Skip to main content

Let me guess, you are looking to buy a guitar and are confused between Alder-body or Mahogany-body guitars. My friend, you are at the right place. In this article, I am going to discuss alder or mahogany, which would be the best for you. I was in this dilemma too.

The selection of alder-body or Mahogany-body guitar depends on your tone preference. If you want a warm, dark, and sustainable sound, then Mahogany guitars will be the better choice. 

However, If you are from the rock or blues genres, where bright and thinner sound is the important requirement, then Alder-bodied guitar is better.

Both Alder and Mahogany are the most popular tonewoods for electric guitars. Famous companies like Fender mostly manufactured Mahogany-bodied guitars. On the other hand, PRS mostly built an Alder-bodied guitar.

Personally, I like the hard metal genre. For my kind of music, I need a guitar with a bright and punchy tone. More importantly, for too long  stage performances, I need a lightweight guitar. I found all these qualities in my Alder-body guitar.

That said, I have spent a lot of time with both my Alder-body and Mahogany-body guitar. From my experience, I am going to pen down differences between these two, so you can pick your choice.

Also Read: Ash Vs Alder Body: Which Is Better For Weight, Tone & Price

Alder Vs Mahogany: The Difference

Alder Mahogany
Tone Bright and thin Warm and dark
Sustain Short sustain Long sustain
Density 400 – 500 kg / meter cube 700 – 800 kg / meter cube
Weight Light Heavy
Hardness Less hard Hard
Durability Less durable, crack under pressure. Durable
Cost Cheaper More expensive
Popularity Popular More popular 

Tone: Alder Vs Mahogany

Alder-body guitars provide brighter and thinner tones. Whereas, Mahogany-body guitars sound warmer and darker.

I have been playing and teaching guitars for several years. I have faced this question several times from my students and even from some guitarists too. From my experience, I always suggest they must choose according to their taste in music.

For example, I prefer playing rock and heavy metal music. For my kind of music, I need a guitar that sounds bright and clear. After several trials, I made up my mind to go with an Alder-body guitar to meet my expectations.

Here is the summary of tonal qualities for an alder-bodied guitar.

  • Guitars with an alder body sound bright and clear.
  • It provides a well-balanced tone between high, mid, and low ends.
  • Punchy and bright high ends.

A mahogany-bodied guitar also sounds well but it differs from an alder-bodied guitar. For my studio work, I also use a guitar made of mahogany. Specifically while recording solos or riffs, I need a warm and dark tone. So, I opt for Mahogany-body guitar.

Here is the summary of tonal qualities for an alder-bodied guitar.

  • Guitars made of mahogany wood produce a warm and dark tone.
  • Mahogany-bodied guitar’s low end is good and impressive.
  • Tones of these guitars are more sustainable.

Here, I have shared my experiences with both. If you are from the rock or Blues genre, you require a brighter and clear tone with a balanced sound. In my opinion, an Alder-body guitar can be the best choice for you. 

If you want your guitar to produce a warm and bright tone, a mahogany guitar would be the best pick for you. 

I cover how a wood can impact tone in this detailed article: How Does Guitar Body Affect Tone: Thickness, Wood & Size

Sustain: Alder Vs Mahogany

Both Alder-body and Mahogany-body guitars are good for sustain. However, when compared, mahogany-body guitars have longer sustain than alder-body guitars.

As I said earlier, I have been using both guitars for different purposes. For stage rock concerts, I mostly carry my Alder-body guitar for more bright and clear sound,

When I record music in my studio, for solos I often use my Mahogany-body guitar. This guitar provides me with a warm and dark tone with more sustainable tones. It helps me to sound my solos more dense and deep.

If you are mainly a lead guitarist, mahogany can be a good pick. It will give you the perfect and sustainable tones that you want to introduce in your solos. However, if you shuffle between genres, you must go with an Alder. It gives you a bright and balanced tone that may suit almost all genres.

Density: Alder Vs Mahogany 

Mahogany wood is dense and heavy

Mahogany wood is denser than alder. Its density ranges from around 700 to 800 kilograms per meter cube. Whereas, alder wood ranges around 400 to 500 kilograms per meter cube.

The density of tonewood decides the quality of the tone of the guitar. The denser the tonewood is the warmer and darker the tone will be. Similarly, a less dense tonewood will produce a brighter and thinner sound.

Practically, Mahogany-body guitars and Alder-body guitars are good for sustainability. But when it comes to playing solos and riffs, a warmer tone with a prolonged sustain is what a guitarist needs. That is why I use my Mahogany-body guitar for a warm and sustainable tone. It is denser than my Alder-body guitar.

It depends on what tone you expect from your guitar. If you like warm and more sustainable tones, go for a dense tonewood guitar, most precisely, a mahogany one. If you are interested in a brighter tone, less dense tonewood, an Alder-body guitar should be your preference.

