"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."
brings about confusion. It does to me when I
talk to the luthiers....
The same name is given to the same wood family of
rosewood, also known as: Rio or Bahia rosewood,
Jacaranda, piano wood,
caviuna, honduras, obuina, palisander. Luthiers
choose one type or
the other according to availability and the color/tone
they have in mind
for their guitars. What makes a guitar more or less
expensive is the cost
of labor and not the wood.
All the above are Rosewoods. Names such as Bois de rose, Burma and Nicaraguan, Siam, Honduras, Ocelot ear, palo oleo and Rio, Cambodian, Curatinga, Guatemalan, Domingo, Panamanian, Cocobolo and Aztec, Malagasi and Indonesian, Burmese, Caribbean, Central American, Borneo, are the names used to refer to the same plant and add to the mess. Rosewood includes over 10 different varieties most of which grow in Brazil. Some "web experts" will ask: "But is it Dalbergia Nigra?" as if the species had scientific tags attached to it. In my region of the world where the species blossoms, its is commonly known as Palisandro. It is not expensive as some builders or sellers will try to make you believe. It is possible that I have built or owned guitars thinking that they were made with Brazilian rosewood when in fact they were not. What is important is that the choice was made based on sound and construction knowledge and these are the essential factors.
I can access
beautiful cuts for a little over 80 US$. Somewhere
along the road, wood
sellers and luthiers will ask anywhere between 500
and 6,000 US$ (yes,
six thousand !) and will try to disguise the rip-off
by adding prefixes
such as "Imperial".... What a bunch of crooks
I have realized in the years that some cuts of Brazilian Rosewood sound just like any other wood. I also admit that some cuts sound TERRIFIC. But the price is seldom the reason. It is also true that on average, most cuts of African Blackwood or Lapacho sound better then the average Brazilian. Therefore, the best thing anyone can do is let the builder choose the best combination of Palisandro with the other woods for the construction. The phenomenon is known as matching... the sum of all the parts will eventually resonate beautifully...not the name tag on the wood.
Unfortunately many prospect buyers pick the information (the wrong one unfortunately) from guitar forums and newsgroups. These are infested with wish they were guitar players or guitar builders. They mislead the users and try to attract the buyer to their products often spreading lies and often post messages pretending that they are happy buyers of one brand or unhappy buyers of another brand. I have earned my trust by telling my fellow buyers what to look for in a guitar from a player point of view. Before venturing in constructing my guitars, I used to go to all the best European builders. I NEVER asked "What woods were used in the construction?". I used to ask the builder: "I am looking for a guitar that is easy to play. It must have beautiful ringing trebles and well defined basses". The builder would pass the instrument that he thought enclosed these characteristics. Usually it was his preferred one and often it only had some of the sound characteristics I was looking for. I would look at it, if I liked the looks of the guitar, I would play it and eventually buy it. I have come to realize that in over 30 years of classical guitar playing I never found a Brazilian rosewood match. And I have played hundreds of instruments throughout the years. Therefore, I have my good reasons to call the people I mentioned earlier a bunch of buffoons.
The unknowns about Rosewood are far more important than the "generally sought after qualities" ...namely grain...Just as the wood for the top is best when it grows at higher altitudes (Italian Pines), Rosewood is best when it grows in the deeper parts of jungles because in the dense foliage of tropical forest, where the light is limited. Under these conditions, Rosewood grows much slower, a phenomenon necessary to make it a top tone wood...
This is the key to Rosewood : How it grows. Therefore, it is best not to be stubborn about the wood being a certain species, but how the wood was born and how it grew. Nowadays, it is far better to build with other woods rather than being obsessed with Rain forest woods and ending up with greenhouse varieties, second quality cuts or build a guitar with woods from 5 or 6 different cuts. In my experience, I have found African Blackwood, Cocobolo, Lapacho and Bolivian Rosewood to be a better choice for the back and sides. Lapacho, an "unknown" Paraguayan variety, is in the same category as Brazilian rosewood but at a fraction of the cost. African Blackwood is up there with Brazilian and Lapacho only it is expensive and hard to find. Bolivian rosewood grows at fantastic altitudes in the dense foliage of the southern Brazilian/Bolivian border. I owned guitars for over 20 years and I rarely asked what woods they were made of.
to describe the sound that you are looking for and
let the builder and
the person you trust serve you best.
Read more of
my thoughts here:
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