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Thread: My attempt at a short rant on rosewood necks...

  1. #1
    Senior Member Brad737's Avatar
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    My attempt at a short rant on rosewood necks...

    Hello all,

    I've read thread after thread with great amusement about gents emphatically stating one type of wood is tonally superior for a guitar neck than another. To be brutally honest that tickles me to no end. This is Internet "cork-sniffing" of the highest order. And PLEASE Gents, don't take offense. I regularly engage in these pursuits as well. And I can state with absolute certainty that 99.9% of the "rosewood haters" are 10 times better guitarists than I. (I've heard a LOT of clips. I really enjoy when forum members post their music. It's a brave, noble, and personal act, and I truly love hearing "real" music as opposed to studio magic. Anyway...)

    In keeping with my promise of a short rant, please allow me to share my view of rosewood necks. First and foremost, I LOVE the feel of the raw rosewood in my hands. It allows me to make a quick and personal connection to the instrument. I find a glossy finish on a neck to be cold and impersonal. Think of protected sex. Intercourse with a condom is still fun, but it's even better au naturel. Satin finishes are a lot better, but still pale in comparison to my grubby, little mitts. As far as feel, I prefer my Brazilian rosewood necks over the other types. The Braz necks I've owned and played typically have a more closed grain and a little slicker feel. Not that I don't also love Indian and other types. But generally Braz feels a little better to me.

    Next up is pure vanity. I like the look of the woodgrain on rosewood. I realize that mahogany and maple can have great figuring (especially maple!!!) as well. But honestly, maple is a different beast in this discussion. Of the various rosewoods, again I prefer Brazilian. BRW can have some gorgeous, swirling grain that looks rich and classy. There's a reason Brazilian rosewood has gotten so scarce, and it's not because of guitars. It makes gorgeous furniture, and has been gobbled up for the furniture trade. I've also seen some Madagascar rosewood that looks pretty much exactly like Brazilian.

    Tone-wise, I'll admit I can't tell a difference between the various rosewoods for necks. But I DO think it makes a difference with fretboards. I want closed-grain for the fretboard. Brazilian is my clear favorite due to its generally closed grain.

    This brings me to the conclusion of my longer than anticipated rant. I can't help but wonder what sort of amps the "Rosewood Haters" are playing through? I have a ridiculous number of guitars, based on my meager talents. And they ALL sound a little different. All of my amps have Bass, Mid, and Treble controls, except for a Dr. Z with just a master tone and a Cut knob. With just a couple knobs tweaks, I can dial in "my" tone in a matter of seconds. Does the requirement to twist a knob or two mean a guitar is inferior tonally? If one doesn't want to tweak knobs during a gig, but changes guitars, perhaps an EQ stompbox for use with certain guitars would help?

    I hope you all took this in the spirit it was written. I'm not coming down on anyone for their opinions...just pointing out the folly of Internet over-analysis (and adding my own!) Actually I'm glad when others perpetuate the myth that rosewood doesn't sound good. It keeps the prices lower for me!
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    Well, not to overstate a sentiment that has been expressed in countless other threads, but I don't really believe that anyone is stating that rosewood sounds generally bad, rather it's just that some simply prefer mahogany, etc. for its particular tonal signature within the mix. Personally, I adore a beautiful BRW neck as well and really like the tonal contributions I THINK I get from it, but I have plenty of guitars with other necks that are ideal for those pieces. A truly great guitar IMO is one where a bit of a fortunate accident takes place.....where each specific component and particular pieces of wood blend together in serendipity. You can plan out or blueprint plenty of good guitars, but the really great ones are where a bit of magic happens, BRW or not.
    Last edited by AaeCee; 03-02-2013 at 08:33 AM.

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    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    I love my Brazilian rosewood neck. It feels sexy and has a beautiful earthy sound unlike anything else I have played.

    ...but if I had to pick one neck on one guitar to do anything, I would go with mahogany and an ebony finger board. This is far and away my favorite for 'textured' sounds.

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    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by veinbuster View Post
    I love my Brazilian rosewood neck. It feels sexy and has a beautiful earthy sound unlike anything else I have played.

    ...but if I had to pick one neck on one guitar to do anything, I would go with mahogany and an ebony finger board. This is far and away my favorite for 'textured' sounds.
    This.

