When you talk about one of the most common and popular wood choices for guitars, basswood guitars is probably the first name that comes into everyone’s mind.
If you have been playing guitars for quite a while, then you must be aware that most of the guitars in the entry-level and mid-level are made using basswood.
Whether solid electric guitar or large size acoustic models, this tonewood is used by numerous manufacturers in the world to produce their vast lineup of guitars.
It may be an inexpensive and readily available tonewood type, but the right guitar weight with some certain excellent features make it a common choice for numerous guitar manufacturers.
Many guitarists and engineers used to consider basswood to be a mediocre tonewood quality for guitars, but nowadays, many top brands are using them in their high-end models.
Since they are readily available and don’t incur much cost, manufacturers are now applying modern engineers to get top-notch results for them.
Although the sound isn’t spectacular or mind-boggling, it is more than competent and gets you a rich tone at an affordable price range.
Every artisan agrees that this wood type can’t be compared with mahogany or swamp ash, but when master artisans craft them, then they get into a whole new avatar with incredible audio quality and reliability.
However, the factor that has made this wood widely popular is the balanced weight, and you will never hear people say that basswood guitars are too heavy or too light.
Basically, they offer the right weight that facilitates guitars to get the optimum playing experience without getting fatigued by the weight.
Basswood guitars are available in wide variety when it comes to quality output, but since its arrival in the market, they were mostly utilized for cheap models.
Due to this dreaded past, many people still associate this tonewood with affordable quality even though they are now preferred for top-end guitars.
The taboo of being an inferior quality has made some manufacturers hide the basswood construction feature from their expensive model’s feature list.
Some brands have even advertised their pricier guitars without mentioning the construction material.
If you look at certain mid-level guitars from reputed brands and bass units from Japanese Fender, they serve as the quintessential form of excellent craftsmanship on cheap wood.
However, if you think Fender guitars manufactured in Japan aren’t worthy, then you should know that the significant lineup of Fender guitars is made in Japanese factories.
Apart from the general notion in guitar communities, many legendary guitarists and expert artisans hail this product because it allows the manufacturer to produce excellent guitars without putting a hefty price tag.
A Brief History of Basswood
Unlike other wood types for guitars, basswood doesn’t have a rich history, and it was present in the market since the mid 19th century.
The basswood found in American is mostly obtained from the southern and northern belts of the eastern region of the United States.
Apart from these regions, North Dakota is quite known for contributing a large amount of basswood to the guitar manufacturers.
No one is quite sure how the idea of using basswood for crafting guitars came into existence. But many suspects that rise in popularity during the 1980s and usage for locking tremolo guitars gave manufacturers the idea for creating some best entry-level and mid-range guitars.
It was during that time; many guitar manufacturers used it for constructing maple necks as they are simple to cut through the mix.
Moreover, these woods are cheap (they still are) and abundantly available, so these reasons might have given manufacturers an alternative choice to create affordable units.
Basswood favors artisans as it allows them to easily and precisely carve them, and gradually every manufacturer started considering wood species as a potential choice.
However, it was during the late ’80s, the popularity of this wood type took a deep dive as some poor quality tonewoods were mistaken as basswood, and they were used for production.
Obviously, those tonewood types gave poor results, and everyone started considering basswood a poor choice when it comes to built quality and sound.
Despite the decline in popularity, guitar companies knew the potential of real basswood, and this is how they sustained in the market to this day.
This wood species is also infamous for its wide variety of wood quality, which made some guitar sound and feels excellent while others felt cheap and poor.
The disparity in wood quality allowed the manufacturers to create a gap in their price point. High-quality basswood was utilized for making expensive guitars that offer incredibly balanced sound and the right weight.
On the other hand, entry-level guitars made from basswood didn’t provide a high sound quality than the high-end model, but they weighed almost similar to standard bass models.
Numerous Asian countries, especially China, started mass-producing budget models with basswood, so it changed the whole perception of the American crowd.
Why Most of The Manufacturers Prefers Basswood?
Now a question must be circling your mind, despite such a lousy reputation why every manufacturer still prefers basswood for crafting guitars. Well, it is the lightweight property that attracts every manufacturer to use this tonewood for creating guitars, even the top tier models.
The overall low mass with large pores gives the guitar an excellent and playability that is preferred by every guitarist. It offers the right kind of lightweight, and you will hardly see anyone complaining that the basswood guitars are too low.
The basswood guitars without any special modification are naturally light and give the guitarist the feel like it is a natural extension of their body without neck drive.
