Ash vs. alder. Which material is better for your guitar body?

Electric guitars are pretty popular today since they provide more options and are easier to use in comparison with simple manual guitars. Manufacturers can use different kinds of wood for electric guitar bodies but mostly prefer ash or alder.

Historically, many manufacturers produced their guitars with basswood and mahogany bodies. Even though you still can find guitars made of these materials, the majority of manufacturers turned them down and gave their preference to ash and alder.

At first, the materials seem similar, but they possess a bit different qualities. While alder is a lightweight wood that allows a guitar to have a balanced and resonant tone, ash guitar is more likely to have strong lows, pronounced mids, and bell-shaped clear highs.

Since the material is one of the most important factors that you need to take into account while buying musical instruments, let’s compare ash vs. alder and help you to choose the more suitable option for you. Keep reading.

ash vs. alder

Swamp ash wood

Swamp ash wood which is commonly used for Fender guitars belongs to the birch family.

This is a lightweight wood that is known for giving a bright and more pronounced tone. Moreover, ash guitars produce a well-balanced tone.

The reason swamp ash is preferable to be used for manufacturing fender guitars is that it is lighter. Swamp ash is the name for ash trees that commonly grow along the bank of rivers, streams, or creeks. This kind of wood is used for Leo Fender and Telecaster guitars.

However, today, Fender seems to give preference to other types of wood. The reason, which was conducted by the Guitar World, is that the Emerald Ash Borer beetle appeared near Canada and has been destroying ash.

Nowadays, swamp ash is mainly used for vintage models.

There are actually several types of ash trees. American ash can be used in everyday applications like flooring or making baseball bats.

The two types are northern ash and southern ash (swamp ash). Southern ash features light colour and has open pores, which is the reason it produces greater harmonic content.

Another reason why manufacturers prefer swamp ash instead of northern ash is that swamp ash guitars have a resonant sound, with an emphasis on upper mids. That is why you may see that northern ash is more commonly to be used in practical applications, for example, flooring.

To sum up, ash wood guitars are light and dense guitars, which produce sweet sounds and have great sustain.

Alder wood

Another material that is commonly used for making guitars is alder wood. Alder belongs to the birch family as well and mainly grows in the north temperate zone.

Alder is a lightweight wood that is able to produce a warmer, balanced tone, and that is why alder guitars are very popular in jazz bass.

There are different kinds of alder wood as well.

They are black alder (or European alder) and red alder.

Fender uses red alder for their guitars since this kind of ash wood is more available nowadays. Red alder can be described as a closed-pore wood that produces a resonant tone with an emphasis on the upper midrange.

Red alder bodies consist of two, three, or four parts glued with each other and are tighter than ash bodies.

Alder guitar covers a wide range of tones with a consistent sound.

In addition, today, Fender is more likely to produce guitars with alder bodies and decided to remove ash from the majority of their products.

Ash vs. alder. Which electric guitars are more suitable for you?

Now let’s have a deeper view on ash vs alder and choose the best option for you. The factors you need to take into consideration before purchasing a guitar are weight, sustain, tonal qualities, and price.


Ash and alder both possess a lightweight, but if we compare them, the ash body is likely to be a bit heavier. However, the weight of the guitar may also depend on the way it was made. Sometimes guitar manufacturers want to keep their products heavy.

So even though alder is generally considered to be a more lightweight wood, the weight may vary from model to model.

What concerns sustain, again both alder and ash are good at it. However, alder body guitars are pointed out to have greater sustain with an extra attack.


Another important factor is the sound produced by your electric guitar.

Generally, alder produces a more resonant and balanced tone, with more emphasis on the upper midrange. Close grain and pores allow alder guitars to finish in solid colors.

Those electric guitars produce something like an attacking, robust sound and have really impressive higher-upper notes.