Weight: Alder Vs Mahogany

Weight is important if you play while standing.

Guitars made of mahogany wood are generally heavier than an alder-bodied guitar because mahogany wood is more dense than alder.

In the studio, usually the weight of the guitar does not matter a lot. You can play it sitting on a chair. However, the guitar’s weight may become a burden for the guitarist while performing on the stage. Hanging a heavier guitar for a long time may cause neck pain.

While comparing my Alder-body and Mahogany-body guitars, I found the alder-body guitar is less heavy – which makes it suitable for live settings.

To be more precise, my Alder-body guitar weighs around 3.5 kilograms, whereas the Mahogany one weighs around 4.6 kilograms. Well, you may wonder how much this extra 1 kilogram effects, right? Trust me, this extra 1 kilogram of weight affects me a lot when I am performing on stage for almost a couple of hours. 

After an hour my neck starts hurting. This uncomfortable situation leads to a drop in my energy level and badly affects my performance.

If you are a lightweight guitar person, the Alder-body guitar is the best option for you. Else, you can easily go with the mahogany guitar for warmer and darker tones. 

Hardness: Alder Vs Mahogany

Alder guitar body is less durable than mahodany

Alder is a soft wood, whereas mahogany is harder. Janka’s hardness rating is the measure of the hardness of the wood. The higher the rating, the harder the wood. Here are the rating for alder and mahogany:

  • Janka Hardness Rating of Alder Wood: 590
  • Janka Hardness Rating of Mahogany: 1430

Hardness determines the durability of your guitar. The harder the tonewood, the more durable the guitar will be. Comparison in terms of hardness implies that mahogany is the clear winner. Mahogany wood is denser than alder. And that is why it is harder than alder wood.

In my personal opinion, an Alder-body guitar is softer than a Mahogany-body guitar. That means, my Alder-body guitar can be damaged with lower pressure.

That is why I use and recommend keeping the Alder-one in a hard case. I store both my guitars in hard cases. You can use a high-quality padded soft guitar bag for Mahogany-body guitar.

Durability: Alder Vs Mahogany

Mahogany-body guitars are more durable than alder-body guitars because mahogany wood is harder, heavier and more dense than alder.

The durability of guitars depends on many factors such as the hardness of the wood and how you store the guitar. 

Store your guitar in a case to extend lifespan

Here, I can guide you with a few techniques that will help you to make your guitar more durable.

  1. Store your guitar in a hard case. This will eliminate the possibility of damage through external pressure. It will also keep your guitar safe from moisture and dust.
  2. Clean your guitar, strings, and pick-ups every week. It will increase the life of your guitar.
  3. Apply lemon oil that helps to moisturize the body and the fret of your guitar.
  4. Play your guitar with a clean hand.

I have been using these techniques for both my alder-bodied guitar and mahogany-bodied guitar for more than 6 years and both guitars are still great.

Cost: Alder Vs Mahogany

Alder-body guitar is generally cheaper than mahogany-body guitars because Alder wood is widely available and grows faster than mahogany.

That said, the cost of guitars depends on more factors than just the tonewood – like pick-ups, brands and even the location of manufacture. 

You can get an entry level alder-body guitar from amazon for below $300. Whereas, the Mahogany-body also starts at $300 but quickly go up to thousands.  I bought it  almost one and a half years earlier than my Alder-body guitar. You can easily figure out how costly the Mahogany ones are.

Generally, Mahogany-body guitars cost a bit higher than an Alder-body guitar of the same quality.

Popularity: Alder Vs Mahogany

Alder wood and mahogany wood, both tonewoods are the most popular. But, in comparison, mahogany-bodied guitars are more popular throughout the world.

I played both types of guitar for more than 6 years. From my personal experiences, the following are the key factors behind the higher popularity of mahogany-bodied guitars.

  1. The warmer and darker tone
  2. More sustain
  3. Harder wood
  4. More durable wood

 Here’s a screenshot from Google Trends that confirms it:

Verdict: Should You Get Alder Or Mahogany Guitar?

Alder-bodied and mahogany-bodied guitars, both are popular and sound surprisingly well. However, due to the differences in the quality of the woods, the sound of the guitars varies a little from each other.

If you like warm and darker tones with longer sustain, then the mahogany-bodied guitar will be the best pick for you. However, if you want a brighter and more balanced tone, then an alder-bodied guitar is the best option for you.

Also, if you perform live and need to stand a lot, mahogany-body guitars could be too heavy for you. Make sure you try both of them first in person before buying. Remember, that additional weight which you think is small can make a huge difference when you play for a long time on stage.

Ifandi S.

About Ifandi S.

Ifandi started Strumming Bars to answer all the questions of a guitarist. As a self-learned guitarist, he remembered how frustrating it was to not find answers to his many questions in the journey. With Strumming Bars, that's no longer the case!

Close Menu

Strumming Bars

Best Resources Online To Understand Guitar