Ah Wooden it be Loverly
No opinion this Saturday, just a question.
Well it is kind of an opinion.
What makes wooden musical instruments so great?That sent a lot of people away. I know there are still a few musicians out there to answer this question.
I ask because the new guitar I bought a month or so ago is not all real wood. The top is solid Sitka spruce, which means nothing to me, the back, sides, and neck are some sort of synthetic. It looks like wood, feels like wood and sounds pretty good to me. The synthetic material is one reason this is a relatively inexpensive guitar. It is also manufactured in Mexico. Mexican labor surely keeps the price down, but from what I’ve seen of Mexican labor, I don’t think the quality is anything but high level.
Back to my question, what makes natural wood so good and preferred in the finest instruments, particularly guitars and violins?
Golf clubs used to have wooden heads and wooden shafts. When metal shafts came out purists claimed they will never have the feel of wood. When purists got their asses handed to them in tournaments, wooden shafts became antiques and metal became the norm.
Skiers all used wood skis. When fiberglass skis came out, purists said they could never have the same feel and flex as wood. Purists were racing down the slopes on fiberglass skis in the very next Olympics. Wood skis are prized as wall ornaments in ski town bars.
Tennis players held on to their wood rackets for several years claiming once again that the new metal and composite rackets could not match the feel and control of their wooden rackets. They switched to modern materials when they got their asses handed to them by players using metal and composite rackets. Wooden rackets are now wall ornaments.
Expert musicians will tell you that nothing sounds as pure and clean as natural wood. The Stradivarius violin owes its beautiful sound to old hard woods that grew through the little ice age and the grain is tighter than the grain on any wood grown before or since. Makes sense, I can understand that, but why can’t we manufacture a material that matches or even improves the sound of that ancient hard wood?
Music purists will not shift to manmade materials. In music there is no sports-like competition where purist musicians get their asses beat by new materials. They will continue to say that nothing can ever improve on the feel and sound of natural wood.
We have improved on wood for just about every other product other than maybe furniture.
I have heard fly fisherman say the best rods are made of bamboo. The few friends I have who are avid fly fisherman own antique bamboo rods. They love them for their craftsmanship and beauty, but they only fish with composite material rods.
Want to buy a boat? Wooden boats are beautiful; their craftsmanship is admirable. Fiberglass boats are better.
Want to fly across country? The Howard Hughes-built spruce goose was incredible, but I think I’ll fly planes built out of modern composites thank you very much.
Anyway, my new guitar is made of “fake wood” and I think the material is probably just as good as or better than real wood. Still, my next guitar will be an upgrade to a top of the line real wood Martin.
If I can afford it, I want the best, even if the best is not as good as a cheaper guitar.
Isn’t that the American way?
Isn’t that the American way?