Ash guitars produce a more subtle and rounded sound. This sound is considered to be clear and more natural. Such tonal characteristics of ash wood (especially swamp ash) allow manufacturers to use them for bass bodies.

Both guitars will have a well-balanced tone and impressive sound, which is why it is more reasonable to choose between them based on your preferences. That is why we recommend you test various models and select which tone wood suits your preferences better.


Another factor to consider is price. Typically, ash wood guitars are considered to be rather expensive, while alder guitars offer a reasonable price.

ash vs. alder

Cosmetic properties

Alder and ash guitars may also be differentiated by their cosmetic properties.

Ash body guitar has long straight grains which are easy to notice. Manufacturers tend to cover the surface of this guitar with a transparent or semi-transparent finish.

Alder body guitar can be recognized by tight, close grain and dense pores. In comparison with ash guitars, alder grains are not as visible. Alder wood is suitable for various kinds of finishes, and usually, manufacturers select solid colours to cover the surface of this guitar.

Practical usage

You may see that today many manufacturers are giving their preference to alder wood instead of swamp ash.

Fender has almost removed ash from its regular production models. Nowadays, ash wood is more commonly to be used in manufacturing broadcasters, equalizers, and stabilizers.

Nevertheless, many users still appreciate electric guitars with an ash body for their sweet and clear sound.

Alder wood is mainly used for producing Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Stratocasters, and Jazz Bass guitars. Fender takes advantage of this material because alder body guitars can produce sharp tones, which is really likable and favorable for electric guitars.

Can ash bodies be used for acoustic guitars?

In fact, ash wood is not the most suitable material for an acoustic body due to its lightweight and hardwood qualities. However, a few manufacturers use ash for producing the backs and sides of acoustic guitars. Still, it can give a better resonance than, for example, basswood.


Which is better, ash or alder?

Both ash and alder are considered to be the best tone woods, which is why it is hard to give preference to one of them. You should choose between them according to your own requirements.

Ash guitar will sound softer and rounder, while alder will sound punchier, producing a balanced and resonant sound. Concerning the price, ash wood products are likely to cost more, while alder products are considered to have a more reasonable price.

Why did Fender switch from ash to alder?

The main reason for switching from ash to alder is that alder wood is more available. Alder wood is cheaper and more stable. Red alder has a wider growing area, which is why Fender never faces a lack of this material.

It provides many advantages for electric guitars, for example, producing sharp attacks. Alder also offers the best sustain, which allows the production of robust guitar bodies. This is also a great tone wood which is likable for putting a stronger emphasis on the midrange.

Is ash more expensive than alder?

Generally, yes. Ashwood is considered to be a more expensive material. However, it all depends on the specific model of guitar, so it may turn out that an alder guitar will cost more than an ash one.

Is ash heavier than alder?

They have almost the same weight. Still, ash wood is considered to be a bit heavier. However, manufacturers can control the weight, so they manage to reduce the weight of ash or increase the weight of alder if they need to.

To draw a conclusion

There is not an absolute winner when choosing between ash and alder, since each material is a good kind of tone wood.

Nowadays, you are more likely to see alder being used for manufacturing musical instruments since it has a wider growing area and generally is more available.

Alder and ash feature different tonal qualities. Ash guitar tends to produce defined highs, pronounced mids, and sharp lows. On the other hand, alder will give you a strong, sharp, and attacking tone. Typically, ash is more prone to produce a sweet sound, while alder offers a resonant sound.

Alder is the prominent option for Jazz Bass, Stratocasters, and Jaguars and can be used for manufacturing broadcasters and telecasters. It has tight and slightly visible grain, and dense pores. Alder guitars are usually finished with solid colours. Ash has long visible grains and is usually covered with a transparent or semi-transparent finish. 

To sum up, since both ash and alder are great materials, you should choose between them according to your personal requirements and also test guitars before buying to see whether an option is convenient for you and has the sound you expect from it. 

Read More About Ash VS. Alder What’s ADifference?

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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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