Basswood is one of the most controversial woods out there.  If you don’t believe me, go to your favorite forum, and ask them about basswood…  

Make yourself some popcorn.

Get comfy.

Enjoy the subsequent havoc!

What makes basswood so controversial?  It’s been something that has been fiercely debated since the 1980s!

In my opinion, a lot of the controversy surrounding basswood stems from the fact that it varies wildly quality wise.  Good pieces sound very good, and bad pieces can sound truly awful.  Other commonly used woods like alder, mahogany and swamp ash don’t seem to suffer as much from a wide swing in quality.  

Lightweight cuts of basswood tend to sound much better than the heavier ones.  This is something that holds true for most tonewoods, but especially basswood.  If you compare the weight of cheaper guitars made of basswood to boutique instruments with basswood, you’ll find that the boutique guitars weigh less and usually sound a lot better.

It doesn’t help that a lot of budget guitars use basswood, and for a lot of guitarists, the only experience they have with basswood is cheaper budget guitars!  Naturally, this skews the perception of basswood held by most people as they’ve never tried a high end guitar with basswood.  The reason basswood is used on cheap instruments is because it’s relatively inexpensive to buy poor quality basswood, and it is very soft, making it easy on tools.  This means factories don’t have to worry as much about frequently replacing things like drill bits.

John Suhr, founder of Suhr guitars and a former luthier at the Fender Custom Shop has said many times that one of his favorite wood combinations for bodies is basswood with a maple top.  Basswood is a very “full” sounding wood, and it makes sense as adding the maple top gives the overall package more cut and brightness.

A wide variety of guitarists during the 1980s used basswood body guitars, especially paired with  bolt-on maple necks because of how well they cut through the mix.  Today, countless modern metal guitarists love basswood and it’s used by guitarists like John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Steve Vai (although he seems to have gravitated towards alder), Guthrie Govan, and Satriani on some of his JS series Ibanez.

The one persistent issue you will experience if you own a basswood guitar is that they ding very easily.  This isn’t a huge deal and it’s not like looking at it wrong will cause it to ding, but it is quite soft when compared to other woods like swamp ash or mahogany.

Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion surrounding the controversial wood.

P.S. don’t forget to take a look at our guitars we have in our store.  Maybe there’s something basswood flavored you want? 🙂

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