    I love my BRW guitars, but if I had to choose just one wood combo it would be mahogany and ebony. I describe it as nice and warm with a little bit of low end snap. Not better, just different and my preference.
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    Senior Member AP515's Avatar
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    I've had two guitars with rosewood necks. Still have one of them. You speak of that "magic something" , the one I kept has it. The other just didn't. I think just as those different parts can come together to make the magic, the same built parts can come together and for some reason they don't add up to more than the sum of their parts. The one I traded sounded good, but not great like the one I kept.

    I also have mahogany necks with "it". I do like the feel of the natural BRW in my hands, but I also like the tone of mahogany. If a guitar has that rare combination of feel and tone, I'll keep it no matter what wood it is made of, but I do prefer the feel of rosewood.
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    Occasionally Onery Member CantankerousCarl's Avatar
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    I have been obsessed with the IDEA of a rosewood neck, but honestly never played one.

    I prefer brighter-sounding guitars, and from what I have read (for what that's worth) a solid rosewood neck might make things too dark for my taste.

    So, if I ever take the plunge on one, it will have to be after playing two of the same exact model, side-by-side, one with a RW neck and one without, to hear how my ears like it. I doubt that situation will happen easily, or soon, so I'll just have to wait.
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  7. #7
    RW necks sound great. I've had four. 'Hog necks sound great. I've had many more. Maple necks sound great. Several of those for me, too.

    And you're right, every piece of wood sounds different. Still, over the years, my favorite guitars have happened to have 'hog necks. I also have a slight preference for solid body guitars. Not that they're somehow better, but they work for me.

    So it isn't a matter of what's tonally superior at all. Just a matter of preference.

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    Senior Member Brad737's Avatar
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    That's my entire point, Les. I think with a few knobs tweaks, we can make most guitars sound very, very close to one another. I just feel like we're doing a huge disservice to our fellow musicians with absolute statements saying one wood is superior to another.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Brad737 View Post
    That's my entire point, Les. I think with a few knobs tweaks, we can make most guitars sound very, very close to one another. I just feel like we're doing a huge disservice to our fellow musicians with absolute statements saying one wood is superior to another.
    I quite agree.

    There is no such thing as "the best" anything. That's true of woods, components, guitars, amps, cables, pedals, and what-have-you. For example, a PRS may be the best guitar I've found for myself, but that doesn't mean it's somehow "the best" guitar, period. Because other choices might work better for other people.

    I always, always say that the best item is what you think works best -- for you.

    One has to chuckle at threads on forums asking "What's the best (insert category of object here)?

    Like this is a quantifiable, scientifically verifiable question! And of course, the joke is that the next 50 posts all have different answers, which kind of proves my point.

    "What's your favorite (insert category of object)? That's a legitimate question that can be answered: "My favorite amp is the Tone Blast -O- Verb 422."

    But not what's the "best" (insert category of object). No one can answer that one. It doesn't exist.

    Of course, for me it gets even more screwy, since of my paltry 3 guitars, I can't even decide which one is my favorite. If I had to save one from a fire, I'd die in the flames going "eenie, meenie, miny, moe..."
    Last edited by LSchefman; 03-03-2013 at 12:06 PM.

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    Senior Member Audie's Avatar
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    The poor brazillian rosewood tree. I meant to reply in the "acoustic guitar wood" thread, but glad I waited because what I opin, fits better here.

    Over a hundred years ago, the famous classical guitar builder Antonio Torres became completely miffed for the demand for braz back and sides, as he knew then of there over exploitation for furniture, watercraft, instruments, etc. To prove it was the top of the guitar that makes the precious sound, in the mid to late 1800's Torres built a guitar out of paper machet' back and sides and painted it to resemble braziilian. NO ONE was the wiser. The guitar is still in playable condition to this day. it resides in a museum in barcelona now. I saw this guitar when it made a cameo to one of the Smithsonians in DC. It looked great and fooled everyone.

    I build a couple of acoustic guitars a year. The sound difference is minimal in all the woods i used for back and sides. The top is another story. Spruce is wonderful and balanced for all playing styles, but I find the redwood, cedar and red cedar to be ahead of the spruces. Cypress does well, but I find it finicky and needs alot of tweaking. I like your thread Brad737. Thank you for so politely addressing it.

  11. #11
    Geezer wilerty's Avatar
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    I pretty much agree with the OP.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Audie View Post
    The poor brazillian rosewood tree. I meant to reply in the "acoustic guitar wood" thread, but glad I waited because what I opin, fits better here.

