Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
User avatar
James Lister
Luthier
Posts: 7072
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:53 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:23 pm

Apologies for a rather brief reply, but...
Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:08 pm
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..
Well yes, by taking away the sight you are making a listening test more objective, because you are not being influenced by the visual aspect of the guitar, or by any prejudice you might have. I don't believe there are any problems or limitations to blind testing if you're trying to get an honest, unbiased judgement of the sound of an instrument, provided the tests are done correctly (and I'm the first to admit that the tests done at Newark were not ideal).
I suspect we would agree that different soundboard tonewoods are more significant than those used for the back and sides, and yet I've seen blind tests where experienced luthiers have failed to reliably distinguish cedar from spruce.

I really recommend setting up some blind tests if you can - it can be a real eye-opener (sorry!)

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

User avatar
James Lister
Luthier
Posts: 7072
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:53 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:25 pm

GuitarB wrote:
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?
IMO, yes.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

MessyTendon
Posts: 1287
Joined: Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:33 am

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by MessyTendon » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:32 pm

Let's just agree to disagree, all trees are different regardless of species.

User avatar
James Lister
Luthier
Posts: 7072
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:53 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:36 pm

gjo wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:02 pm
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?
Not really a fair analogy. The difference in timbre of two such distinct voices is vastly greater than the difference between two similar guitars with different tonewoods.
gjo wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:02 pm
BTW, the concept of "good science" is a nonsense by itself.
Really? I spent some 12 years in physics, and I was probably involved in much science that was not "good", and I would agree that good science is difficult in practice (especially in such a subjective area), but the idea that good science as a concept is nonsense makes no sense to me.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Imbler
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Nov 24, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Imbler » Sat Sep 09, 2017 2:27 am

Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:44 pm
If you measure the properties of the woods BRW runs about 20%-30% denser than IRW, and tends to have much lower damping: it 'rings' longer when tapped, and with a stronger impression of musical pitch. It is not generally much stiffer at given thickness, though. There doesn't seem to be a lot of overlap between the species.

It's interesting that ABW relates to BRW in density the BRW does to IRW, so Elliot is right in that respect. However, the ABW I've tested had higher damping than BRW. Morado/Pau Ferro tests very similar to ABW, and I've gotten some nice guitars out of it, but nobody seems to feel it's al that great. Curious.

It's really hard to say what all of that means in terms of the sound of the guitar. Many people think that low damping is desirable, but not everybody prefers guitars made from low damping woods such as Western red cedar or Redwood, or like BRW better than ABW. Many tests, most recently the 'Leonardo Project' have concluded that the B&S wood has little, if any, effect on the tone of the guitar in 'blind' tests. When I built a pair using oak and BRW for the B&S they were slightly different, but not much, if any, more than two guitars made from 'the same' wood with equal care. At the time I though the differences were significant; now I'm not so sure.

BRW can certainly be a pretty wood. As a maker I'm not impressed by stump wood: perhaps my vision is clouded by the knowledge of what a pain the stuff is going to be down the road. Even the straight grained old growth stuff I have can behave in odd ways from time to time. In this respect BRW really suffers by comparison with IRW, which is said to be one of the most stable woods. Good BRW can be a pleasure to work, though, particularly if you include the smell; they don't call it 'rose wood' for nothing.

I sound like a broken record by now, but if you insist that you need the sound of BRW, then the closest wood I've seen in terms of properties is Osage Orange. The Osage guitars I've made have turned out very nicely. It does not, however, look much like BRW, or smell like it, more's the pity. Osage is practically a weed where it's common, so there's not much danger of your getting stopped crossing a border with it any time soon. The color helps in that regard to
Alan,
I'm sure you have mentioned it, but how does osage orange work vs rosewood (bending and sanding). Living here in KS where it is used for fence posts it has the reputation of being nearly unworkable, but I realize working fence posts is different than guitar sides and backs!
thanks, Mike

User avatar
Chris Sobel
Luthier
Posts: 1056
Joined: Sat May 04, 2013 8:44 am
Location: Vancouver, WA

