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Poplar Wood for Guitars: A Comprehensive Analysis

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is poplar wood good for guitars

In today’s article, we’re going to find the answer to one of the most common questions among the guitar players: is poplar wood good for guitars? This wood material tends to be extremely popular and it’s frequently used by some of the most famous guitar manufacturers in the world. But is it actually good for guitars?

Absolutely! Guitars made of poplar wood usually have a nice and soft tone. In addition, it’s fairly lightweight and it has a really good sustain. On the other hand, that softness can sometimes affects its durability. Hence, guitars made of poplar wood are likely to break easily during a fall.

Guitar manufacturers all around the world use poplar wood for a vast majority of guitars – especially for cheaper models made in Asia. But it doesn’t mean that this type of wood is worse than mahogany, spruce or maple – it’s still a really solid material. Let’s dive deeper with research and find out why you should consider poplar for your next guitar.

What is poplar wood?

Poplar is one of the cheapest types of wood. It’s used for a wide range of products such as cabinets, decorations, furniture and of course – guitars. As a really inexpensive material, poplar plays a vital role during the manufacturing process of a lot of stringed instruments. In addition, after the right preparation, it can resemble much more expensive types of woods such as mahogany or spruce.

Why is poplar so popular?

The popularity of poplar is mainly caused by its low price and availability. Since it’s one of the most common types of wood in the world, it’s available pretty much in every part of the world. As you can imagine, the guitar industry is really competitive. That’s why a lot of manufacturers decide to choose the inexpensive materials, such as poplar, to stay ahead of the game and compete with some of the best guitar brands in the world.

Choosing that type of wood significantly lowers the overall cost of production, which also affects the final price. Hence, guitars made of poplar are usually less expensive.

How hard are poplar guitars?

As I mentioned earlier, poplar is a really soft material. In comparison with other popular wood types used in guitars, the difference in hardness is really significant. I did some research and I created the table below – you can see how hard is poplar when you compare it with such materials as mahogany, ash or cherry.

Wood TypeJanka Hardness Value (N)
Poplar2400 N
Mahogany3600 N
Cherry4200 N
Ash5900 N
Rosewood7900 N
Ebony14300 N
Advantages of guitars made of poplar

Of course, there is a few reasons why poplar guitars are so frequently used. They’re cheap, lightweight and they sound pretty good. And the fact that this material is not a durable as other hardwoods can actually be turned into an advantage.

Since this type of wood is really soft, it means that it’s easy to cut. From what I’ve read, the CNC machines that create raw guitar bodies out of poplar blocks tend to cut poplar like butter. Undoubtedly, this speeds up the whole process and that’s why so many guitar manufacturers choose poplar.

wood photo
Disadvantages of guitars made of poplar

The main disadvantage of guitars made of poplar is their durability. Of course, this type of wood doesn’t act like a piece of glass – it’s still really durable. But in comparison with other materials such as mahogany, swamp ash or spruce, this material is much softer.

It is also worth mentioning that after cutting, the poplar doesn’t look very nice – it often features ugly grey and green streaks. That’s why the vast majority of poplar guitars are painted and it’s difficult to find a guitar with a natural wood color. So if you’re looking specifically for a guitar that is not painted, poplar may not be the best choice for you.

Poplar Wood Guitars – Sound Test

If you’re interested to hear the sound of a poplar guitar, here’s a really good example. This great comparison of poplar, ash and mahogany guitars will give you a lot of perspective when it comes to guitar wood types and their tones. You’ll see that they all sound completely different. It’s also a great proof that the type of wood does matter and it definitely affects the final tone.

When it comes to poplar tone, it’s really bright and clean. In addition, it has a great sustain. I highly recommend checking out the video below – you won’t be disappointed.

If you’d like to check out more resources and tone comparisons, here’s another great sound demo.

What wood are the best guitars made of?

The best guitars in the world (and the ones that are the most expensive) are usually made of spruce, mahogany, rosewood or rare exotic woods. These materials are generally far more expensive than poplar, they sound a little bit different and they’re definitely not as soft.

In general, poplar is not considered as the best wood for guitars. It’s a solid choice, but there are better and more durable types of woods out there. Nevertheless, the kind of wood doesn’t really matter if you’re a beginner. If you’re just starting out, you’ll be completely fine whether you decide to choose spruce, mahogany, alder or poplar.

Summary

As you can see, guitars made of poplar can be a great fit for both beginner guitarists and more advanced players. Although they have a few pros and cons, they can still be a really solid choice for a lot of musicians.

Personally, I’ve heard a lot of rumors about poplar guitars throughout my journey as a guitar player. People very often told me that this material sucks but they never managed to prove it. And the truth is that guitars made of poplar are usually really decent. Of course, this is not the kind of wood from the top shelf, but at the same time it’s really affordable. So I think that it’s definitely worth it to get a guitar made of poplar wood.

Thanks for checking out today’s article, I hope it was helpful. If you enjoyed it, you may also like:

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