On the hard or soft wood question, it sort of depends on the tone and "chatter" frequency you want to produce in your yelps and purrs, etc. Harder woods "tend" to produce higher pitches, softer ones lower pitches. Other things also come into play as well, such as the wood's weight density and grain tightness. There are so many great wood possibilities, not to mention the new laminates and carbons for all the different friction surfaces. The best answer I could give is to try different ones and choose whatever sounds best to your ear.
Good luck, I hope some of this made enough sense to help.