Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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Kent
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Kent » Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:50 pm

Brazilian Rosewood is less forgivable if you neglect your humidity control program. Dry winter air will most certainly create fissures.

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Chris Sobel
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Chris Sobel » Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:22 am

I think it's important to recognize that different designs emphasize or de emphasize the activity of the back of the guitar. The question of Brazilian vs Indian should always be qualified with the design. Both Friederich and Fleta built extensively with Indian rosewood and incidentally both designs have a stiff and relatively inactive back. Nevertheless Friederich said at the end of his career that he was increasingly rediscovering the merits of spruce with Brazilian. It should be noted however that many of these makers were building with old growth Indian which taps better than the plantation stuff we get now.

A design that emphasizes the back, either because the back has a high mobility or because the top bracing raises the cross dipole (Bouchet) which in my limited experience definitely increases the back contribution, the differences do become more apparent. I build with a flexible back and the tone color response of Brazilian is snappier and more complex than Indian. You either like it or you don't but there is a difference... it's not just hype or cache.

There are 5-10% of Indian sets that are higher in density and very low damping. These sets will sound as good as most mid grade Brazilian on the market because the properties are almost identical.

But good old growth Brazilian that is mostly or all quartered is really hard to beat (for me) in a traditional guitar! I try to build with it as much as possible. Madagascan and Honduran come close and can be indistinguishable.
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Chris Sobel
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Chris Sobel » Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:31 am

gjo wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:24 pm
UKsteve wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:11 pm
I've had plenty of luthiers tell me that BRW is the best B+S wood if you are simply considering its sonic qualities. I've rarely heard anyone say something else is better sonically?
Jeffrey Elliott mentioned African Blackwood (D. melanoxylon) and said something like "African BW relates to Brazilian RW as Brazilian relates to Indian RW" (just quoted from memory!)

Also in my experience there is a difference in sound that makes it worth to build guitars with BrazRW. It's not only the "hype" for precious, spectacular, rare, or very expensive, material that attracts experienced makers to use BrazRW, it still is the search for "sound"!

But I also have to admit that I agree to John Ray's opinion.
Yes that is the quote... there is a lot of Blackwood now that just stinks though and probably could be restated: floppy plantation Indian is to stumpy Brazilian is to gnarly Blackwood
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HNLim
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by HNLim » Fri Sep 08, 2017 3:02 am

Apart from the look and sound of BRW, I also love the fragrance it gives out. My 1978 Yamaha GC30A whose wood was probably being harvested much earlier still gives off this beautiful fragrance.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by montana » Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:39 am

andreas777 wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 12:28 pm
In my view the differences are so small that no-one can doubtlessly determine whether a guitar is made of BRW or IRW just be hearing the sound.
Imagine all sports cars are red and all city cars are blue. If you ask now whether red cars are faster than blue cars then the answer is yes, but the reason is not the color. If IRW is used for guitars of all price levels and BRW is used exclusively for high-end luthier made guitars, then you might have the impression that the usage of BRW is an important factor for its good sound.
Great point!!

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Jim Frieson » Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:09 am

Brasilian rosewood is not a homogenous substance that can be simply named Product A , as versus product B .
There is so much variety in it that comparison is made very difficult and complex .

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:20 am

Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:22 am
I think it's important to recognize that different designs emphasize or de emphasize the activity of the back of the guitar. The question of Brazilian vs Indian should always be qualified with the design. Both Friederich and Fleta built extensively with Indian rosewood and incidentally both designs have a stiff and relatively inactive back. Nevertheless Friederich said at the end of his career that he was increasingly rediscovering the merits of spruce with Brazilian. It should be noted however that many of these makers were building with old growth Indian which taps better than the plantation stuff we get now.
Chris, how would Hauser 1 fit into those issues?
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James Lister
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 11:08 am

Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:22 am
A design that emphasizes the back, either because the back has a high mobility or because the top bracing raises the cross dipole (Bouchet) which in my limited experience definitely increases the back contribution, the differences do become more apparent. I build with a flexible back and the tone color response of Brazilian is snappier and more complex than Indian. You either like it or you don't but there is a difference... it's not just hype or cache.
Hi Chris,

Have you done any blind tests? At Newark we've done some recently, and few players or listeners can tell the difference between rosewood and non-tropical woods, so I think distinguishing between Indian and Brazilian would be very difficult. As makers, we can build up a lot of experience, and if we use a variety of tonewoods, we start to get an impression of the subtle differences between different woods used for backs and sides (at least I think I do), but these differences are small, and I think we need to be careful about claiming significant differences, unless we can back the claims up with evidence from blind tests. Be warned though (and I speak from experience), blind tests are not good for boosting your confidence! :wink:

James
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gjo
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by gjo » Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:47 pm

I would not trust any blind test or anybody in a blind test, not even myself. IMO blind tests are self fulfilling prophecies that only intend to prove that nobody can hear a difference. Violinmaking schools love them to prove that a Stradivari is not better than any student violin.

