I have a horrible confession. I’m not the best musician. I’m not even sure I could be called a dabbler. Yes, I work for Teton Guitars and even own one but I’m not a guitarist (insert gasps of amazement here). I played the Alto Saxophone in high school but that was over two decades ago. I can shred on Guitar Hero and Rock Band though (does that count?) and I really enjoy listening to music.
Now that I have that off my chest, one of the best things that I’ve loved about the Teton guitar models is their tone. The other thing I love is their look. Of course, both of these extremely admirable qualities are all due to the wood that is used in their construction.
Wood comes from trees. Another shocker, right? Living in the amazing area of the country that is the home of Teton Guitars, we are definitely not missing out on any trees. They’re everywhere. Granted, we don’t have any of the “tone woods”, or the type used for acoustic instruments; like Mahogany, Walnut, Maple, Rosewood, Spruce, etc. Okay, we do have some spruce, cedar, and the occasional maple, but they aren’t harvested here for building guitars. The point is that we have lots of trees here and my experience with Teton Guitars has given me a better understanding of the versatility of this renewable resource.
One of my passions outside of Teton Guitars is playing disc golf. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically playing golf with specially designed Frisbees. There’s a tee box, a fairway, and a “green” where the basket, or hole, is. The concept is the same, get the disc in the basket with the lowest number of strokes.
In the game of disc golf, trees are typically not a friend to the golfer. They block a shot at the hole, catch discs, or cause a bad bounce that kicks the disc out of bounds. Occasionally, they will keep a disc from going out of bounds, for which I’m grateful. I’ve certainly spent a good portion of my disc golf experience getting discs out of trees or trying to figure out how to get around one when it’s in the way.
Despite these bouts of conflict between my game and nature, I still have a profound respect for trees and all their varied uses. One round of golf, not too far in the past, was at a not-quite-so-local course at a state park. This park was covered in cedar trees. I remember teeing off on one hole and smacking one of those cedar trees with my disc. Normally that wouldn’t be so bad but this particular tree was only a dozen feet from the tee box. Definitely not one of my better drives. For some strange reason, I thought that I should cut that tree down and turn it into a guitar to commemorate its spectacular ability to stop my disc in mid-flight. I didn’t follow through on my mental threats, however. First, I didn’t have anything to cut it down with. Secondly, I don’t know the first thing about building a guitar. Third, I was almost instantly gratified when the next person in my group hit the very same tree. Outwardly, I shared my condolences. Inwardly, I was ecstatic that I wasn’t the only one that hit the tree. Completely beside the point as we were discussing tonewoods but I wanted to share some humor.
Tonewoods are chosen from a very specific set of guidelines. The wood used in the neck is different than that used for the body, in most cases, and they must complement one another to produce a good tone. The environment that the trees are grown in can cause different tones even among the same species of wood due to different densities and weights. The tonewoods selected for use in Teton Guitars are chosen from a list of traditionally established woods, like mahogany, spruce, and cedar as they have the best sound when the strings are vibrating. The woods used for the back and sides of the guitar are less critical as they do not have to resonate with the strings like the top of the guitar does. The woods for the back and sides are chosen more for their aesthetic look and how they complement the top. There are many different types of beautiful looking wood out there and Teton Guitars uses some of them.
While I recognize that the trees in my small part of the world aren’t used for the manufacture of Teton Guitars, or any other guitars for that matter, it still amazes me that a thin piece of wood that comes from a tree can be turned into an aesthetically beautiful and pleasing sounding instrument that, in turn, can be used to create music that is enjoyed by anyone, even tree-fearing/hating disc golfers. Maybe I wouldn’t mind hitting a tree so much if they sounded like a power chord on a guitar when they got hit by a disc.
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