What Is Limba?

Terminalia superba goes by a few names: afara, korina, frake, and limba. It’s a large tree, growing as tall as 60 metres high, and is native to tropical Western Africa. Limba is available in two different varieties, though both are from the same species. Wood specimens with dark grey or black streaks are known as black limba, while white limba doesn’t have these streaks.

Along with being a popular choice for guitars since the 1950s, its attractive appearance makes it a common option for wood veneers and furniture.

Why Is It Used in Guitars?

Many consider limba similar to mahogany, which becomes perfectly apparent when comparing the tonal properties of both kinds of wood. It shares mahogany’s excellent sustain and strong mid-range response, and arguably offers better clarity and brightness.

Its first appearance in guitars came courtesy of the legendary Gibson, who were on the lookout for a new wood to use on their innovative Flying V and Explorer models in the late 50s. While it’s fair to say these guitars had a slow start, they’ve grown in popularity over the years and become iconic instruments. This increase in popularity has led other guitar brands to introduce their own ranges of limba models.

How Is Limba Used in Guitars?

Limba mostly figures as a body wood for both electric guitars and basses, where its great sustain and mid-range tones can really shine. It can also serve admirably as a neck. However, when doing so, care is needed to avoid splitting the wood while drying and working. Where luthiers do utilise limba in a guitar neck, it is often as part of a laminated finish with one or more additional woods for added stability.

Despite being a popular wood with outstanding tonal characteristics, limba is nowhere near as common in acoustic guitars. Despite this, some options are available, including offerings from Taylor and Larrivée.

Is Limba Sustainable?

In the early 20th century, limba was a popular wood choice throughout Africa, leading to harvesting at an unsustainable rate. However, in the 1950s, extensive replanting and preservation efforts began that bolstered the wood’s sustainability. Today, it remains in good supply and doesn’t appear on the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List.

Are Limba Guitars Expensive?

Although limba is an exotic wood, it’s also available in good supply, so it isn’t as expensive as some alternatives. However, with its attractive dark streaks, black limba is likely to cost more than white limba.

How Durable Are Limba Guitars?

With a Janka Hardness score of around 670, limba is softer than mahogany and much weaker than hard guitar woods like rosewood. With its less dense nature, it isn’t the most robust option out there and could be prone to denting. Therefore, you must properly store your guitar in a protective case whenever you aren’t noodling on it.


Besides protecting your guitar’s body as described above, limba guitars are pretty low maintenance and should be cared for like any other stringed instrument. Keep at a stable temperature and humidity and clean your limba body with a good quality polish suitable for your guitar. You could also consider adding guitar wax to protect your finish from scuffs and scratches.

Advantages and Disadvantages

As a popular guitar wood with many similarities to mahogany, limba certainly has plenty to offer:

Great mid-range responseMore easily damaged than mahogany
Well-defined lowsNo water, rot, or insect resistance in its unfinished form
Excellent sustain
Good note clarity
A variety of attractive grains and finishes are available

Are Limba Guitars Good?

Even though limba might not be a household name, it’s actually been a critical player in the history of guitar-making thanks to its use in legendary Gibson models. With excellent mid-range tonal characteristics, along with outstanding clarity and sustain, it is a fantastic option for electric guitar or bass bodies.


For a similar sound but with a little more warmth, along with a slight upgrade in durability, mahogany is a clear choice. If you’re looking for an even more balanced tone with solid lows, mids, and highs, then consider alder (for more pronounced upper mids) or ash (for more pronounced lower mids). Finally, a guitar body incorporating maple could be the way to go for a brighter, more trebly tone.

Find Your Guitar

If you like the sound of a limba guitar, why not try out our excellent Finder tool? Enter all your axe requirements, such as shape, woods, pickups, and price range, and begin the hunt for your next guitar.