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Author Topic: Cedar Vs. Spruce  (Read 2227 times)
drewnolan82
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« on: April 17, 2005, 06:16:20 AM »

Have at it folks...I'd like to hear opinions on which is superior(I know it's all sooo subjective)  I have a cedar topped guitar, and I just worry about it cracking pre-maturely, maybe I'm just paranoid!
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Escalibore
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2005, 10:39:12 AM »

Why do you worry about Cedar cracking prematurely? I'm just curious, because I recently became interested in this tonewood.
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el guitana
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2005, 11:44:04 AM »

You ARE just paranoid. So relax.

I have both, great sounds from either. No cracks.
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wyodeb
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2005, 01:31:37 PM »

Keep an eye on the humidity, and enjoy the guitar. Cedar-topped guitars have their own magic. And I've seen antique cedar hope chests with nary a crack. :)

What kind of guitar is it? I recently played a cedar-topped Seagull. Sweet little guitar.

Deb
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ronmac
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2005, 01:50:42 PM »

Popular wisdom (now there's an oxymoron), says that cedar is a more delicate wood than spruce. It is more easily marked and does require you to be a little more careful in its use.

Cedar topped guitars have a very immediate attack transient withan abundance of overtones, or what some people describe as "sparkle". This can be a desirable trait, especially for fingerstyle play. It is also said that cedar sounds very good as soon as an instrument is built, whereas spruce may take some time to "open up" and reach its true potential.

Dana Bourgeois, recognized as one of the masters of tonewood selection and use, has this to say about cedar:

Western red cedar ranges in color from honey brown to light chocolate. It has a quickness of sound that exceeds any of the spruces, a higher overtone content, lower fundamental content, and lower stiffness along the grain. Additionally, cedar tops require a significantly shorter break-in period than spruce tops, a phenomenon that a few dealers of new guitars are beginning to pick up on.

Since World War II, cedar has been used extensively by makers of classical guitars. Cedar-topped guitars are characteristically lush, dark-toned, and bursting with flavor. They are often less powerful in projection than their spruce cousins, however, and they tend to lose clarity near the top of their dynamic range. Having enough bottom end is never a problem for a cedar guitar, although preventing the sound from getting muddy sometimes is. Because of its pronounced weakness along the grain, I find cedar to be used to its best advantage in smaller-bodied guitars or with non-scalloped braces. Redwood is usually darker in color than cedar and often displays the same general tonal characteristics, leaning slightly toward darker tones, less definition in the bass, and lower velocity of sound.


You can read what Dana has to say about other tonewoods here: http://www.bourgeoisguitars.com/tapping_tonewoods.htm

Ron
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Ron

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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2005, 03:24:30 PM »

I'll say this (Drew, you can appreciate this, I'm sure) some cedar tops: you barely touch 'em, and they ring.
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Escalibore
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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2005, 05:15:06 PM »

Found this page on top woods:

http://www.grevenguitars.com/shoptal3.htm

Looks like your fears may have some validity, Drew.
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drewnolan82
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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2005, 05:54:35 PM »

Yeah, I mean, so greven guitars doesn't like to use cedar.  Maybe it's just harder for the luthier to work with cedar.  I mean, 75% of James Olson Guitars have cedar, Ryan guitars prominately use cedar. It seems to me, that a guitar company either really loves cedar, or they really shy away from it.  Larrivee for instance, you never ever see cedar on their guitars. Why? Cedar is easily dented, scratched etc, probably gets banged around in the factory.  You see more cedar on boutique guitars, rather than factory guitars.  I'm guessing if I ever have a problem with my northwood(ie..the cedar splits unexpectedly)then I'm sure John would either fix or replace my guitar free of charge.
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ronmac
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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2005, 08:14:31 PM »

I wouldn't be overly cautious. I gigged hard with a cedar topped guitar for a few years. It picked up lots of little nicks and scuffs but, structurally, it held up fine.

If cedar is the sound you are going after, then there's only one way to get it.

Ron
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el guitana
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« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2005, 09:54:52 PM »

My Cedar/Rosewood classical sounds so good it can make you cry. Quite nicked up when I bought it...

My new little Seagull Grand (Cedar/LamCherry) sounds really nice. A guitar playing buddy played it for 45 seconds the other day and left pick scratches.  Ahhh, cedar....take the not so good with the good.....
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MJG
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« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2005, 12:07:02 AM »

From what I understand, Redwood has a cedar like tone, is a bit more stable and can take a harder strum before breaking up.  Sounds like an interesting alternative to cedar.
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« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2005, 06:27:56 PM »

For what I play, give me Cedar any day

Andy
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2005, 04:52:29 AM »

I bought a cedar top, Japanese made guitar in 1980 and it has never cracked or showed more than normal wear.  I have seen new cedar Takamine guitars that have been used as rentals and some of them have had significant scratches in the satin finish on the tops so perhaps they are a bit soft and delicate.
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sawdustdave
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« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2005, 01:42:06 PM »

A lot of my front porch trim is cedar - same stuff used in guitars, just a lot thicker. Tough as nails, this stuff. Hardens as it ages, it appears.

