Basswood is a soft wood with tight grains. Its relatively inexpensive of all the usual guitar woods, and it's easy on router bits in the factory, easy to sand, and easy to seal and finish. The softness of basswood means that sharp highs are dampened and smoothened. That helps offset the tinny sound associated with knife edged tremolo contacts. The softness also fosters a weaker low end. It's light in weight, but not because of large pores. Rather it's low in mass overall. Deep, breathy sub-lows aren't resonated in Basswood. The reduction in these outer frequencies leaves the mids pronounced in a hypothetical response curve. Its very suitable for the typical guitar range, and very suitable for lead guitar, because of its pronounced "out front" sound. Complex overtones are muted along with the highs leaving a strong fundamental tone. Production notes: Japanese factories like Ibanez seem to get a tan colored, more uniform Basswood while other Asian factories get a more flawed yellowish basswood. And there seems to be a big difference in tone. A clearer, darker Basswood should produce more sound, while the yellowish lower grade seems to have more of the undesirable tonal qualities of Poplar. A hardtail emphasizes the reduced dynamics of the outer frequencies. Alder:
Alder is light in weight with soft tight pores like Basswood. But there is a large swirling grain pattern to it with harder rings and sections. So imagine a Basswood type texture but with harder rings peppered throughout. That adds to the stiffness, and the complexity of the tones. It retains more of the highs that Basswood softens, but also gives some room to the lows. You have a broader spectrum of tones, which leads to the perception of a little less mids than Basswood. Production notes: Not much difference between factories, production. Swamp Ash:
Not to be confused with Northern "Hard Ash" Swamp Ash has huge, open pores with hard and soft layers within each ring of the tree. So you basically have a very rigid skeleton with open and softer pores throughout. It is very resonant across the whole frequency spectrum. It has clear bell-like highs, pronounced mids, and strong lows. It has some random combing away of mid frequencies, which will vary the sound per guitar more than Alder or Basswood. Two Ash bodies are more likely to sound more different from one another, whereas Basswood and Alder are more consistent. A heavier piece, or a piece from higher up on the tree will be more dead and lifeless. More dull sounding, because the wood is harder and more uniformly dense. So the sweetness of the soft open pores is gone, and left is the compressed sound of a rigid, non-responsive wood, without all the brightness and sustain of a harder wood or the openness of a softer wood. Production notes: An Asian mass produced factory guitar should be checked for weight, and openness of grain if the finish allows. Ash used at the big factories has a higher ratio of poor pieces than with smaller boutique builders, or other US builders, probably because it is a US wood. Mahogany:
Open grained with large pores, Mahogany has a more uniform grain pattern and density than Swamp Ash. Its density is constant within the ring and from one ring to the next. So it's rigidity is inherent in its composition, not in a "skeleton" with soft sections in between. It's constant density compresses the mids a little, and this can be considered a thick sound, because it does still produce good lows and low mids. Without the mids popping out, being responsive to dynamics, its more of a "wall of sound" Its not that it isn't midrangey, because it resonates those guitar frequencies well, but its not as responsive to them as an Alder or Ash. It also combs away more upper midrange frequencies for a more nasal sound. It has a good balance of fundamental and overtones for higher register soloing. High notes are richer and thicker than Alder or Ash. Production...