by Christian Young, Plant Health Management major



Guitars have been built of many different materials throughout their existence; acrylic, metal, Lucite, even cardboard. However, there is one material that gave birth to the instrument centuries ago and continues to keep guitarists mesmerized today: wood.

Specific tonewoods have dominated the guitar building arena including spruce (primarily acoustic guitars), mahogany, alder, ash, maple, ebony, as well as the prized rosewoods. Woods have their own characteristics as providers of “tone.” Some are deep and full, others bright and crisp.

One interesting aspect, especially when considering acoustic guitars, is the aging process of a tonewood, including the playing time applied to the instrument. Many guitarists will swear to you that their 40-year-old spruce top Martin guitar sounds better and “richer” than the day they bought it. And there may be some science to their claim.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales published results of the effect of aging and playing on violins. Unfortunately, the study only lasted 3 years, and in terms of vintage instruments, this would still be the infancy of the life cycle. So, it may remain a subjective question that only time will tell.

One certainty is that humans respond to music and the creative circle it fuels.

Christian Young is a Plant Health Management major.  When not studying chemistry and learning about plant health, he can be found with his guitar in front of his 100-watt amplifier.


Hunter, D. (2008, January 28). All About Tonewoods. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from

Inta, R., Smith, J., & Wolfe, J. (2005). Measurement of the Effect of Violins of Aging and Playing. Acoustics Australia, 33(1), 25-29. Retrieved April 04, 2016, from

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.


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