I have/had a cedar Simon & Patrick folk, and yes, it's "softer" but that has not been a problem. Most of what I've seen working with cedar as a woodworker is that structurally, ie, with the grain, it's plenty strong. However, across the grain - like a pick would do - marks are inevitable. But the sound is all it's own. Not spruce.

I would not shy away from a cedar topped guitar. Heck, I had a red cedar deck installed on my house last spring because it's much better than any treated lumber for outside use. But I did use "fake wood" for the flooring to avoid foot problems (read "splinters").

 
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2005, 02:49:57 PM »

I heard Bob Taylor say that working with cedar was more difficult because it cracked more often in the building stages.  But once it was on the guitar and finished, it was fine and stable.  

I've owned several cedar topped guitars, both Taylor and Goodall, and one custom Taylor redwood top.  Nice wood, but I came to the place where my tonal preferance was for spruce.  Just a choice, but I certainly wouldn't shy away from cedar for any reason other that tonal preferance.  It does tend to ding easier when coming in contact with objects like microphones, etc.  
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Calvin
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2005, 11:23:30 AM »

Yup cedar is more fragile.

But if you take care of it it's all the same.  Spruce does seem to open up much better than cedar once it opens up.
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2005, 09:40:34 PM »

I like the sound of cedar a lot, and I own a cedar Seagull, but I wouldn't recommend it to everybody because it does scratch pretty easily.  If you strum hard with a pick from the elbow you're probably going to end up with a Willie Nelson guitar.  I've seen them on the rack in music stores with some pretty obvious scratches in them.  They have a light finish, which I consider a feature but it probably doesn't help.  However, I strum almost totally from the wrist (or fingerpick) and haven't put a single scratch on mine.

The other caveat possibly is that cedar isn't as stiff as spruce, and hence usually doesn't take as well to medium strings.  If you're hankering for a bluegrass machine cedar probably isn't it.  I really like the sound of it myself ... especially with 80/20s, whose stronger fundamental seems to go well with cedar's tendency to emphasize the overtones more.
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bigmo
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« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2005, 03:06:57 AM »

I own Mahogany top, Spruce top & a Cedar top guitars and love them all, but the cedar is my go to guitar hands down. Cedar is softer, but is unique in tone. It is going to get scratched and dinged eventually and I am O.K. with that because I expected it and the sound is worth it!
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dreamsinger
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« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2005, 05:55:29 PM »

Yeah, I mean, so greven guitars doesn't like to use cedar.  Maybe it's just harder for the luthier to work with cedar.  I mean, 75% of James Olson Guitars have cedar, Ryan guitars prominately use cedar. It seems to me, that a guitar company either really loves cedar, or they really shy away from it.  Larrivee for instance, you never ever see cedar on their guitars. Why? Cedar is easily dented, scratched etc, probably gets banged around in the factory.  You see more cedar on boutique guitars, rather than factory guitars.  I'm guessing if I ever have a problem with my northwood(ie..the cedar splits unexpectedly)then I'm sure John would either fix or replace my guitar free of charge.

The guitars you mention are all pretty much purpose built to be fingerpicked.  Larrivee built a lot of cedar topped guitars (including dreds) without knowing what kind of player would get them and consequently wound up with a buttload of warranty work at the hands of flatpickers who bashed the crap out of them. Predictably, they shy away from it now.  When I ordered my Custom Shop OM, Matthew and I had a long discussion about the perceived problems associated with cedar. Since I considered myself a bit more cognizant than the average player and was having this guitar built to be fingerpicked only, I thought I said that I wanted cedar anyway. The guitar came with a Sitka top.  It took a few years to open up but it's still not the sound I would have expected from cedar.  I've talked to Lance McCollum about retopping it if I ever wind up with $1000 I don't know what to do with.
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2005, 01:14:30 PM »

I play a Tacoma ER22C cedar top and recently put on medium strings, which has brought out the tone I was looking for and has not had any noticeable detrimental effects.  I was concerned about the top being too weak, but so far it's been fine and this is the tone I'm seeking, so I'm doing it.  If the guitar implodes, then I'll have an excuse to find another!  If not, I'm loving it.

By the way, the latest and favorite strings I'm using now are FireWire strings, 80/20s.  If you haven't tried them, you should!  Alll the tone of uncoated strings, but they're supposed to last like no other.  I've only had them on a few days, so I won't vouch for that yet.
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