Maple vs. Rosewood

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Topics archived from Public Space and its subforums after a long period of inactivity, or redundant for some other reason. This section is read-only.
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Jason Wolverton
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Maple vs. Rosewood

Post by Jason Wolverton » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:07 pm

I'm on a maple kick right now. As a guitarist and a luthier, I think maple is the most underrated tonewood out there. I think a guitar with a nice spruce top and maple back and sides (if made correctly) will have all the warmth of rosewood but with a bit more snap, air, and clarity. Of course rosewood has its merits too (see my Brazilian rosewood guitar for sale in the buy,sell, exchange forum,) but it seems most guitarist shy away from maple. Especially if they have only one guitar.

Did you know that Torres made virtually the same amount of rosewood and maple guitars? I won't even get into using cypress on a classical (Jose Romanillos-who I studied with- feels that cypress is THE best tonewood,) but I'm sure that would be even harder to sell than maple.

The question is this. Why are many classical guitarists hesitant to buy a maple guitar? This question comes from a recent conversation I had with a fellow luthier. I would like to hear opinions from people out there regarding this subject.....just for my own information and curiostiy.

thanks,
Jason

tritone

Post by tritone » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:52 pm

Hello Jason Wolverton,

That is a very good point. From my experiences with the art of a Luthier, of which is nothing to brag about, maple is not commercially available and I'm sure there are reasons that I'm not fully aware.

I personally have not experienced the sound of maple on a CG. From handling the maple I can say it's hard and your tools better be sharp if you are going to work with it. My contact Luthier friend who is very good uses some local species hard wood in interesting ways.

I suspect in the right hands this would be a most welcome sound as Jason Wolverton discribes in this post. after all Torres the master himself used it as JW states in this post.

Im sure there are lots of maples out there! we can hear from Delcampers.

Chao
JR

kfisherx

Post by kfisherx » Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:03 pm

I am a huge fan of maple guitars and would buy one in a second if it were concert worthy, in a 640 scale and available for a reasonable price. At the Portland Guitar competitions this year there were 2 of them in the contestants hands. One of them was a very fine instrument then other not so fine. Both were spruce soundboard.

I disagree completely with you that you can get a Rosewood sound out of maple back and sides. Especially not Indian Rosewood. Maple tends to sound more like Brazilian to me but with less warmth and depth to it. You can get a warm sounding Maple guitar but the complexity of the rosewood is just not there in the same way.

I do not know why maple is not used more except probably tradition uninhibited by progress. I was listening to Jeff Elliott at an Adam Holzman concert recently talking about the history of why Cypress is used on Flamenco. It seems that when people started using Rosewood to build guitars that wood was more expensive. Only the "classical" players could typically afford it whereas the "flamenco" players had to settle for cypress. It is only a happy coincidence in history that cypress lends itself to flamenco playing.

pacfan

Re: Maple vs. Rosewood

Post by pacfan » Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:58 pm

Jason Wolverton wrote: The question is this. Why are many classical guitarists hesitant to buy a maple guitar?.. ...I would like to hear opinions from people out there regarding this subject.....just for my own information and curiostiy.

thanks,
Jason
It's simply because most guitar masters use rosewood guitars and people naturally think they can never go wrong and equate guitars with rosewood s/b as the guitars of the masters. Being the hardest 'of them all', as reflecting woods for backs and sides, many (but by no means all) rosewoods made guitars tend to produce hard, metallic sounds that tend to produce clicking (of the nails) sounds. Good examples being Julian Breams guitars, and the later Segovia's Ramirez, and many others. Luthiers should not be afraid to try different woods and if he is confident enough, he should be bold enough to let some well-known guitarists try them out, and I can assure you, if the guitar is a good one indeed, the guitarists themselves would most definitely ask for them.

Kevin Bishop

Post by Kevin Bishop » Sun Mar 25, 2007 11:29 pm

For my part it's just ignorance. I know very little about maple, but my intrest is definetely peaked, by this thead.

TedtheBear

Re: Maple vs. Rosewood

Post by TedtheBear » Sun Mar 25, 2007 11:36 pm

pacfan wrote:...many (but by no means all) rosewoods made guitars tend to produce hard, metallic sounds that tend to produce clicking (of the nails) sounds. Good examples being Julian Breams guitars, and the later Segovia's Ramirez, and many others.
Huh, er what? Please clarify!

Derry

Post by Derry » Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:54 am

perhaps I can help the issue here since I own one of each,, one is maple sides and back with spruce sound board and the other is BR back and sides with spruce sound board,, the BR also is a double back with a layer of fine cedar on the back inside,, both are the best that GV Rubio offers,,

both sound excellent and are certainly concert level instruments,, have had many players offer good compliments on both instruments,,

projection on both instruments are excellent,, really can't say the double back is any louder 30 or 40 feet away than the maple,, the BR is certainly more of the melow or sweeter cello sounding of the two and the maple is more crisp and a tad sharper,, play the same piece on them both and you can hear the difference,, no way can the maple sound the same as the BR,, they each haver their own character,, I would imagine some would select one sound over the other,, I would not,,

pacfan mentioned a clicking sound from the nails when playing on the BR,, ???? ya can produce this sound on either instrument if you angle the nails a certain way,,

I play all types of music on both and really do not have a favorite,, I normally practice 3 or 4+ hours a day and rotate instruments each day,, I have been asked if I had to give one up which would it be and my answer is "since that situation will not happen I have no answer",, as I say in my signature, I love em both,,

kfisherx, give GV Rubio a call, he will certainly build you a concert level maple to the scale you request,,

tritone

Post by tritone » Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:08 am

Thank you Derry for the insight and description of your guitars. I'm sure maple has it's unique charms and I would very much like to have one.

