I recently became aware of this great research project that is happening in Europe in response to the deforestation and the rapidly diminishing supply of traditional quality tonewoods from the world’s tropical rainforests.
This project should benefit Tasmanian blackwood growers as the global momentum to find/develop sustainable and profitable quality tonewood supplies increases.
The main goal of the Leonardo Guitar Research Project is to study, demonstrate and communicate the possibilities of building acoustic and classical guitars from non-tropical woods. We want to improve global expertise in the craft and adapt it to economic and ecological needs.
The first results from their research were recently published.
All blind tests show that guitars made from non-tropical wood species were equally preferred for sound quality as those made from tropical wood. Non-blind tests show a strong fallback in sound appreciation experienced by non tropical wood guitars.
The need for the use of tropical wood in acoustic and classical guitar building seems to be a myth because blind tests have clearly proven that non-tropical woods can be used to make guitars whose tonal quality is fully equal to that of their tropical counterparts.
The fallback in sound appreciation experienced by non-tropical wood guitars in the non-blind tests, strongly suggests that preference is heavily influenced by preconceptions about what guitars should look like and about what exactly constitutes a tonewood.
All of which is great news. We don’t need to buy rosewood, mahogany or cocobolo guitars thinking that they make the best sounding guitars.
But we do already know that Tasmanian blackwood is an internationally recognised quality, sustainable, profitable non-tropical tonewood. We are just waiting for the market to come to Tasmania!
Having shown that these alternative non-tropical woods can make great guitars the next steps in this project should be:
- Make the guitars more visually appealing to make the consumer choice easier;
- Determine which woods are available in sustainable, commercial quantities. FSC certified sources would be even better. Surely the aim is to get the large manufacturers to start using these timbers;
- Marketing! I would imagine a range of 100% FSC Certified, non-tropical guitars on display at NAMM and Musikmesse would attract significant attention.
- Investigate sustainable non-tropical woods from other regions such as Tasmanian blackwood!!!
One of the objectives of the LGRP is to develop a network/database linking customers with luthiers, with growers and suppliers of sustainable, non-tropical tonewoods. While the current focus of the project is on common European woods there is every opportunity to expand this to other temperate zones.
Watch this space!