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Chris Sobel » Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:22 am

James Lister wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:23 pm
Apologies for a rather brief reply, but...
Chris Sobel wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:08 pm
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..
Well yes, by taking away the sight you are making a listening test more objective, because you are not being influenced by the visual aspect of the guitar, or by any prejudice you might have. I don't believe there are any problems or limitations to blind testing if you're trying to get an honest, unbiased judgement of the sound of an instrument, provided the tests are done correctly (and I'm the first to admit that the tests done at Newark were not ideal).
I suspect we would agree that different soundboard tonewoods are more significant than those used for the back and sides, and yet I've seen blind tests where experienced luthiers have failed to reliably distinguish cedar from spruce.

I really recommend setting up some blind tests if you can - it can be a real eye-opener (sorry!)

James
No worries at all. I understand what you're saying and maybe I didn't present my view with as much nuance as I should have initially. I totally get what the blind tests are getting at and I understand the rationale behind them. I think the question behind the question that I'm trying to examine is whether it's appropriate to isolate the listening experience to just what you hear, and at that from a distance. For the majority of people playing the guitar, they are feeling, hearing, smelling, and thinking about the instrument while they play it. Now I really like testing instruments without knowing anything about them because it does take away preconceived notions which can influence perception of sound... but I really have to play them and not with my senses taken away because I consider those other senses to be important to the evaluation. That's what I'm getting at I think.

Cheers,

Chris
CE Sobel Guitars

gjo
Posts: 258
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:48 am

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by gjo » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:08 am

Well, we can argue about several subjects that might lead us away from the original topic.

As already mentioned: "We agree that we disagree!" (about several subjects)

Joseph
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2016 10:18 am

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Joseph » Sat Sep 09, 2017 10:05 am

I havent built with BRZ. But have repaired/fret dressed plenty. It seems to my ears to have just a little
more lexicon/eventide long hall reverb on ALL notes. Which the player may or may not like.
EIR seems a little softer in the high end response = but as others have pointed out it would also
rely heavily on how the maker constructed the back according to their desire for a stiff and reflective
Vs less stiff and "active" back making its contribution to the final tone.
Joseph "Soxy" Price
Professional Luthier,
Specialising in Advanced Playability and Accurate Intonation

LukeMarsden
Posts: 311
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2016 6:18 pm

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by LukeMarsden » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:14 pm

everyone who says there's a BIG difference between Brazilian and Rosewood....

Would you take a blind test on record?

Ask yourself honestly. I doubt it.

Fact is all woods sound different - you the player or listener can just choose and enjoy...

Imbler
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Nov 24, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Imbler » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:32 pm

LukeMarsden wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:14 pm
everyone who says there's a BIG difference between Brazilian and Rosewood....

Would you take a blind test on record?

Ask yourself honestly. I doubt it.

Fact is all woods sound different - you the player or listener can just choose and enjoy...
Agreed. And I would speculate that there is more of a difference between the quality quartered brazilian we used to get compared to the flatsawn stumpwood available today than there is between quality brazilian and quality EIR.

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 1940
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:10 pm

LukeMarsden wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:14 pm
everyone who says there's a BIG difference between Brazilian and Rosewood....

Would you take a blind test on record?

Ask yourself honestly. I doubt it.

Fact is all woods sound different - you the player or listener can just choose and enjoy...
I haven't seen many say the difference is BIG ... but why not, I'd happily do it, because whatever the result it would be instructive and interesting - and because I've normally got it right in the past 8)
But I've not seen any address my point that maybe better tops get put on BRW?
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

Imbler
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Nov 24, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Imbler » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:25 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:10 pm
LukeMarsden wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:14 pm
everyone who says there's a BIG difference between Brazilian and Rosewood....

Would you take a blind test on record?

Ask yourself honestly. I doubt it.

