All on its own. What a suspicious young chap I was.

The sound is not all about the wood. It is about the maker.

Have a listen to the two videos again. Put the headphones in. Shut your eyes. Forget what you know. Or think you think you know. Forget about all the guitars you have had. All you need do is listen.

So, in a few weeks, when I get the email from you, you know which guitar you like the sound of. Which one you’d like to own. Not because you had a spruce and whatsit made by so and so. But because you sat through all those sound samples of mine on YouTube.

You listened. And you knew…