Alder vs ash. Which guitar body is more practical?

The material of your guitar body can influence its tonality, sound characteristics, and how it feels. Mostly, manufacturers prefer to take advantage of alder wood or ash wood (swamp ash) for producing guitar bodies. The materials may seem similar, however, these two types of wood possess different qualities.

Ash guitars are known for having strong lows, pronounced mids, and bell-shaped clear highs. While alder guitars are more likely to have a balanced and resonant tone.

Of course, you want your electric guitar to be durable, convenient to use and have a reasonable price. All these characteristics can be influenced by several factors. For example guitar nuts, or strings. So you should carefully study the information about electric guitars, the materials used, and their main characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.

It will help you to choose the best option for you. Keep reading.

alder vs ash

Alder wood

Before we compare ash vs alder, let’s study a bit about each material.

Alder belongs to the birch family. It is widely spread and grows mainly throughout the north temperate zone.

Today you can see a tendency to use prevalently red alder for producing musical instruments. The reason is probably that it features sharp attacks and great sustain. Moreover, it glues well and a lot of users admit that the red alder guitar is pretty easy to use.

The European alder or black alder is more common to grow in Europe or Southwest Asia.

However, this type of alder wood is not likely to be used for making guitars.

What makes red alder a good material for producing electric guitars is that it is light, closed-pore wood. Such characteristics of alder guitar bodies allow them to produce a resonant tone with prominence on the upper midrange.

Moreover, alder wood allows it to cover a diverse range of tones, which is likeable by those who only begin to play the guitar.

All these factors going hand in hand with a warmer balanced tone make red alder a popular choice for Jazz Bass, Stratocasters, Jaguars, and Jazzmasters. Since this material is more available nowadays you are likely to see it being used for manufacturing fender guitars as well.

Ash wood. Swamp ash

Ash wood belongs to the birch family as well. This is another material which is likely to be used when we speak about manufacturing electric guitars.

You may come across two types of ash trees. American ash or northern ash mainly grows from Nova Scotia in the north and Florida in the South and Southern ash is known as swamp ash and grows in southern regions of the US.

Northern ash is a hardwood. Therefore you are likely to see it being used for everyday applications, for example, flooring, manufacturing baseball bats, and furniture. These ash trees give strong, dense material with straight grains.

On the other hand, Southern ash is lighter and has large open pores. In comparison with northern ash swamp ash tends to produce a sweet sound. Swamp ash guitars were originally produced by Leo Fender. He used ash wood for Esquire, Broadcaster, and Telecaster guitars.

Swamp ash bodies give bright and pronounced tones. More specifically they produce a balanced high tone and a strong low tone.

Today ash body consists of two or three pieces glued together, but originally ash wood guitars were produced as single-piece bodies. Usually, they have a light colour.

Many people wonder about this material being used for acoustic guitars. Well, since it features lightweight and hardwood qualities, it is not considered to be suitable for acoustic bodies. But some manufacturers take advantage of ash while producing the backs and sides of an acoustic guitar.

What is the reason Fender no longer produces ash guitars?

Originally, fender guitars were produced with ash wood. However, with modern tendencies, you can see ash wood being used only in vintage models.

The majority of fender electric guitars feature a red alder body.

The reason is that red alder is more approachable. The growing area of this type of wood is from Southeast Alaska to Central California which makes alder trees relatively close to Fender corporation. Another reason for removing ash wood is the borer beetle which was destroying ash significantly.

We should also take into account that climate change which caused longer flood duration made swamp ash an expensive and hard-to-reach source. Generally, alder body guitars are easier to produce and that is why their price is comparatively lower.

What other materials are used for manufacturing electric guitars?

Ash and alder guitars are the most popular. However, some types of wood still can be used. For example, several fender musical instruments feature mahogany bodies. They were mainly produced in 1963 and 1964. Some models are still available.

The same situation with basswood bodies. In the 1980s many Fender instruments originated in Japan and were produced with basswood bodies. Today, however, it won’t be easy to find a guitar produced of this material.

Ash vs alder

Now we can compare ash vs alder based on characteristics such as weight, suitability, tonal qualities, practical application, cosmetic properties, and price, which will help you to choose the ideal electric guitar according to your requirements.


As we have already mentioned alder is preferable today. Since ash guitar requires more effort to be produced, Fender has almost removed ash. But still ash wood is popular for producing broadcasters, equalizers, and stabilizers.

