Indian Rosewood Tonewoods
East Indian rosewood has been a favored back tonewood used in stringed instruments for centuries. Known for its efficient transmission of bass tones and bright high notes, it has been the preferred back and sides tonewood since worldwide government restrictions have limited the availability of Brazilian and Madagascar rosewoods. It is often associated with the great dreadnoughts as its projection is loud and clear. East Indian rosewood’s sound contrasts with the midrange of Honduran mahogany…rosewood emphasizing the bass and highs, mahogany most pronounced in the midrange. EI rosewood specific gravity is 0.83 compared with mahogany’s 0.59. EI rosewood’s weight in pounds per cubic feet of 52 contrasts with mahogany’s 37. There are significant differences in the musical characteristics of these two most popular guitar back tonewoods. Many artists will own two instruments - a rosewood and a mahogany – alternating depending on the musical situation.
Stringent governmental regulations dictate very specific guidelines for the harvest and sale of all Indian hardwoods. There is only one source for acquiring legal East Indian rosewood that grows in India: wood auctions overseen by the government. All auctioned woods are subject to very strict regulation. It is illegal to cut any living East Indian rosewood tree in the wild. Only dead, salvaged wild grown rosewood trees are available when tight-grained natural grown rosewood is preferred. This is the best sounding EI rosewood tonewood.
Rosewood trees may be harvested on private property, such as coffee plantations, however a permit is required. The tree must be at least six feet in diameter, and the landowners are not allowed to harvest the tree themselves. Once a permit is acquired, a licensed third party harvests the tree, assigns it a unique number and transports it to the nearest government depot for auction. All legally harvested Indian hardwoods must follow these procedures. There are checkpoints throughout the country and if a driver is found transporting Indian hardwood without the proper permits, the wood and the driver’s vehicle will be confiscated on the spot. Plantation rosewood trees offer shade to coffee plants that flourished near their roots. The trees matured more quickly than those in the wild, thanks to the farming practices bestowed on the coffee plants such as fertilizer, compost, and plentiful water. Plantation grown EI rosewood trees grow faster with wider growth lines. While being one of the world’s most popular tonewood, you can hear the difference between rosewood grown in the competition of the wild and from the plantation.
Breedlove sources all our EI rosewood through Overseas Traders, owned and operated by the Yogi family, located in the bustling town of Hubli, about 250 miles northwest of Bangalore, in the state of Karnataka, India. Overseas Traders was founded in 1968, and has supplied the guitar industry for almost five centuries. The company is FSC-certified. The wood buyers from Overseas Traders attend 60 to 70 government auctions a year to acquire the most promising trees. Every tree is numbered from the moment it is harvested, and it is tracked through the auction process. Once the trees are in Overseas Traders’ possession, fastidious records are kept through transport, processing, storage and sale, ensuring flawless chain-of-custody documentation and assurance that their tonewood was acquired legally through the proper channels that benefit the citizens of the state in which the trees were selectively harvested or salvaged. Tom Bedell attended a government auction with the Yogi’s in May, 2017.
On January 2, 2017, international CITES restrictions were placed on the international trade of all Dalbergia (rosewood and cocobolo) species. Tom Bedell wrote a detailed guest editorial in Music Trades outlining the decline of rosewood forests throughout the world and why the new regulations were necessary. Please click on this link to read Tom’s editorial. Rest assured, you can travel throughout the world with your Breeedlove without concern.