Besides the the many innumerable intrinsic factors of a guitar, i.e. material, variations, ..., +++, I do not trust the "human" factors, i.e. the player, the audience, ... , in a blind test. They are not predictable or even consistent in their perception or playing condition. After a very short period of listening the differences get smaller and smaller and the player gets tired, especially when playing the same piece or phrase again and again.

But I do trust myself in having an opinion about my own guitars, especially when building more or less identical guitars with sister tops, one with Indian and one with Brazilian - I am sure that I hear a difference.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Alan Carruth » Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:56 pm

Apparently, back when they were cutting a lot of BRW, they used to leave the 'buttress' where the roots start to flair out at the base of the tree. These could be as much as 10-15 feet tall. Folks have been going back and cutting those down to process the wood for guitar sets. It's 'legal' wood if the trees were cut before 1992. The problem is, IMO, that the left those stumps for a reason. Aside from the gnarly grain, which exacerbates the instability issues of BRW, stumps also can have very high built in stress. Trees normally put on new growth in tension relative to the wood underneath, and this compresses the older wood. In a large hardwood tree the built in stress added to the weight of the tree can actually exceed the strength of the wood to resist crushing at the base of the tree inside, and the wood will fracture microscopically. Such wood 'brash fractures' when bent: it simply breaks off across the grain cleanly. I've heard of this happening with 'stump wood'. The few sets of the stuff I have seen also tend to look like potato chips ('crisps' for you Brits). None of this bodes well for the longevity of the guitar.

+1 for James Lister. People listen with their eyes to a large extent. My rough 'test mules' always sound better to blindfolded players. Havin done blind tests of various sorts, it seems to me that the differences between ostensibly 'identical' guitars are not much, if any, less than the differences people hear between, say, IRW and BRW. This assumes that the guitars are well made by luthiers who understand what they're doing. It is distressingly easy to mess up a set of good wood.

gjo:
Look up Feynman's essay 'Cargo Cult Science', where he talks about what it takes to do good science. The key is what I've been calling 'Feynman's Dictum': "You are the easiest person for you to fool". I do a lot of experiments, and I can vouch for that. I'm about the last person I trust when it comes to judging my guitars, or many others.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by GuitarB » Fri Sep 08, 2017 5:10 pm

So, basically the BR is more beautiful, and smells better than IR with very little affecting to the tone?

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by gjo » Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:02 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:56 pm
gjo:
Look up Feynman's essay 'Cargo Cult Science', where he talks about what it takes to do good science. The key is what I've been calling 'Feynman's Dictum': "You are the easiest person for you to fool". I do a lot of experiments, and I can vouch for that. I'm about the last person I trust when it comes to judging my guitars, or many others.
Alan, that does not make sense to me. Why do you do so many experiments when you finally are the last person you trust when it comes to judge your own guitars or experiments?

Why can we hear the difference in the voice of different singers but not the differences in the "voice" of our instruments? I can clearly say that I hear Sting when he is in the radio, he definitely does not sound like Pavarotti! Or do I fool myself?

And I have to say that I have not heard Sting as much as I heard my own instruments.

We all have a problem when we get "workshop blind" and start to believe that the sound of our own guitars is the very best in the world and we only accept this as the true and only sound. But hearing differences in the voices of guitars has nothing to do with it. If you were right in saying "You are the easiest person for you to fool" all your work would be simply trial and error without any sense because you would not be able to draw your own conclusions from what you are doing. Good science or not! BTW, the concept of "good science" is a nonsense by itself.