Much other tonewood in this category may offer better design and sound than basswood, but none of them can match the balanced weight it has on offer.
When you go for live gigs or long jamming sessions, the guitar doesn’t weigh in on your body and maintains the energy without causing lethargy.
People with lean bodies found basswood guitars very useful because they can move quickly while playing and don’t feel the weight while gliding their hands over the fret. Importantly, this tonewoods doesn’t cause anybody slaps and lifts away from your body while you are playing in standing position.
However, the primary reason that has never stopped manufacturers from using basswood for guitar construction is the mid to full-range audio response.
Even though the tonal quality is a tad bit on the fatter side but the well-balanced tonal delivery makes it ideal for all kinds of music genres. It is soft, and all the grains are tightly attached, and that is why it softens all the sharp, high notes to create a pleasing audio output while playing notes or riffs.
However, many guitarists have said that a big highlight in its tonal properties is the robust midrange accompanied by breathiness and softness that you won’t expect from cheap quality wood. It also helps the guitar to minimize the tinny noise that occurs with sharp-edged tremolo contacts.
This tonewood type blends well with humbucking pickups because both of them produce the same frequency range, thus assisting the pickup in reproducing the exact audio quality.
Many high-end basswood models are engineered in such a way that they provide an impressive tonal range with excellent dynamics and definition in the audio.
They also offer an adequate amount of oomph that goes well with specific genres. However, you can’t expect a good low end while using thick strings or high octave as the softness of the wood prevents it.
Moreover, breathy or deep low-frequency tones don’t get resonated in basswood guitars, which often acts as a deal-breaker for many guitarists who want all-around output.
Basswood is well-known for its minimal grain composition with a light color tone that accentuates to numerous designs. Unlike other woods that are difficult to work on, this wood type is easy to work with hand tools.
Many Japanese artisans prefer this wood because they can carve on their bodies and bring out brilliant designs.
Most importantly, the low strength properties allow artisans to sand and stain to bring smooth finish.
Even though it has a tendency to shrink quickly, but it dries up quickly, which maintains the overall dimension of the body.
It comes useful for making guitar designs with a single color tone, and this is why many manufacturers prefer it when it comes to solid body color.
The close grain body configuration makes a significant impact because it helps the guitar to absorb a lot of finish and get that perfect look.
Since it gets a soft structure so you can’t expect a clear finish and shouldn’t make it go through a lot of carving as it might break.
You will mostly see basswood guitar color ranging from creamy white to light brown and reddish finish with complete uniformity throughout the construction.
This is why it is widely used for making guitars with opaque bodies rather than other guitar types.
Why Is Basswood A Controversial Tonewood Type?
By now, you might have a brief idea of why basswood is probably one of the most controversial tonewood types that have been debated since it arrived in the market.
The main reason behind so many controversies is the availability of different quality basswood in the market that has created opinion disparity among players.
Different manufacturers use various quality of basswood for manufacturing guitars, so many users got confused with the quality.
Since guitars with inferior quality wood didn’t sound right, so everyone started considering it as a cheap quality option.
Moreover, different cheap woods also came in the market that was mistaken as basswood, and it gave this wood a terrible name.
Despite having so many excellent properties, the easy availability and affordable option made people think that it is not worth their investment. Another primary reason basswood is mostly utilized in budget models is because high-quality basswood is expensive and cheap versions are easy to work on.
Importantly, basswood is predominantly common in cheap guitar, so it created the perception in the guitar community that it is low-quality wood.
Plus, many people were not aware that basswood built a high-end guitar that sounds good and feels good, so it was another behind its bad name.
You will be surprised to know numerous experienced luthiers consider basswood as one of their material because it gives the feathery weight and fullness in tone.
Many people have stated that when good quality basswood goes into the right hand, this wood type’s guitar can sound and feel better than that of mahogany.
But nowadays, things have changed, and people are gradually getting aware of this brilliant wood type as well as the excellent perks it has on offers.
Legendary guitarists like John Petrucci, Satriani, Guthrie Govan, and Steve Vai love using basswood guitars for their concerns and music production.
So Should You Get A Basswood Guitar?
- Well, if you are looking for a good quality wood at an affordable price structure, then we would definitely recommend you to go for basswood guitars.
- They have the texture and full frequency audio delivery that makes them suitable for all kinds of genres.
- Most importantly, they come with the almost ideal weight that gives you a nice feel and allows you to play comfortably for long hours.
- We hope we have been able to clear all the confusion related to this wood type and gave you a neutral view.