Of all the woods used to make guitars, pine is one of the oldest. Some of the first electric guitars were made using pine.
But was it any good? Is it still a worthwhile tonewood? And why aren’t many guitars still made with pine?
These are some of the questions I want to try and answer in this in-depth look at pine.
Table of Contents
What is Pine?
Pine trees are thin and tall and among the most common types of trees in the world. They can be found in most mountain regions across the Northern Hemisphere.
There are around 126 different types of pine. Most can easily be identified by their pine cones that bloom during summer and sometimes autumn.
Pine comes in a wide variety of different types, split between soft and hard pines. The common soft pines are Sugar, Western White, and Eastern White. Hard pines are split between Southern Yellow, Western Yellow, Red, and Pinyon.
Look and Feel
Pine is a light-colored wood. It usually has a grayish-brown color, but can also be a light reddish-brown. Pine has a light to mild coarseness.
Durability and Workability
Pine is a fairly soft wood, although it has decent density and stiffness. This makes it perfect for working with as it is easily machined and shaped.
Glues, stains, and finishes are also easily applied to pine. All of this makes pine an ideal wood for mass-producing guitars.
Its softness does pose a bit of an issue in terms of durability, though. Pine dents and scratches quite easily.
This also means that pine is only suitable for guitar bodies. Pine cracks and bends too easily to use in a neck, and is too soft to be used as a fretboard.
This is also why you won’t find any acoustic guitars made using pine. Even semi-hollow and hollow-body electric guitars are extremely rare compared to solid bodies.
This is also why you won’t likely find pine guitars with Floyd Rose-style tremolos. The risk of pulling the bridge out of the body would be too great and heavy movements could easily crack the wood.
Pine is also fairly susceptible to decay from temperature and moisture. Guitars made with pine require a lot more care compared to guitars made with mahogany, alder, etc.
This is one of pine wood’s biggest advantages over many other kinds of wood. It is very lightweight.
Guitars made with pine sit much more comfortably, especially when you are playing for extended periods of time. A lightweight guitar reduces the risk of developing neck and back problems after years of playing.
Pine is considered by many to be one of the best tonewoods. It is also considered to have one of the most distinct tones.
Pine features a very lovely warm tone with a gentle top-end. It has a very open midrange, making it great for chords.
It is also a fairly resonant wood, giving it quite a big and full tone. It does, however, fall a bit short when it comes to its sustain. Notes don’t ring out for quite as long as they would on something like alder.
Clean tones sound wonderful through pine. Notes have a fullness to them and are well-rounded. Pine has a very nice blend of boomy low-end and shimmering highs, without the mids sounding scooped.
Distortion is also not much of a problem for pine. It sounds thick and chunky with a decent amount of growl. It might be a bit too dirty with distortion maxed out, but pulling back a bit cleans the sound up quite a bit.
Guitars Made with Pine
Pine has actually become increasingly rare in the making of guitars. Most companies today favor mahogany, alder, and basswood. And with sustainable alternatives like pau ferro and paulownia also becoming more popular, pine is becoming even less common.
Only a very small handful of companies still use pine in a few of their guitar ranges. The two most notable are Fender and G&L.
Pine is quite expensive in terms of guitar tonewoods. That is why you only really find it in higher-end guitars like the Fender American Professional II and the G&L Fullerton Deluxe.
There are more affordable guitars made with pine, like the Squier Classic Vibe. But this is a much lower quality pine than what is used in the Fenders and G&Ls.
Even though pine is no longer as popular as it used to be, it is still a great choice as a tonewood for guitars. It is a well-balanced and unique-sounding wood.
The fact that companies like Fender and G&L are still making some of their highest quality guitars with pine, is a testament to its quality as a tonewood.