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I know that the type of wood affects the sound of an electric guitar, but I don't understand in what way (or which type of wood has what effect).

Which wood(s) should I choose if I want to play rock or metal music? Do I have to use different woods for the body and the fretboard of an electric guitar?

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I could go on writing a very long answer explaining the differences but in the end there's only one answer. Choose the configuration you like. My tip would be to start with a mahogany body (popular choice) and explore from there. –  AlexanderBrevig Oct 14 at 13:18
    
Mahogany is really popular, perhaps most famously with Gibson's solid body guitars, and is known for its 'warm' tone. Adler is also fairly common and has a more 'balanced' tone (descriptive words are pretty subjective). Lower end woods like poplar and basswood are pretty common in Chinese and Korean-built instruments, and can work just as well, but I believe both are soft and relatively easy to damage. Maple might be the most common neck wood across the industry and tends to be pretty bright, which can be offset by rosewood fingerboards. –  player3 Oct 14 at 16:24
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Maybe re-wording to something along the lines of "What are the most popular wood types for electric guitar in rock/metal music and why?" would help keep this open. I'd say start with mahogany but you also should find what's right for you. –  Charles Oct 14 at 17:31
    
Also, great info from Warmoth on the subject: warmoth.com/guitar/bodies/options/bodywoodoptions.aspx –  Charles Oct 14 at 18:13
    
Thank you for all these helpful comments :) –  MartinK Oct 15 at 5:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Electric guitar sound is affected, among other things, by the way the wood absorbs the vibrations of the strings. The sustain and the brightness of the sound comes, in part, from the wood used. Availability, workability and visual properties are also important.

The most popular rock guitars are Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul. Strat bodies are usually made of ash, alder or poplar and Les Paul bodies are mostly made of mahogany with a maple top. Strat necks are made of maple while Les Paul necks may use mahogany or maple. Frets can be pressed directly on a maple neck or the neck may be laminated with a harder wood like rosewood or ebony.

As you can see, the woods used on these two guitars are quite different, yet they're both very popular choices for rock music. So, it's about what sound you want to obtain.

Custom guitar parts provider Warmoth has some good information on so called tonewoods and neck woods.

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There is no specific combination of wood types that make a guitar more or less appropriate for rock/metal music.

Essentially all combinations can and have been used to good effect by various artists in these genres.

Other features besides the type wood are likely to have a more significant effect on the the behaviour of the guitar; at most you could argue that "this scale length and neck + these pickups + this amp configuration" could be marginally modified by selecting "this wood combination". This also leaves aside the idea that high-quality vs. low-quality wood of a given type can have an effect as large as shifting from one wood type to another.

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