Maple Maple, as a result of its greater weight and lower sound velocity, can be downright flat sounding, a blessing in disguise when a guitar is amplified at high sound pressure levels. This is why maple is the wood of choice for electric guitar tops. West coast big leaf maple is the softest and lightest of the maple family, with a wood grain that resembles waves. Aside from a visually breathtaking pattern, the wavy fibers of "curly" maple reduce the long grain stiffness and vibrate more freely. (This is the secret to the bright, clear powerful sound of the Parker Fly, a solid-body guitar made with a curly maple body.)
In acoustic guitar use, different species of maple, such as big leaf, sugar, and bearclaw tend to be more acoustically transparent due to their lower velocity of sound and high degree of internal damping. This allows the tonal characteristic of the top to be heard without the addition of significant tonal coloration.
When used as a top, mahogany has a relatively low velocity of sound (compared to other top woods), considerable density and a low overtone content producing a solid tone, and responds best at the upper end of the dynamic range. Mahogany-topped guitars have a strong "punchy" tone that is well suited to country blues playing.
Sitka Spruce Spruce is the standard material for soundboards, the most commonly used species being Sitka. Its high stiffness combined with the lightweight characteristics of most softwoods, makes it a natural for high velocity of sound. A strong fundamental-to-overtone ratio gives Sitka spruce a powerful direct tone capable of retaining its clarity when played forcefully. This makes Sitka an excellent choice for top wood for players whose style demands a wide dynamic response and a robust, meaty tone. On the other hand, the lack of complex overtones in Sitka can produce a somewhat thin sound when played with a light touch - of course, depending upon the design of the guitar and the other choices of wood in its construction.
Red Spruce Red spruce is relatively heavy, has a high velocity of sound, and the highest stiffness across and along the grain of all the top woods. Like Sitka, is has a strong fundamental, but also a more complex overtone content. Tops produce the highest volume, yet they also have a rich fullness of tone that retains clarity at all dynamic levels. In short, red spruce may well be the Holy Grail of top woods for acoustic steel-string guitars.