What Tonewood should I choose?
Following on from the Article on what a Tonewood actually is, which one will produce the sound you're looking for?
The following is entirely subjective and not an exhaustive list by any means, but is broadly agreed upon!
Alder is used commonly because of its light weight, most commonly in Stratocasters and electric guitars. Has an excellent clean tone. It is commonly a tan colour without many distinctive grain lines. Not a good choice for clear finishes, which is why they're so often lacquered.
Mahogany's weight and density are similar to maple, however mahogany carries are more mellow, soft and warm tone to it. Great sustain, but not well suited to clear finishes.
Rosewood is one of the heaviest woods available. Bodies made out of rosewood will be heavier than any other wood. The sound is very warm, although the high end sounds are dampened. Finishes can be a little difficult to apply. Usually reserved for fretboards only.
Walnut's tone is slightly warmer than mahogany, although it still has good sustain. Walnut can look excellent with oil finishes, and is moderately heavy.
Soft Maple is sed extensively in Korea, it’s a little heavy, but bright in the upper midrange, and dull sounding in the lows. The extreme snappy highs aren’t there either because the pores are so tight that the highs get compressed. Used more commonly on Nylon strung classical guitars, since it picks up the low string energy much better than any other wood.
Spruce is very soft to the touch, it is extremely stiff for it’s overall density. Like Alder, it’s another wood with a hard skeleton and soft meat. So in a solid body, it will produce tremendous resonant, open midrange, while retaining high frequency attack, and having good low end breath. Very popular across the range of guitars, particularly Sitka Spruce.
Cedar has been popular for years with classical guitarists. It responds very well to the low tension and energy of the Nylon strings to create a really warm, 'earthy' tone. Sometimes also seen on Steel Strung Guitars.
Bubinga is a fairly new addition to the guitar construction. Due to overharvesting of other woods, it's become a popular replacement for Rosewood as it shares many of the tonal properties. For this reason it's sometimes called African Rosewood.
Nato is an inexpensive replacement for Mahogany, sharing the bright, pronounced mid ranges, but doesn't quite have the presence of Mahogany.
Agathis is a low cost alternative to Maple, with a fast attack/decay and a fairly balanced sound.
Meranti is a low cost timber which is used for it's strength rather than tonal properties. This allows factories to build low-cost guitars that still work, although the tone will be poor when compared to the woods above.