I have a cypress back and sides G.V. Rubio. It's supposed to be a Flamenco guitar modeled after a Guerundino F.. I'm afraid to say that it does resemble some of a genuine Gerundino but it's nothing close to it.

However, even though it does not cut it for flamenco it is perfect for music of John Dowland, and Spanish Renn. Guitar. It is constructed in the tradition of a master as G.V Rubio is. The action and intonation are very nice and the overall feel falls between a classical and a Flamenco I play it often.

I'm sure that G.V. Rubio Maple torres model is a "Kick Ass" guitar.

Best Wishes
JR

shakyhand

Post by shakyhand » Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:26 am

I have a guitar by Darren Hippner in birds-eye maple and spruce. I haven't had it very long, but I am not at all disappointed. It is strikingly clear and crisp-sounding, lots of volume and sustain, with a quick response. The treble notes might be said to lack complexity -- they are clear and bright, and they project quite well, but they do not have the "color" that I hear on the high notes from a rosewood guitar. This may change some as the guitar opens up, but it is consistent with my expectations of maple guitars.

The most captivating steel-string guitar I have ever played is a sitka/flamed maple dreadnaught built by a local luthier. There's something magical about that one.

I certainly agree that in the right hands, maple is a fantastic tonewood, and I don't shy away from buying maple guitars.

Bill

Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:21 am

I love the look of maple and would certainly consider buying a maple guitar, all other things being equal.

But I'm a little confused. I thought maple was supposed to "warm up" the tone of a spruce-top. Yet everyone here who claims to have played one says maple guitars are "crisper" and "snappier". One of the things that appealed to me about maple is that it might possibly "tame" a spruce top a bit, without making it sound like a cedar top. But if that's not the case, then I'm not sure I would be quite as interested.

And yes, I understand that there is more than just the wood -- even the soundboard -- that goes into the tone of any single guitar. But as a contributing factor, I thought maple was supposed to be mellower, not crisper.

The fact is, I just haven't seen many maple CGs around. I think more people would play them if more makers made them -- if for no other reason than their unusual and beautiful appearance.

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Jason Wolverton
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Post by Jason Wolverton » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:08 am

Some very interesting perspectives so far everyone. Keep them coming!

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:14 am

This is a subject close to my heart.

I really like maple, both as a luthier and a player, but very few customers are willing to try it. In terms of the tone difference between maple and rosewood, it is very difficult to find agreement, partly because the words we use to describe the tone often mean different things to different people, but also because there are so many other factors affecting the sound of the guitar. Personally, I describe the tone of maple as being "creamier" than rosewood - but sometimes people look at me strangely when I say this! (I'd be interested to know if this description means anything to anyone else out there).

Like Guitar Slim, I'm a bit surprised that a number of you find maple "crisper", and rosewood "mellower", and I think this may be due to other factors. Even with Derry's guitars, which are both spruce tops, and by the same maker, differences such as the double back on the rosewood guitar are likely to affect the tone more than the back and sides.

Paul Fischer believes it is possible to make a maple guitar sound like a rosewood guitar, by changing the thickness and the strutting of the back. I haven't made enough maple guitars yet to have a strong opinion about this, but I think it's likely you can compensate to some extent. My own view on this is that if you're building a maple guitar, why try to make it sound like rosewood?

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Derry

Post by Derry » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:07 pm

James, I can understand your creamier statement,, just never thought of calling it that,,

as far as the maple losing anything in the higher notes say from the 8th position on up I would say the maple will hold its own in that area,, if offers a different romantic sound the same as two great opra singers doing the same piece,, very close but still a different voice,,

OHHHHHhhhh so lovely they both are,,

I believe if many players did the blindfold test to play or just listen they would be surprised at what they would select,,

APribilski

Post by APribilski » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:31 pm

i too, can understand the creamier statement..............and that's actually what i've been looking for. i now live in maple country, so i will certainly be on the lookout for that when i can get a new cg

jcrants

Post by jcrants » Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:10 pm

I have not heard a maple guitar in person, so I can't say whether "creamier" conjures up an accurate impression. I'd have to say that it makes me think of a mellower, rounder, softer sound, not a drier, sharper, or more brittle sound.

I'd certainly check a maple guitar out if I were looking at guitars and happened to find one. Visually, though, I do have a bit of a bias against maple. The wood itself is beautiful, but since it's similar in color to spruce, a spruce-maple guitar as a whole just looks to homogeneous to me. When it comes to back-and-side woods that some would say are under-utilized, I lean toward walnut, just on the appearance.

Overall, if some woods are under-used, I'd say it's because of a positive feedback loop in guitar making and purchasing. There are more rosewood guitars out there. So more of us have seen and heard them, which means there's a better chance that the best guitars we've ever heard have been rosewood, which means there's a better chance that we want rosewood guitars. So luthiers and factories make most of their guitars from rosewood, so there are more of them out there. Also, if most of the guitars are rosewood, then the luthier supply houses will mostly supply rosewood, since that's what their customers want.

Johnny Walker has the right idea, I think. If a luthier thinks a wood is under-used, he'll have to slash the price to encourage people to try that wood, if he wants to change the situation. But I don't think most luthiers are interested in losing $1000 in profits per guitar to promote a particular wood, since any benefits that come from doing so will be shared among all luthiers who use that wood. If Walker manages to sell people on walnut, that doesn't mean we'll buy our walnut guitars from him, once his sale is over.

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