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Article: Richards Guide To Acoustic Guitar Tonewoods: Rosewood

Richards Guide To Acoustic Guitar Tonewoods:  Rosewood

Richards Guide To Acoustic Guitar Tonewoods: Rosewood

Rosewood is a common and popular choice for the back and sides of an acoustic guitar due to its rich, warm sound and beautiful appearance. Rosewoods are known for their complex overtones, deep lows, and brilliant highs. There are several types of rosewood, each with unique characteristics and tonal properties, which have traditionally been used in guitar construction:

Brazilian Rosewood

Due to its superior tonal qualities, Brazilian Rosewood is often considered the holy grail of tonewoods. It's known for its deep bass and brilliant trebles, and produces a loud, full, and balanced tone. However, due to environmental concerns, this type of rosewood has been heavily regulated since the late 1960s and is no longer widely available. This makes Brazilian Rosewood guitars quite rare and expensive.

Indian Rosewood

Because of the unavailability of Brazilian Rosewood, Indian Rosewood has become the standard and most common rosewood used for guitar construction. It has rich low tones and a sparkling high end, making it one of the most balanced and versatile tonewoods. It's also praised for its beautiful grain and aesthetic appeal.

Madagascar Rosewood

Known for its sonic qualities that fall somewhere between Brazilian and Indian Rosewood. It has a similar tonality to Brazilian Rosewood, with a wide tonal range and excellent projection, but has a slightly lighter color.

Cocobolo Rosewood

This Central American hardwood is heavy and dense, with a bright tone similar to Koa or Maple but with the deep, resonant bass response of traditional Rosewoods. It's also highly figured and visually striking, often in hues of red, orange, and yellow.

Honduran (or Amazon) Rosewood

Although less common in acoustic guitars, this variant is a valued tonewood with warm basses and clear trebles.

East Indian Rosewood

East Indian Rosewood has a deep, warm, resonant tone and a sleek, dark appearance. This wood has become very popular due to its availability and lower cost.

Santos Rosewood

Also known as Pau Ferro, this variant is actually not a true rosewood but has similar tonal characteristics. It provides strong mids and highs and is visually appealing.
However, it's important to note that due to regulations such as the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the use of true rosewoods in instrument manufacture is becoming more restricted as many species have become endangered. More sustainable, yet tonally similar, alternatives are being sought by many luthiers

1 comment

Hi Richard.

I love your short and succinct yet informative comments about different tonewoods. I’m not a great player but am an avid guitar collector and love learning about them as works of art/engineering. That’s what fascinates me about all musical instruments – I get enjoyment and happiness, actually, just sitting looking at them and even more so when I play them.

To hear someone really play them well lifts me to another place. I often ask someone in the music shop to play what I’m thinking of buying as I want to hear it played in a way that showcases what it’s capable of. I can’t really do that myself.

I recently tried a Dowina guitar and liked it a lot. I’ve also been trying some Furchs and love them too. This coming winter I was thinking of buying what, for me, will be a special one to top my collection. Being a Martin fan, I was thinking of a D18 or something in a similar vein and price range.

I may visit Breedlove as well on a planned trip to Bend, Oregon next summer.
I would love to visit your place but its not that easy from Glasgow. I wonder, could you give me your honest opinion on a guitar that you think may be the best buy to meet my criteria?

The main pulls for me are: looks, quality of wood, craftsmanship, sound, of course and finish. As a collector I’m also thinking about future value although I know that’s pretty subjective.

Damn it, I think I’ll come down to your place anyway after December when I retire from work.

Honestly, your approach to business, your blogs, videos and your way of writing just inspire me and if I ever go into business myself, which is a possibility, I would do well to emulate your ethos.

Keep doing what you’re doing- you wear it well.

Best Regards,


(Glasgow guitar geek gladly goes gaga given great group of genuinely genius guitar guidelines). 13 gs in a sentence. Now there’s a tune for you. 🧡😉

Harry Hughes

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