Tonewoods

Tonewood Collection: Indian Rosewood

When asked the question, “Is there one tonewood you always think players should explore more?”, many of our luthiers say the same thing: Indian rosewood!

It’s been a common thread in our conversations about the Bespoke process in particular, and everyone has had a lot to say about it. For many players diving into the luthier-built market, whether they're getting a custom-built guitar or considering pre-owned and shop guitars, it's easy to get taken in by the lore of Brazilian rosewood, or the uniqueness of something like Tasmanian myrtle. But there's a reason Indian rosewood is the standard bearer that it is. Its excellent tone, stability, easy workability, and availability make it a top choice for many builders, not just the bigger companies like Collings, Martin and Bourgeois. As Donal McGreevy points out, other woods are costlier "upgrades" not necessarily because they're tonally superior, but more often due to availability and difficulty of handling.

Read on to hear what Donal, Drew Lowry and Virgile Pilon of Blind Guitars had to say!

Virgile of Blind Guitars:  "Sometimes I feel that there is a bit of a snobbism about classic mahogany and Indian rosewood. Indian rosewood is an incredible tonewood. Most of the time I tell my customers that, if you close your eyes, you would have difficulties hearing the difference between a Brazilian rosewood guitar and a good Indian rosewood guitar. It’s an incredible tonewood…it's light, it’s responsive, it’s stable, it’s beautiful."

"Sometimes I’ve got customers come that want beautiful Madagascar rosewood, or they want beautiful Brazilian rosewood, and they go, “Ah, I don’t have the money for it.” Go for Indian rosewood! Don’t underestimate that. You’ll get a sound that is so close to Madagascar or Brazilian rosewood; you’ll get that sound you dream about. You won’t be disappointed."

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Donal McGreevy:  "I haven’t built an Indian rosewood guitar in about five or six years, and it’s because nobody asks for it. It’s included in the starting price, but conversations always inevitably go on to the upgrades. And “upgrades” is maybe the wrong word! Those woods are an additional price for other reasons, not necessarily because of the sound. Indian rosewood is gorgeous. It’s a beautiful wood, it sounds good, it’s stable, it’s easy to work with. In fact, if I was building a guitar for myself, I’d really consider Indian rosewood. I’m not much a salesman! I should probably be directing people more to the most expensive woods. But people should listen to their builder, and if their builder recommends a certain wood to match their preferences, then go with it."

Drew Lowry:  "I try to push Indian rosewood quite a lot because it’s a really fantastic sounding tonewood. There’s nothing wrong with it! It’s just that everyone thinks, “Ah, Indian rosewood, everyone makes those, I don’t want that.” But really it’s a tremendous tonewood, and I think it’s wasted that people don’t ask for it more often. But when people think about luthier guitars, a custom guitar, they want their ebony, cocobolo or “The Tree”, and that’s fine. But there’s a lot to be said for the standard woods. If it’s built by a good luthier who knows what he’s doing, you get a fantastic sounding guitar at a reasonable price. I think it’s a shame we don’t see more of them."


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We have plenty more IRW guitars incoming from Collings and others, so keep your eyes on the Incoming page to see what else is in store!

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