Three examples of maple’s diverse anomalies and colors. Fiddleback flame maple, bird’s eye maple, and quilted maple.

Thanks to its abundant use, it’s easy to forget what luthiers have known since the early days of modern guitar building: maple is a top-notch tonewood.

There have been many celebrated tonewoods throughout the history of lutherie. In the electric-guitar domain, ash, alder, and mahogany have been traditional choices. For acoustics, the famed Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack spruce have prevailed.

However, as regulations tightened and supplies dwindled, many legacy acoustic builders, such as Martin and Gibson, moved onto Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce. Because of this, from the late ’60s on, these woods continued to transform the industry standard. But our community has seemingly lost sight of a highly viable wood—the same wood that Stradivarius used to make some of the finest bowed instruments, and the same wood that has produced among the world’s most articulate Spanish-style guitars: maple.

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