Hello V&R Friends,
This weeks guest blog is written by Takis Kokkalis from Greece. Takis is a good friend of V&R and apart from being a passionate guitar aficionado & collector, Takis is also a businessman in the music industry and an expert on selected tonewoods. In this great article, Takis is telling us about brazilian rosewood.
Please enjoy the reading – All the best, Nicolai & V&R Team.
BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD (JACARANDA) – Dalbergia Nigra GENERAL INFORMATION
For over 200 years the Brazilian rosewood has been regarded as one of the most desirable woods for stringed instruments, due to its sound quality and appearance. Its great tap tone, sustain, unique grain pattern ( figure ) and color makes it a ‘must’ or even a ‘dream’ for every guitarist. It always has been the first choice for the top of the line guitars. However, this wood is very rare and very expensive, not only because of the increased demand, but also for the following reasons.
a) This particular tree grows naturally at a slow rate and is not planted in various plantations around the world, as it happens with most of the other rosewood types.
b) According to the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) restrictions, this wood cannot be harvested after March 1992. Only the wood that has been cut before that date can be sold and used. Hence, old Brazilian rosewood tends to be almost unavailable at any price. Please, find below all the relevant information about the Brazilian Rosewood.
OLD GROWTH BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD
This is the wood that has been harvested from trees which are at least 70 years old and over. Only these trees, being mature, have the desirable density for the sound, give the required size, possess the best colors and the fantastic grain pattern. (which make this wood unique among all the other rosewoods).
OLD CUT BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD
It is a fact that old instruments or instruments made by old wood sound better. They have the so called ‘old – warm tone’. Technically, due to a certain oxidation during the seasoning period, the damping factor is lowered which means they have better response, mainly in the low frequencies (more volume and articulation). Also, the wood is very stable in terms of deformation. The size remains unaltered and it suffers less from weather or climate changes. Therefore, the old cut Brazilian rosewood is extremely stable with excellent response in the low frequencies.
THE SOUND OF BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD
The woods with the lowest value of the damping factor, are the most sonorous, which means they have the biggest sustain. The Brazilian rosewood has very low damping factor, consequently ‘tons of sustain’. Its sound is rich, more pronounced than other rosewoods (more attack) and being old cut, very articulate and warm.
THE COLOR AND THE FIGURE
Its color ranges from very deep reddish brown to violet and sometimes orange with ebony colored streaking. There are many species, different in color and in figure, others with dark shaded parts or with even light brown (beige) parts. The figure may be very wild, exotic, consisting of dark and light parts with color variations or may be more regular consisting of fine dark lines close together with reddish intervals. However, Brazilian rosewood as it ages it tends to become darker. The dark parts will become almost black. The reddish brown will become deep purple or burgundy red and in general every color is going to look darker, thus giving a superb look to this wood. The darkening process might take at least one to two decades and it is going to be more obvious at the unfinished parts like the fingerboards or the inside of an acoustic guitar.
TYPES OF BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD
As far as the sound is concerned all types sound the same, with two exceptions : a) Of the Grassland type, which is ideal for small auditoriums and recording studios, due to its warmer sound characteristics. b) Of the Piaui type, which is ideal for big auditoriums due to the big projection sound that it produces. Additionally, certain species may be categorized somewhere between the different types.
1) CLEAR ROSEWOOD Very obvious grain pattern with more intense color variations i.e. reddish brown to light brown and sometimes orange. In this case the tree grows on a wet region (acid soils).
2) DARK ROSEWOOD Very dark with not so apparent figure, certain parts might look like ebony and certain others have a very deep purple or very dark orange color. This type is rare and much more expensive. In this case the tree growed on a deserted region ( alkaline soils).
3) IMPERIAL ROSEWOOD The ‘crème de la crème’ of the Brazilian rosewoods. Very rare and extremely expensive. It consists of many black lines closed together and the space between ranges from deep red to orange. The Dark and the Imperial types are used for fingerboards. The Clear, the Dark and the type between the Clear and the Dark is used for necks. Finally, according to availability, all types can be used for backs & sides of an acoustic guitar However, there is also a more precise classification which depends on the location that the tree grows and it is described below:
TYPE / QUALITY
1) Imperial ( Most Expensive) – Dark brown to violet bases with fine black lines. (Forest growth). 2) Colonial ( Most common type ) – Dark brown to black with diffuse design. (Forest growth). 3) Piaui ( Extremely rare ) – Dense wood, brown to violet – brown with darker stripe-design . Ideal for big auditoriums that a big projected sound is required. (Desert growth). 4) Grassland ( Rare ) – Slightly softer wood, looking similar to the Colonial type with somewhat clearer basis. (Grassland growth) GRADES ARE CLASSIFIED AS : A, AA, AAA, MG ( Master Grade ) The price varies according to the type of wood , the quality and the quantity. The cut ( quarter sawn or flat sawn…etc ) is also associated with the quality and the grade.
WE HAVE OFFICIAL PERMISSION FROM THE BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT TO SELL BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD. EVERY SET OR COMPONENT ( NECK – FINGERBOARD – BRIDGE – BODY TOP ) IS ACCOMPANIED BY THE CITES PASSPORT FOR FREE INTERNATIONAL TRANSIT. Takis Kokkalis President & MD Odes International S.A. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org