    Over a hundred years ago, the famous classical guitar builder Antonio Torres became completely miffed for the demand for braz back and sides, as he knew then of there over exploitation for furniture, watercraft, instruments, etc. To prove it was the top of the guitar that makes the precious sound, in the mid to late 1800's Torres built a guitar out of paper machet' back and sides and painted it to resemble braziilian. NO ONE was the wiser. The guitar is still in playable condition to this day. it resides in a museum in barcelona now. I saw this guitar when it made a cameo to one of the Smithsonians in DC. It looked great and fooled everyone.

    I build a couple of acoustic guitars a year. The sound difference is minimal in all the woods i used for back and sides. The top is another story. Spruce is wonderful and balanced for all playing styles, but I find the redwood, cedar and red cedar to be ahead of the spruces. Cypress does well, but I find it finicky and needs alot of tweaking. I like your thread Brad737. Thank you for so politely addressing it.
    You don't hear differences between, say, Maple back and sides and RW or Mahogany? I don't mean to disagree, because obviously I've never played one of your builds, but I hear substantial differences between guitars made with different woods when playing guitars made by other builders.

    In fact, if you play a spruce top Ovation with a large bowl of plastic back and sides, it will sound different from a wooden guitar of similar dimension. Not worse necessarily, just different.

    The way I read the Torres papier mache guitar story, the argument wasn't whether this or that species of wood was the source of the guitar's sound, people were arguing at the time over whether it came from the top, back or sides. He proved that the top was the main contributing factor, which makes sense, since it happens to be the main vibrating part. I'm not sure this proves much about his ability to make guitars that sounded different based on the woods used.

    However, Torres continued to build all of his other guitars out of tone wood species, as far as I know. It's my understanding that he also claimed that he was the only person who could achieve the tone of his instruments because of the sensitivity of his fingertips with respect to shaping the various components, especially the bracing, and that they could never be duplicated by any other means.

    The PRS acoustics seem to have been designed on the principle that the top is the main vibrating component, and the rest of the guitar is designed not to move as much. I think they sound great.

    There have been some online audio/video comparisons of the tone differences between several of the builds of the PRS guitars with maple, pernambuco, and RW back and sides, and they do, of course, sound different. I don't know if one of them was linked here or over at VR, however.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 03-03-2013 at 02:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad737 View Post
    Hello all,

    I've read thread after thread with great amusement about gents emphatically stating one type of wood is tonally superior for a guitar neck than another. To be brutally honest that tickles me to no end. This is Internet "cork-sniffing" of the highest order. And PLEASE Gents, don't take offense. I regularly engage in these pursuits as well. And I can state with absolute certainty that 99.9% of the "rosewood haters" are 10 times better guitarists than I. (I've heard a LOT of clips. I really enjoy when forum members post their music. It's a brave, noble, and personal act, and I truly love hearing "real" music as opposed to studio magic. Anyway...)

    In keeping with my promise of a short rant, please allow me to share my view of rosewood necks. First and foremost, I LOVE the feel of the raw rosewood in my hands. It allows me to make a quick and personal connection to the instrument. I find a glossy finish on a neck to be cold and impersonal. Think of protected sex. Intercourse with a condom is still fun, but it's even better au naturel. Satin finishes are a lot better, but still pale in comparison to my grubby, little mitts. As far as feel, I prefer my Brazilian rosewood necks over the other types. The Braz necks I've owned and played typically have a more closed grain and a little slicker feel. Not that I don't also love Indian and other types. But generally Braz feels a little better to me.

    Next up is pure vanity. I like the look of the woodgrain on rosewood. I realize that mahogany and maple can have great figuring (especially maple!!!) as well. But honestly, maple is a different beast in this discussion. Of the various rosewoods, again I prefer Brazilian. BRW can have some gorgeous, swirling grain that looks rich and classy. There's a reason Brazilian rosewood has gotten so scarce, and it's not because of guitars. It makes gorgeous furniture, and has been gobbled up for the furniture trade. I've also seen some Madagascar rosewood that looks pretty much exactly like Brazilian.

    Tone-wise, I'll admit I can't tell a difference between the various rosewoods for necks. But I DO think it makes a difference with fretboards. I want closed-grain for the fretboard. Brazilian is my clear favorite due to its generally closed grain.

