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Difference Between Alder and Ash

Alder vs Ash

Guitars have different types. But what guitarists are more concerned about is the type of material used to make the guitar itself. The reason for such is because different materials, like the variety of woods used to make the guitar body, will give away different sound or tone qualities. Two of the most common materials used are alder and ash.

Alder is more popularly used to make electric guitars. Coming from the birch family, it is a lightweight wood that gives away a brighter tone compared to other types. Also, because alder is not really a dense wood it gives a resonant and often a well rounded (full) tone that has an excellent sustain potential.

The alder wood itself has a soft to medium quality toughness. Its other wood properties like its ideal color, wood structure, softness, reluctance to swelling and shrinkage make alder suitable for making guitars. That’s why Leo Fender, creator of one of the most successful guitar lines today, used this knowledge to his advantage.

The traditional alder sound’s attack is pretty moderate and decays smoothly. This gives it a well balanced tone of clear highs and defined lows. Thus, this is recommended for guitarists who plan to cover a wide range of sounds by using only one guitar.

Ash, specifically the swamp ash, is another lightweight material that has an extremely porous characteristic. Its lows are strong, the mids are pronounced and the highs are bell-like but clear. There’s also the assumption that ash made its way to the production into high end guitars, not purely because of its tone but because it usually gives a more attractive finish to the guitar. This is the reason why guitar purchases usually start on an alder then the ash guitar will come later on as an additional upgrade.

There’s also the other factor of exceptional electronics, sound and tone quality may also be altered a little no matter what type of wood you’re using because of the guitar’s electronics. This means that even if you have an alder or an ash guitar yet the electronics used in it is faulty then the sound may end up like crap.

To some, the discussion of the difference between the two is highly opinionated. Like one guitarist may say that alder is best used for playing blues while ash is for rock while another may say otherwise. But oftentimes, it is the former. Nevertheless, many guitarists have slightly differing descriptions with the sounds of the guitars they use may it be an alder or an ash.

1. Alder covers a broader tone range.

2. Ash wood usually ends up with a more beautiful finish.


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