Fact is all woods sound different - you the player or listener can just choose and enjoy...
I haven't seen many say the difference is BIG ... but why not, I'd happily do it, because whatever the result it would be instructive and interesting - and because I've normally got it right in the past 8)
But I've not seen any address my point that maybe better tops get put on BRW?
I think that is very probable. At the cost of BRW, I would suspect that typically nearly everything is better on the guitar including workmanship. It really wouldn't make sense to use a thousand dollar sides and back set (I'm not in the market, but I've seen luthiers post that kind of price in recent years) but cut back elsewhere. Be kind of like cheap hubcaps on a rolls,

Brian M
Posts: 103
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:44 pm
Location: Hartford, Connecticut area

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Brian M » Sat Sep 09, 2017 10:35 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:44 pm
I sound like a broken record by now, but if you insist that you need the sound of BRW, then the closest wood I've seen in terms of properties is Osage Orange. The Osage guitars I've made have turned out very nicely. It does not, however, look much like BRW, or smell like it, more's the pity. Osage is practically a weed where it's common, so there's not much danger of your getting stopped crossing a border with it any time soon. The color helps in that regard to
In a recent similar thread on here there was a photo of a guitar with Osage Orange bridge, if I recall correctly, and the bridge looked a quite conventional and nice chocolate-brown color. Would it have been stained in some way? Would that be practical for back and sides?

Alan Carruth
Luthier
Posts: 2592
Joined: Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:56 pm

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sat Sep 09, 2017 10:41 pm

gjo asked:
"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? "

What I don't trust is my subjective impressions of the sound. I do experiments because I want to know what's actually happening, not what I think is happening.

James Lister wrote:
"Well yes, by taking away the sight you are making a listening test more objective, because you are not being influenced by the visual aspect of the guitar, or by any prejudice you might have. "

Exactly.

An example would be all the work I've done on 'sound ports'. When I started doing my 'port' experiments there was a group of makers who claimed it was a 'magic bullet' that made every guitar better. This simply didn't make any sense to me unless it somehow made the instrument more efficient. It took objective measurements to show that adding a port did not make the guitar more efficient, it simply altered the direction of the radiated sound at some frequencies, and changed some resonances a bit, changing the timbre. Since then this has become the 'common wisdom': ports can be useful for the player, in some circumstances, but may be useless or worse in others. Knowing objectively how they work, and when they might be useful, makes me better able to serve my customers by making the guitar they want.

I have not had the pleasure of working with a lot of old, forest grown IRW. I have to base my opinions on the stuff I've seen and worked with. If the older wood is indeed denser and harder, with lower damping, it may well be more like BRW.

James Lister wrote:
"I spent some 12 years in physics, and I was probably involved in much science that was not "good", and I would agree that good science is difficult in practice (especially in such a subjective area), but the idea that good science as a concept is nonsense makes no sense to me."

Right again. It's very difficult to do good science on musical instrument sound, largely because it's so hard to eliminate the subjective aspects. The recent doubts about the superiority of Strad violins owe a lot to the fact that it's not possible to 'blind' a player enough so that they can't tell an old fiddle from a new one, but not so much that it's unsafe to hand them a priceless instrument for fear they'll drop it. My violin making teacher had $20,000 worth of test equipment that enabled her to make spectrum charts. I can do the same thing now with an obsolete computer and free software, and a lot more besides. I could go on.

In the end I don't trust my own impressions of the sound of guitars for a number of reasons. Not least is the simple fact that I have been fooled, more than once, by my own prejudices. Another is that I'm very well aware of my own physical limitations: I suffered significant hearing loss in the military forty years ago and that sort of thing never gets better. I'm not going to waste time wishing the world was other than what it is: that's futile. Instead I'm trying to work around my limits in the best way I know how. Everybody has limits; do you know what yours are?

User avatar
HNLim
Posts: 2244
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:02 am
Location: Singapore - The City in a Garden

Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by HNLim » Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:27 am

I have yet to come across anyone who swears that IR is a better sounding tonewood than BRW.
Last edited by HNLim on Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

Return to “Luthiers”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Alan Hamley, bftobin, CommonCrawl [Bot], coreybox, dandan, doralikesmath, doug, Google [Bot], hgabriel, ivan, JohnH, Matt Jacobs, Ruki1414, senunkan, Yvon and 60 guests