    This brings me to the conclusion of my longer than anticipated rant. I can't help but wonder what sort of amps the "Rosewood Haters" are playing through? I have a ridiculous number of guitars, based on my meager talents. And they ALL sound a little different. All of my amps have Bass, Mid, and Treble controls, except for a Dr. Z with just a master tone and a Cut knob. With just a couple knobs tweaks, I can dial in "my" tone in a matter of seconds. Does the requirement to twist a knob or two mean a guitar is inferior tonally? If one doesn't want to tweak knobs during a gig, but changes guitars, perhaps an EQ stompbox for use with certain guitars would help?

    I hope you all took this in the spirit it was written. I'm not coming down on anyone for their opinions...just pointing out the folly of Internet over-analysis (and adding my own!) Actually I'm glad when others perpetuate the myth that rosewood doesn't sound good. It keeps the prices lower for me!

    I am not a Rosewood hater. I have 2 Private stocks with RW necks, and have owned at least 5 others with both IND and Brazzy necks. Personally I find Rosewood gets fuzzy in the lower registers. Its not a huge difference, but enough that it bugs me with my playing many times. The feel? When i am playing, I am concentrating so hard on what I am doing, I cant tell any difference. When i sit there and THINK about what feels better, then yes, a bare neck can feel slightly better, but a good finish is pretty much as smooth as bare wood anyway. Actually, I am rubbing my hands up and down my CU22 semi hollow LTD, my Brazzy neck and Indian neck right now. The CU 22 with the finished neck is the smoothest by a good margin. As usual, its all personal taste. I am lucky enough to own several, and I like them all! For me however, if I could only have one, it would be Mahogany. The clarity of the lower notes (lack of fuzz) and the slower note bloom just sits better with my ear. EQing an amp has nothing to do with it. Use what fits your playing best!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Audie's Avatar
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    Hey Les,

    I hear the differences. I look at them also on an oscilliscope. The differences are there but subtle. Not to the point of blatanly obvious, but subrly different. I find that indian rosewood and mahogany bodies are the closest. Maple is defintely brighter. Koa! I am building a gorgeous koa right now. I will add a picture later this week. I cant find a home for Koa, other than to say a comfy fit bewtween maple and rosewood, and I dont mean to say it s close to mahogany. I guess I am just saying that time after time I see subtle differences. I have even started to lean towards the notion that the age of the tree and the environment the tree was exposed to has as much to do with the sound as the species. Sinker mahogany for example is just a more denser wood because of age and environment, but yet it sounds better than other mahoganies. The most sound dynamic guitar i built to date was a macassar ebony (dender than brazzy) and german spruce top concert. The species of spruce from europe to the americas is not that dramatic. What is dramatic, is the age of the trees. The german spruce I acquired came from a small portion of mature old growth forest that survived WW2 bombs. I have never had a peice of spruce like that again. Different builders do different things so a lot of things come into play here as to the wood, the environment of the wood, how it was cut and processed and how they used it to build their musical instrument that is played. The common denominator of sound in an acoustic guitar in descending order is the top, bridge, bracing, neck, prescision of scale placement and thus the fingerboard. I truly believe a dense fingerboard is required for an acoustic guitar. After that I find it all to be mostly cosmetic, again, except for the subtleties I mentioned.

    About Torres, yes you are correct Les. In my pursuit of learning whatever I could from the great luthiers, I found that Torres was much the concerned stewart of the woods. While yes, he used the arguement the top was more important than the sides, he also very much did not like the wreckless use back then of the Brazzy wood. Brazzy was prized for many things. It smelled great, and looked even better so it made great furniture. Massive furniture peices that are still of great values today. It was desired on the sea for it's sea worthiness. Back then, the wood was harder to get from the tribes people also. With less attention to the back and sides Torres knew he could make musicical instruments with great wood, more readily available that did not have to be brazzy as prefferred by the aristocrats of the time. He basically killed two birds with one stone with his paper machet axe.

    I guess my thoughts might still be as clear as mud. Simply put, I see the differences in back and side wood as subtle at best. Again tree to tree is subtley different even within it's own species. I will ad this caveat with great caution, picking/plucking style maginifies these differences as does amps. But now we are past the wood and dealing with all sorts of inconsistent dynamics from player to player and builder to builder. I beg that I hopefully was a little insightful and helpful here. I usually run from these conversations, but I find this thread by Brad to be very healthy approach and certainly appreciate your wisdom Les.

