Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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petermc61
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by petermc61 » Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:33 am

Alan Carruth wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 10:41 pm
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.
Alan

I struggle to understand the logic here. Later the the same thread you also talked about eliminating subjective elements.

My point is that a guitar is for listening to. For pleasure. Enjoyment is an entirely subjective experience. You can take all the measurements you like but at some point you must have made a decision about what measurements, subjectively, sound 'good'. That is, you must have correlated sound you enjoy as a luthier with certain measured attributes of a guitar before you can focus on the measurements in producing your 'desired guitar'. I can't see how subjectivism is not intimately involved. It seems more likely that you use measurements as an intermediate process to more consistently product the sound (a subjective preference) rather than other more intuitive methods other luthiers might use.

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Peter

GuitarB
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by GuitarB » Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:18 am

HNLim wrote:
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.
I guess that they prefer IR over BRW?

gjo
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by gjo » Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:22 am

Alan,
you did not read my first post in total, I did not say anything else than you when I mentioned that I do not even trust myself in a blind test.

Perception of sound and interpretation of what we hear are two different steps in evaluating a musical instrument. Realizing tonal differences does not automatically include some sort of "ranking" saying that one instrument is better than the other.

On the one side we have two instruments with similar construction but different woods and we can assume that they might sound different. So far we still are in the "objective". The human factor, or the "subjective", tends to mislead us to conclusions like "better" or "worse". Saying that one guitar sounds "better" immediately devalues the other as being "worse". If we are aware that in evaluating we have to pass several steps from the "objective" to the "subjective" this knowledge can greatly help in understanding something. And here we come to good or bad science. Who can judge what is good or bad? Science by itself is not good or bad, it is simply science. Human interpretations or guidelines or ideologies or MONEY or ... can cause a tendecy towards good or bad. In the development of the Hiroshima bomb somebody must have seen "good" science - Albert Einstein did not! But who is Albert Einstein?
Last edited by gjo on Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by rojarosguitar » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:13 am

Maybe human beings are the most endangered species in the world by their tendency to tie themselves in knots about almost any question, creating all kinds of obsessions and finally going to war about it ... :lol:

Anyway, fact is, that whatever one can say about BRW vs other woods, the first is very hard to come by in really good quality and even the bad quality goes at high prices and involves a lot of hassles.
For me as a player I'd rather look whether a given maker makes a guitar that supports the musical expression I'm seeking. If a guitar plays in a satisfying way, I'm quite unemotional about the woods, the bracings, the construction scheme etc. Having two very decent guitar makers as friends taught me that it's much more important what they do with the woods they use than what woods they use. Any decent guitar maker will use the best wood available and make the best of it, and the choice is whether you like the result or not. I would not buy a guitar just because of the woods that have been used. Of course I'm happy if the guitar I like the sound of also looks pleasing.

And thanks of reminding us of the article by RP Feynman - a great fun to read it again. For quick reference, here's the link: http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.htm
Last edited by rojarosguitar on Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...

Alan Carruth
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:31 pm

In the end, of course, it's all about the music, and that's subjective. The problem is that there can be times when 'what it's doing' and 'what it sounds like' are different. For example, a change that makes the guitar sound 'louder' close up may very well reduce the distance the sound will 'carry'. Finding out what causes those things can help when you're trying to make an instrument for a particular person or use. Much of the difficulty in doing good science here is precisely in trying to correlate the objective and subjective outcomes.

I will also say that the more I learn about this stuff the more respect I have for the tradition. The old boys figured out how to do the right things, and came up with great designs, even if they did some of those things for what we would consider the 'wrong' reasons in the light of physics. It's hard to go wrong copying a good design, but you need to understand why they did what they did, and what the limits are. In this I think it helps to be as objective as possible.

But, in the end, when you've worked out the theory as well as you can, you need to do the experiment, and that entails making an instrument and handing it to a musician. If your theory is correct, and you did your work well, they might just get that smile and keep playing it. If they don't then you have to remember that one of the chief virtues of a good scientist is humility in the face of data. No matter how neat your theory is, it's wrong if the data don't back it up.

There have been some 'scientific' guitar designers out there who have given the whole approach a bad name, IMO. Again, it's very hard to make a guitar much better than the best ones of the standard design that was arrived at by trial over time. Claims that a certain feature or system will 'improve every guitar' or 'replace the standard designs' in a short time have not proven to be easy to back up. The ones that have worked out best seem to have been innovations of the usual type, dreamed up by makers who had the ability to work outside of the usual traditions. I note that even the most successful 'new' designs have not utterly replaced the standards, nor do they seem likely to any time soon. This is well within the historical norm too.