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Chris Sobel
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Chris Sobel » Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:08 pm

James Lister wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 11:08 am
Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:22 am
A design that emphasizes the back, either because the back has a high mobility or because the top bracing raises the cross dipole (Bouchet) which in my limited experience definitely increases the back contribution, the differences do become more apparent. I build with a flexible back and the tone color response of Brazilian is snappier and more complex than Indian. You either like it or you don't but there is a difference... it's not just hype or cache.
Hi Chris,

Have you done any blind tests? At Newark we've done some recently, and few players or listeners can tell the difference between rosewood and non-tropical woods, so I think distinguishing between Indian and Brazilian would be very difficult. As makers, we can build up a lot of experience, and if we use a variety of tonewoods, we start to get an impression of the subtle differences between different woods used for backs and sides (at least I think I do), but these differences are small, and I think we need to be careful about claiming significant differences, unless we can back the claims up with evidence from blind tests. Be warned though (and I speak from experience), blind tests are not good for boosting your confidence! :wink:

James
James,

I did two sister guitars recently and the difference with the Brazilian was very evident to me... that was comparing old growth Brazilian to plantation grown Indian that sounded more like mahogany. I think there are big limitations with blind tests, namely that it is not indicative of reality--as if by taking away the sight you make something more objective. Given that's not the way people actually hear or play, it seems artificial to me. Just like doing a taste test and pinching off everyone's noses haha... it actually doesn't translate to me eating a meal at home.

I agree with you that the difference is not huge. But I'm about pushing the sound envelope and every difference matters to me. We fuss about shaping braces a certain way to optimize mass... but nobody is wanting to challenge brace shaping to a blind test.

When you changed your bracing slightly you immediately noticed more volume, so you reported. I believe you--I don't need a decibel meter to prove it or any blind tests. If you are so easy to fool as Al purports, then why did you continue on in that bracing? At a certain level we have to trust our instincts, while guarding against self deception by having outside input from time to time. I am not the easiest person to fool by the way... I know many other people who don't spend hours a day listening to different guitars who would be easier to fool sound wise.

I believe we have senses we can trust although I agree with the propensity for self deception. I think there is a balance in trusting those senses as well as having outside input to keep a check and balance. To me the answer is not "if I don't do a careful experiment it doesn't prove it". That's actually an over confidence in experiments, and if we're so easy to fool then it's a self-destructive system anyway. Experiments back up or challenge my intuition but they are not a substitute for my senses; rather a complement. I have a series of players that give me feedback on my guitars and almost all of the time we agree on the "description" of what different guitars sound like. When it comes to preference on the other hand, we are often not in agreement.

I'll end with this... my mentor was once challenged to a blind test to see if he could hear openings in the harmonic bars in sister cut guitars built by someone else. Within 5 seconds of hearing just one he emphatically said "that's the one", and he was right.
Last edited by Chris Sobel on Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Chris Sobel
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Chris Sobel » Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:47 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:20 am
Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:22 am
I think it's important to recognize that different designs emphasize or de emphasize the activity of the back of the guitar. The question of Brazilian vs Indian should always be qualified with the design. Both Friederich and Fleta built extensively with Indian rosewood and incidentally both designs have a stiff and relatively inactive back. Nevertheless Friederich said at the end of his career that he was increasingly rediscovering the merits of spruce with Brazilian. It should be noted however that many of these makers were building with old growth Indian which taps better than the plantation stuff we get now.
Chris, how would Hauser 1 fit into those issues?
I think it's an interesting discussion point. The majority of Hauser I backs that I've measured are around 240hz, so it's definitely close to the top in pitch and playing a very active roll. While I haven't done a survey of the amount of Indian vs Brazilian guitars the Hauser's built, you only need to take a look at some of the Indian rosewood Hauser II used, according to Hauser III, and it's apparent that it is not the same as the stuff that's coming from the plantations today. I think what Jim says is very important because it can confound the issue of comparison since they are not homogeneous substances. I have about a dozen old growth Indian sets, which are much heavier and more brilliant sounding than the stuff these days. Given a choice between that and Brazilian the differences are much less. But it's almost a completely different wood. So the question of what kind of wood the Hauser's preferred... they used a lot of brilliant sounding rosewood is all I can say. I can't seem to remember seeing an Indian backed Hauser I (I'm sure there are some, I've only played about 8 HH1's, and he did use the material intentionally in his bridges, as in the '37.

I did play a maple Hauser III back to back with a Brazilian Hauser III for about 2 hours and the differences were not huge. The braz was louder for sure but other than that the overall timbre was similar. In that particular instance I actually preferred the european maple one but (sigh) alas it was not a blind test for me :D and the maple was extremely beautiful! The shop owner preferred the Brazilian on the other hand. They were also not sister cut guitars so the comparison is a little lacking, but of course other woods can sound great!

Thanks,

Chris
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:01 pm

Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:47 pm
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:20 am

Chris, how would Hauser 1 fit into those issues?
I think it's an interesting discussion point. The majority of Hauser I backs that I've measured are around 240hz, so it's definitely close to the top in pitch and playing a very active roll. ...
Brill, many thanks :merci:
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