    Last thing of note;
    Yes PRS is correct the soundbox is the most important part. An acoustic guitar performs basically like a speaker. The bridge is the magnet that is powered by the vibrating strings, the soundboard is the paper cone. The bracing, well it is the bracing. The back and sides are the cabinet. The soundhole is the amp. PEACE

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Audie View Post
    Hey Les,

    I hear the differences. I look at them also on an oscilliscope. The differences are there but subtle. Not to the point of blatanly obvious, but subrly different. I find that indian rosewood and mahogany bodies are the closest. Maple is defintely brighter. Koa! I am building a gorgeous koa right now. I will add a picture later this week. I cant find a home for Koa, other than to say a comfy fit bewtween maple and rosewood, and I dont mean to say it s close to mahogany. I guess I am just saying that time after time I see subtle differences. I have even started to lean towards the notion that the age of the tree and the environment the tree was exposed to has as much to do with the sound as the species. Sinker mahogany for example is just a more denser wood because of age and environment, but yet it sounds better than other mahoganies. The most sound dynamic guitar i built to date was a macassar ebony (dender than brazzy) and german spruce top concert. The species of spruce from europe to the americas is not that dramatic. What is dramatic, is the age of the trees. The german spruce I acquired came from a small portion of mature old growth forest that survived WW2 bombs. I have never had a peice of spruce like that again. Different builders do different things so a lot of things come into play here as to the wood, the environment of the wood, how it was cut and processed and how they used it to build their musical instrument that is played. The common denominator of sound in an acoustic guitar in descending order is the top, bridge, bracing, neck, prescision of scale placement and thus the fingerboard. I truly believe a dense fingerboard is required for an acoustic guitar. After that I find it all to be mostly cosmetic, again, except for the subtleties I mentioned.

    About Torres, yes you are correct Les. In my pursuit of learning whatever I could from the great luthiers, I found that Torres was much the concerned stewart of the woods. While yes, he used the arguement the top was more important than the sides, he also very much did not like the wreckless use back then of the Brazzy wood. Brazzy was prized for many things. It smelled great, and looked even better so it made great furniture. Massive furniture peices that are still of great values today. It was desired on the sea for it's sea worthiness. Back then, the wood was harder to get from the tribes people also. With less attention to the back and sides Torres knew he could make musicical instruments with great wood, more readily available that did not have to be brazzy as prefferred by the aristocrats of the time. He basically killed two birds with one stone with his paper machet axe.

    I guess my thoughts might still be as clear as mud. Simply put, I see the differences in back and side wood as subtle at best. Again tree to tree is subtley different even within it's own species. I will ad this caveat with great caution, picking/plucking style maginifies these differences as does amps. But now we are past the wood and dealing with all sorts of inconsistent dynamics from player to player and builder to builder. I beg that I hopefully was a little insightful and helpful here. I usually run from these conversations, but I find this thread by Brad to be very healthy approach and certainly appreciate your wisdom Les.

    Last thing of note;
    Yes PRS is correct the soundbox is the most important part. An acoustic guitar performs basically like a speaker. The bridge is the magnet that is powered by the vibrating strings, the soundboard is the paper cone. The bracing, well it is the bracing. The back and sides are the cabinet. The soundhole is the amp. PEACE
    I think we agree, we're just approaching the topic from different perspectives.

    In the studio, of course, everything is magnified by the mics (especially condensers) and the processes involved. It's all relative and a matter of degree.

  16. #16
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    Bob Benedettos book on guitar building is a fun read, and very educational for anyone interested. On an carvetop, he says he can take any wood and make it sound as good as any other he has built by tapping and carving. he has a picture of this nasty guitar with knots all in the woods, and he says it sounds as good as his top end guitars. very interesting. Of course on a solid body that is not an option.

  17. #17
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    A swamp ash body with a MAPLE neck is the BEST -- if you want that tone. Rosewood is good for the tones it generates -- if you like that, it's the BEST. Pretty much that simple.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Rango's Avatar
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    Well said Brad!

    I've always wondered if people could tell the difference between - insert your favorite sacred tone cow here - in a blind test with everything else held constant.

    Everybody has preferences - doesn't make anything better or worse or "the best" - Just your preference!

  19. #19
    Are 2 heads better than 1 Tim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad737 View Post

    Think of protected sex.
    Brad... sorry for teh late reply... I read to this instruction two days ago, but only just finished reading your post!!!

    Jokies aside, I have said this a lot, but when you are talking instruments of this quality I think you will get your 'best' tones AND be more patient about dialing in a tone with a guitar you FEEL most comfotable/connected with.

  20. #20
    Senior Member LJD's Avatar
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    Nothing dark about rosewood to my ears, I'd say very rich. The IRW neck on my HBII is a revelation.

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