I the end, it seems to me that what the objective approach does is, as my violin making teacher said, to "raise the standard of mediocrity". As I learn more, my 'average' instrument gets better, and the spread between the best and the worst gets smaller. Much the same could be said of simply staying with it and making a lot of guitars. So perhaps, as Feynman warned, I'm just fooling myself. ;)

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:37 pm

I've skipped over a couple of questions about Osage Orange, as the answers didn't fit well. Basically, it is very difficult to work with hand tools. Although it has high splitting resistance, it is also quite cross grained and chippy when worked with a hand plane, for example. Perhaps a tooth plane would ease that issue. It does scrape pretty well. I have found that it bends about as well as any other wood that hard: you'll need to lean on it, but it goes. It is certainly not the pleasure in that respect that good BRW is. A recent experiment suggests that fuming it with ammonia can help the appearance a lot. There seems to be enough tannin in it to move the usual bright orange-yellow color to a more subdued dark honey hue.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Imbler » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:33 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:37 pm
I've skipped over a couple of questions about Osage Orange, as the answers didn't fit well. Basically, it is very difficult to work with hand tools. Although it has high splitting resistance, it is also quite cross grained and chippy when worked with a hand plane, for example. Perhaps a tooth plane would ease that issue. It does scrape pretty well. I have found that it bends about as well as any other wood that hard: you'll need to lean on it, but it goes. It is certainly not the pleasure in that respect that good BRW is. A recent experiment suggests that fuming it with ammonia can help the appearance a lot. There seems to be enough tannin in it to move the usual bright orange-yellow color to a more subdued dark honey hue.
Thanks Alan. Since I thickness in a thickness sander, and profile with a bandsaw it sounds like I might avoid the hand tools problem. I think I'll give it a try on my next. I definitely like the use of plentiful, non-threatened wood.

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HNLim
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by HNLim » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:57 am

I was playing my 1978 Yamaha GC30A with back and sides of BRW ( the Japanese calls or Jacaranda) this morning and I can still smell that very sweet fragrance coming out from the sound hole. The smell is much more intense when this guitar is kept in the case for several days. After about 40 years it is still giving out this intense fragrance. I am wondering if EIR does have the same property of emitting a fragrant scant? My 1974 S.Yairi 800 didn't have any smell at all since I owned 40 years ago.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Alan Carruth » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:22 pm

IRW does have a 'characteristic' odor, but many people find it unpleasant.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by dtrap » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:15 am

Ok, here is my experience with over 30 years of building with many different rosewoods.
Hands down Brazilian rosewood has a more complex color pallet to the sound over all other rosewoods. The only one that comes close for me is Honduran rosewood. Brazilian only cracks more if you don't take care of your guitars. Every player should have a humidity gauge and a humidification system. To keep your guitars sounding the best keep your guitars between 40% - 50% humidity.
Yes stump wood is from old stumps mostly found by farmers still buried in the ground. Once it is dried out and stored properly it won't crack any more than most other rosewoods. I have used flat sawn wood, perfectly vertical grain wood, highly figured wood and as long as it is dried properly and teh guitar not allowed to dry out, below 38% humidity there are usually no problems. I have carbon dated a lot of my Brazilian and the stump wood I have was mostly cut in the mid 1930's. The old beam wood I have, from old beams in buildings, was carbon dated with most my wood being cut in the mid 1800's. The oldest set I had was dated/cut around 1775!
As of January 1, 2017 ALL rosewoods must have CITIES if they are to be sold/shipped outside any CITIES participating country, which is most of the developed world.
It matters what the back and side wood is made of when it comes to color pallet and projection. I currently have two new guitars in the shop, same build but one with Brazilian B&S and the other very old Indian. The Brazilian guitar is a little brighter sounding but much more complex overtone structure etc.
If you can afford Brazilian, you won't be sorry.
Cheers,
Dake Traphagen

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James Lister
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by James Lister » Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:43 am

Welcome to the forum Dake, it's good to have you here.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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James Lister
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by James Lister » Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:24 am

Here's my parting shot before I bow out of this thread.

If you're a player, and you want a Brazilian rosewood guitar, then go ahead and get one. Anything that inspires your playing is worth spending a little more money on (if you have it to spare), but don't take part in any blind testing.

If you're a player and want to separate the myth from the truth, do some blind testing. Although it is very difficult to carry out thorough scientific tests, a few simple A vs B tests are worthwhile. Wear a blindfold, and compare 2 similar guitars but with different back and side tonewoods. Do this both as a player and a listener. Repeat this test whenever you have the opportunity. I'll be surprised if you do significantly better than random chance (50% if you're just testing pairs of guitars).

