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Why is Everyone Kookoo for Koa?

We love koa, you love koa, everyone is kookoo for koa. What is koa? Found on the big island of Hawaii and made from the Hawaiian acacia koa tree, this tropical hardwood blends the midrange of mahogany with the top end of maple. Due to its density, a new koa guitar often starts out sounding bright – but the more it is played, the more the sound opens up with a beautifully rich, resonant tone.

A Little Background on Koa

Koa trees are very large – known to grow as tall as 82ft with a spread of up to 39ft wide (even larger if growing in deep volcanic ash). Koa trees were used by ancient Hawaiians to build canoes and surfboards and are sometimes still used to build furniture. Because koa is a 'tonewood', it is used to make ukuleles, acoustic guitars, and Weissenborn-style Hawaiian steel guitars. B.C. Rich used koa for some of their electric guitars, such as this 1982 B.C. Rich Bich Koa guitar. In Hawaiian language, the word koa itself means brave, bold, fearless or warrior.

The Hawaiian music fad of the 1900s-1920s brought farther reaching awareness to this unique and beautiful wood. In 1916, CF Martin created six models of all-koa wood guitars for their largest dealer at the time, Southern California Music Company in Los Angeles. After WWII, koa instruments started popping up all over the world. Taylor Guitars now makes an extensive line of koa guitars: the Taylor Acoustic Koa Series.

So why are koa guitars so popular? 

While many believe that the Holy Grail of tonewoods is Brazilian rosewood, Hawaiian Koa just might be in the running. Koa is lightweight and has a wonderfully compressed dynamic range. It combines clarity with warm, thick tone and produces incredible separation for individual notes. Koa wood is diverse and complex with an incomparable appearance. The color spectrum and swirling grain pattern is as wide as it is breathtaking – from varying reds to cinnamon browns and bold charcoal streaks.

So the sound quality and the look makes koa guitars highly sought-after instruments. Another factor is the scarcity of the wood and the fact that koa guitars will always be in limited supply. Koa forests have been depleted over the years, making the procurement of koa wood more difficult and very expensive. This is why the Taylor GS Mini 2014 Fall Limited Edition Solid Koa guitar is one of the most noteworthy items we have in stock right now. GS Minis are already a popular Taylor model, so at $699, this GS Mini which features all-solid koa top, back and sides is an incredible value.

One last reason the koa guitars have become so coveted could be that pop star, Taylor Swift, plays a gorgeous Taylor koa acoustic during many of her recent live performances!

Chicago Music Exchange has an impressive selection of koa guitars in-store and online. Shop Koa Guitars Now »

Chrissy Hansen
Chrissy Hansen