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Old 03-01-2012, 07:15 AM
montydog montydog is offline
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Default Cedar vs Sitka Spruce top for fingerstyle

Hi,

I'm looking to get a second acoustic guitar for fingerstyle which I'm really getting into. It's the big half century birthday this summer so I'm hoping to get the purchase past "The Boss".

I like the wider neck of the Masterbilt EF 500 RCCE which comes with a cedar top and rosewood back and sides. How would you describe any tonal differences between spruce and cedar tops? Is the cedar/rosewood combination likely to make for a good fingerstyle guitar? Bear in mind that I can't get to any of these guitars to play them it so I'm relying on forum members who own or have played similar instruments.

Thanks for any input

Alan
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:26 AM
Fichtezc Fichtezc is offline
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There are a ton of resources on this subject which will go into more depth. But basically cedar tends to have more warmth and less headroom while spruce tends to be brighter, more focused and have more headroom. Most fingerstyle guitarists that I know (myself included) prefer a cedar top and usually with rosewood B/S or a rosewood style wood. You couldn't really go wrong with cedar either, I have a small body cedar and my next will be a larger bodied spruce.

http://www.pantheonguitars.com/tonewoods.htm

This is one of the better sites I've found.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montydog View Post
...Thanks for any input
Alan
Hi Alan...

Depending on the maker, Cedar tends to be warm and lush, and having owned several Cedar topped guitars which did not apparently have less headroom than my Spruce tops, I pretty much discount the remarks about less head room when strumming.

Cedar makes a wonderful fingerstyle tone, and it is a favorite among singer songwriters. I think you should take your time and play some examples of both and see how it strikes your ears and hands.

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Old 03-01-2012, 07:50 AM
budsy budsy is offline
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I reckon Cedar is best for finger-picking as i feel it doesnt hold as well for strumming

as Spruce does and which also does for both methods

but Spruce is certainly best for strumming

and Cedar for fingerpicking i reckon
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:02 AM
mcrofutt mcrofutt is offline
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I own one of those, picked it up a little over a year ago specifically for gigging fingerstyle. It is an awesome guitar at any price, even more impressive when you consider the price.
Everyone has different opinions about woods, but I feel a cedar top is generally more sensitive (because it's softer than spruce?) and therefore lends itself to intricate fingerpicking. The wide neck, the small body, overall ergonomics, and let's not forget an awesome electronic set up make this guitar exactly what I was looking for.
I think you'd have to spent 3 or 4 time as much to approach the attributes of this guitar from another manufacturer.
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:27 AM
kerbie kerbie is offline
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I think you'll find cedar is quite popular for fingerstylists. I'm probably the exception... I prefer spruce tops for fingerstyle. As already mentioned, cedar is warmer and not quite as bright. Headroom isn't much of a problem if the guitar is being used for fingerstyle.

I would play as many cedar tops as you can before purchasing. To me, it's a very different sound from spruce. But, if it's a sound you like, you will certainly not be alone. Good luck.
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:29 AM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Hi Alan,

I have two guitars with cedar tops, one over EIR and one over mahogany. They both work very well for fingerstyle playing. I also own guitars with sitka and red spruce tops and they work well, too.

From my viewpoint, spruce is a little brighter, but cedar has a very appealing lush, responsive quality. The string attack on cedar can sometimes show up as a little rounder sounding tone, particular on a rosewood B/S guitar. At first, I didn't care for that sound, but now I have learned to like it a great deal.

- Glenn
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:41 AM
DrBromiAndufEwd DrBromiAndufEwd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcrofutt View Post
I own one of those, picked it up a little over a year ago specifically for gigging fingerstyle. It is an awesome guitar at any price, even more impressive when you consider the price.
Everyone has different opinions about woods, but I feel a cedar top is generally more sensitive (because it's softer than spruce?) and therefore lends itself to intricate fingerpicking. The wide neck, the small body, overall ergonomics, and let's not forget an awesome electronic set up make this guitar exactly what I was looking for.
I think you'd have to spent 3 or 4 time as much to approach the attributes of this guitar from another manufacturer.
I looked really seriously at those as well after I got my DR500R. My masterbilt made me a believer.

My experience has been too that cedar tends to be a little more responsive to fingerstyle stuff and least the way I play...I can be more expressive with it.

A lot of what kind of wood is better for what depends on how YOU play it.
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:50 AM
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I have both and I fingerpick with natural nails. The full sound blooms more easily with Cedar. For those moments when I strum a chord with the backs of my fingernails, it does not get as loud as spruce; but that is a small trade-off.

But, don't take my word for it: Pierre Bensusan's signature-model guitar by Kevin Ryan is cedar over rosewood.
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:22 PM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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I play fingerstyle.
I love cedar topped guitars..and own several.
My top 2 favorite guitars are topped with spruces however.
Unfortunately, you can't predict what guitar you will think is "best" based just on what wood it is made out of.
The builder is a MUCH more important factor...and even then, you have to factor in the often wide variability in how a builders guitars can sound.
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff M View Post
The builder is a MUCH more important factor....
Definitely! My cedar top on mahogany is a Trinity College guitar (Saga brand; Schoenberg specs). My friend got the TC model with spruce over rosewood laminate and it is very similar.
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:45 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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I agree that a particular builder can make cedar or spruce tops sound very similar. On the other hand, if you take a group of Taylor guitars in a particular model line, say GC, GA or GS, for example, then you can hear the difference between cedar and spruce tops quite clearly. If you compare a GC7 (cedar) to a GC8 (spruce), both over EIR, the guitars are essentially identical except for the top woods. And there is a noticeable difference in sound.

If a person were to go to the Dream Guitars website and listen to Al Pettaway play spruce topped guitars and then cedar topped guitars, you can generally hear a difference on those recordings, as well. But not always.... The strings being used can make quite a difference, 80/20 being brighter than PB. For example, my Olson SJ (cedar/EIR) with PB strings sounds quite dark but with 80/20 strings, it has quite a bit of treble sparkle.

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Old 03-01-2012, 01:46 PM
Oilrunner Oilrunner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kerbie View Post
I think you'll find cedar is quite popular for fingerstylists. I'm probably the exception... I prefer spruce tops for fingerstyle. As already mentioned, cedar is warmer and not quite as bright. Headroom isn't much of a problem if the guitar is being used for fingerstyle.

I would play as many cedar tops as you can before purchasing. To me, it's a very different sound from spruce. But, if it's a sound you like, you will certainly not be alone. Good luck.
I am another exception then... at least when I think of tonewood for myself, since I have what Taylor folks call dark hands (I dont use so much of the nails...) it sounds in my ears much better when I play spruce tops compared to cedar tops
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:59 PM
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There are so many variables here that would be hard to describe it without charts
But I do agree with Jeff that builder is probably more important than the wood itself. I think body size and players hands (as Oilrunner mentioned) and attack is also important, if not more important than the wood. Then there is bracing and voicing. It goes on and on.
I've played many guitars where I've heard totally opposite what they "should" have sound like on the paper.

If I was choosing a fingerstyle guitar (which I will soon I would prioritize it this way:

1. Builder
2. Size
3. bracing and voicing
4. neck size and profile
5. top wood
6. back and sides
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Old 03-01-2012, 02:09 PM
jbslive jbslive is offline
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Spruce ranks #1 on the list of strength-to-weight ratio for all the woods in the world. So this means you can have a thinner top and produce better sounding guitars, which in turn means better fingerstyle results as well
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