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Culture & Religion

Making Sustainable Music

The rare woods used to make the world’s best guitars may be running short. Companies are experimenting with innovative ways to use their ever-dwindling supplies of prized timber.

What’s the Latest Development?

It is not easy finding a 250-year-old spruce tree, a rare cut of mahogany, or a slice of endangered Brazilian rosewood but these are the materials called for by the world’s best guitar makers. The special wood is becoming more difficult to harvest because of supply shortages and environmental restrictions imposed by source countries. While traditionalists may insist their precious instruments be made with rare resources, guitar companies are looking for the same tonal quality using more common timber.

What’s the Big Idea?

An Alaskan forest of Sitka spruce is the most important source of rare wood for makers of high-end guitars and pianos. While it is in the music industry’s interest to preserve this resource, which is used to make sound boards, their latest efforts have stalled. Now companies are looking for eco-friendly designs: “An example would be Taylor’s NT neck design, which creates a more playable, stable neck over a guitar’s lifetime, but also allows the company to increase the number of guitar necks yielded from each tree harvested.”

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