And we should say that some users still give their preference to ash wood guitars due to their sweet resonant sound.

What concerns alder wood, it is used for Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Stratocasters, and Jazz Bass guitars. Fender also prefers this material because of the sharp attacks and great sustain it offers.

Weight and sustain

If we compare alder and ash, the second one is considered to be heavier. However guitars may vary in weight depending on the specific model, so it is no surprise that sometimes alder guitars may be more weighty than ash ones. That is why it is always reasonable to “try them on” before buying.

Both ash and alder guitars are considered to have excellent sustain, but many users admit alder body is prone to give a better sustain with the extra attack.

Tonal characteristics

Alder produces a clear and balanced tone. The sound can be even characterized as attacking. This punchy and robust sound is the result of the emphasis on upper mids which alder guitars are likely to have. That is why upper high notes sound really impressive.

Ash wood guitars are prone to have a sweet and resonant sound and a pronounced tone. Generally, it is clearer and more natural. Swamp ash is likely to have a subtle tone which results in a pleasant end-product of the sound produced. So those electric guitars offer strong lows, pronounced mids, and clear highs.

Since both ash and alder guitars offer a balanced tone and impressive sound, you should choose them mainly depending on your own requirements and always test different models before buying one.

Cosmetic properties

Alder and ash guitars also have different cosmetic properties.

Alder wood is likely to have tight, close slightly-visible grains and dense pores. Manufacturers usually cover these electric guitars with solid colors.

On the other hand, swamp ash has visible long straight grains and light colour.

Usually, such guitars are covered with a transparent or semi-transparent finish.

So what concerns suitability swamp ash is better for transparent instruments, while alder is more suitable for solid colours.


Alder and ash guitars may vary in price depending on the specific model. Generally, alder wood is more available, which is why electric guitar made from this material usually has a more reasonable price.


Which is better alder or ash?

Ash and alder are great types of tonewoods, so you should choose between them depending on your requirements. If you are looking for lower price guitar with an alder body is an ideal option for you.

When concerned with sound and tonal characteristics, ash produces a more natural and pronounced tone, while alder wood tends to have more emphasis in the upper midrange and sharp attack.

Why did Fender switch from ash to alder?

The main reason Fender gives preference to alder wood is that is more available. This type of wood is generally cheaper, more stable, and has a wider growing area. The guitars produced from alder also give better sustain.

While ash guitars require more effort to be produced and tend to be more expensive than older models.

Is ash more expensive than alder?

It may depend on the model of the guitar, but generally, if we compare alder and ash wood, ash wood guitars tend to have a higher price.

Is alder heavier than ash?

The truth is that ash and alder have almost the same weight. However, ash wood is considered to be more weighty. But you need to bear in mind that manufacturers control the weight of the guitar while producing it.

So sometimes an ash wood guitar can be lighter in comparison with an alder one.

To draw a conclusion. Ash vs alder guitars

If we compare ash vs alder, we may see that at first, they seem pretty similar. Both types of wood belong to the birch family and are commonly used for manufacturing guitars. However, they still have some differences.

A guitar made of ash has strong lows, pronounced mids, and clear highs. It produces a sweet, natural, and resonant sound. Alder wood guitar has an emphasis on upper mids which is why the sound can be characterized as punchy.

Both types of wood have excellent sustain. What concerns weight, ash is usually heavier, which is why an alder wood body can be more convenient to use.

The difference in cosmetic properties is that the alder body is usually covered with solid colours and has closed pores and slightly visible grains. On the rather hand ash has visible long grains and is usually covered with a transparent or semi-transparent finish.

Nowadays ash is rarely used for manufacturing guitars. This type of wood, however, is popular in everyday applications.

At the same time, alder is increasingly popular today. This type of wood is used for Jazz Bass, Stratocasters, Jaguars, and Jazzmasters. It is also commonly used for producing broadcasters and telecasters. In addition, Fender also takes advantage of this type of wood.

To sum up, both alder and ash are great types of tonewood that are used for producing instruments of high quality. That is why we can’t say which option is better. You should choose according to your own preferences and requirements.

The only advice is to test several models to see which one is more convenient and has sound characteristics which are more to your liking and only after that choose the model you will buy.

Read More About Ash VS. Alder: What’s The Difference?

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James/ author of the article

If you got to my page, it means that you are fond of music and are trying to record songs on your own. In my blog, you will find out exactly which options for sound equipment will be appropriate, depending on the specific case.

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