If you're a luthier, you have a choice. The vast majority of us have probably never done any serious blind testing, so it is not possible to know whether the differences we think we are hearing are real or not. Blind testing is an effective way of not only eliminating possible distractions and prejudices, but can also improve auditory ability (shown by a report published by the Acoustical Society of America, amongst others). You may be disillusioned, and even demoralized, as Kenny Hill was...
Kenny Hill wrote: "...I've done blindfold tests on two occasions, and I don't think I will do it again. It's too unnerving. My own blindfolded listenings have been among very sophisticated players, dealers and myself with my own guitars included among the guitars of high quality and low. Blinfolded, all of us were completely lost. We couldn't tell ports or not, spruce or cedar, our own guitars, even cheap or expensive. That is demoralizing. I never want to do that again..."
...but you will have more information about what differences (or changes) are important or significant in terms of sound production.

I've done some blind testing myself, and been involved with a lot more that was carried out as part of the Leonardo Guitar Research Project (see more here, and elsewhere in the luthier's forum). The Leonardo project results involved both experienced and student luthiers, and also professional and student players. There is a lot of information in the results, and as I have said before, the test conditions were not perfect, but the overriding conclusion was that most of the time, most players and listeners could not tell the difference between similar guitars built with tropical and non-tropical tonewoods.

In another recent test, one of my guitars was played alongside other maker's guitars. Although I wasn't quite as lost as the listeners reported by Kenny Hill, I did fail to pick out my own guitar, even though it had maple back and sides (I mistook it for a Kevin Aram Indian rosewood guitar), and also failed to pick out the one cedar top guitar in the group. Some listeners did a little better, but not significantly more so than you would expect by chance.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you change the tonewood used for back and sides of a guitar to one with different physical properties, then the sound of the guitar will change. The question is, is that change significant, and I think a good definition of "significant" is whether a player or listener can distinguish any change in a blind test.

I also have no doubt that some listeners will have greater ability to hear these subtle differences than others, and those in this thread who believe they can reliably hear a difference may be at the upper end of the "auditory ability" scale, but I would still suggest that the only way to be certain of this is to do some blind testing. It's scary (particularly for luthiers), but I do not regret having done it, and (unlike Kenny Hill), would be very happy to do more.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Alan Carruth
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by Alan Carruth » Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:58 pm

I'll note that 'blind' testing doesn't always need to be done with a blindfold. I did some tests last spring on a 'matched' pair of guitars. I controlled everything I could as well as possible, with the object of making two that sounded the same. Some tests are conducted with the player sitting behind a cloth screen. For most of the tests we simply had the audience sit in their usual places, but put the player at the back of the room where they couldn't see him. It worked well, even though the result was not what I hoped it would be: most people heard them as 'different'.

A few points to keep in mind.
1) Keep it simple. The best thing to ask the listeners is 'same' or 'different'. Almost anything else runs up against differences in taste or language usage.
2) I've been told that few people can remember tone accurately beyond about 15-20 seconds. If you're switching from one setup or instrument to another, it has to happen that fast.
3) Any sound in between a test pair will confuse listeners. Try to find a quiet spot, or one that is flooded with 'white' noise to test in. Try to avoid saying anything.

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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by dtrap » Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:27 am

All my listening tests are centered around the player instead of the listener. Since most players hear themselves, practising, a lot more than they perform I like to center the listening up close and personal.
Our ears/bodies feel different every day so it will be a slightly new experience each time. Also humidity changes will affect the sound of a wooden instrument.
Once one is out of their usual playing space there are too many variables, room size, room acoustics, ambient noise, distance from the guitar etc.
Ones personal experience is what really matters to me. I personally can hear the difference between different woods when I'm playing the guitar so I assume others can as well.
The difference in this type of setting between high grade Brazilian and my high grade old Indian is obvious to me assuming one is really listening 'into' the guitar and not just surface listening. Once one gets into top notch instruments it's all about the nuances and subtleties.
I'll be stringing up two new guitars this week and comparing them to others from the past, similar builds, similar woods, new designs etc.
The more one seems to know the more complicated it gets. The fine tuning of the guitar and ears is a never ending process.

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rinneby
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Re: Brazilian rosewood vs Indian rosewood?

Post by rinneby » Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:46 am

rojarosguitar wrote:
Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:13 am
Maybe human beings are the most endangered species in the world by their tendency to tie themselves in knots about almost any question, creating all kinds of obsessions and finally going to war about it ... :lol:
Haha :lol:
1965 - Masaru Kono No.5
1975 - Atushi Nakamura No.15
1977 - Kuniharu Nobe No.15
1996 - Masaru Kohno Maestro

Feel free to ask me anything about Japanese classical guitars.

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