"The Legend of the Music Tree"

Jared Purdy

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This link comes from the Smithsonian Mag web site, one of my Saturday morning reads.


It's a fantastic story, and a cautionary one too. When I was thinking about what forum to attach it to, at first "Acoustic Heaven" seemed like the logical choice, but then I thought with the limited number of views that forum seems to get compared to the huge number of views The Bad Dog gets, this seemed to make more sense.

I figured a lot of pickers, not just acoustic pickers (myself included in that group) would appreciate the story, and may lead to a Tele build out of this wood. Just imagine!! If the admins decide it ought to be moved to Acoustic Heaven, I will not be offended. Happy reading.

EDIT: Seems that I might be one of the last to know about this wood! I copied and pasted a number of the names from the article into Google and low and behold, there have been a number of articles written about it and the luthiers who managed to snag some of the wood, including Canuck based luthier, JOI Guitars, who I have never heard of. Seems Martin too got in on the action years ago, as did Santa Cruz Guitars and several others.

I've long marvelled at the beauty of the grain in some of those tone woods from different species that are found in various Central American countries. Maybe one of these days I'll get a custom guitar made. The price of those instruments, however, begin at around $6K.

From the article, one of the most interesting discussions that caught my attention was the bit about where the author interviewed a prof (Chris Plack) in auditory neuroscience from Lancaster University of England. The prof tested six guitars, all made of different tone woods with 52 different guitarists. They all wore welder's goggles so as to obscure what guitar they were each playing.

The results, according to Plack, were not the least bit surprising. Not only did most of the guitars receive the same ratings, but in many cases "expert" guitar players couldn't even distinguish one guitar from the next. He goes on to say that expectations play a huge role, psychologically, in what we expect to hear. The shear beauty of the wood immediately influences our perception as to what we expect from the instrument.

"Hearing depends on more than what enters the ear canal,” Plack said. He invoked the concept of “predictive coding,” which posits that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s modelled expectations of reality.". Seems that seeing, more than hearing, is believing.

As a final side note, it would appear that at least one builder has in fact made a Tele-type electric guitar out of that wood. Cha ching!!!
 
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Kandinskyesque

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This link comes from the Smithsonian Mag web site, one of my Saturday morning reads...
Thanks for posting the link.
It was a fantastic read.
I've always been intrigued by the concept that a lot of people 'listen with their eyes' and I'm more convinced the general public do so.
It surprised me to see that being 'measured' with actual guitarists.
 

Jared Purdy

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Thanks for posting the link.
It was a fantastic read.
I've always been intrigued by the concept that a lot of people 'listen with their eyes' and I'm more convinced the general public do so.
It surprised me to see that being 'measured' with actual guitarists.
I know eh? I too thought the article was fantastic, but what really stood out for me was the experiment. It sent me on a Google search to learn more about that wood, and the various luthiers that have taken a stab at it. Crazy expensive.

There are much cheaper alternatives to be had, with likely just as good results. There's a lot of gorgeous grained mahogany and other hard woods to be found in Central America. If I'm ever so inclined, that is the route that I'd go. For now, I'm very content with my 2011 Martin OM28 Marquis, made with the ubiquitous "working mans" Indian rosewood.
 
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Kandinskyesque

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I know eh? I too thought the article was fantastic, but what really stood out for me was the experiment. It sent me on a Google search to learn more about that wood, and the various luthiers that have taken a stab at it. Crazy expensive.

There are much cheaper alternatives to be had, with likely just as good results. There's a lot of gorgeous grained mahogany and other hard woods to be found in Central America. If I'm ever so inclined, that is the route that I'd go. For now, I'm very content with my 2011 Martin OM28 Marquis, made with the ubiquitous "working mans" Indian rosewood.
I lost a large Rowan tree in the garden to a storm in December, it's been cut into logs at the moment. There's also 3 skinny 8m Sitka Spruces that will be going to allow more room for the 3 other 20m Spruces to flourish and ensure their lifespan.
A large Cherry bough overhanging the neighbours oil tank is due to be chopped also this year.

I love the idea of having a guitar made from these woods from my garden but know nothing about the subject.

I dismissed the idea at first because Mrs K suggested it; to be fair, she does the same with my suggestions, it makes for a long marriage.

After reading the article, I'm beginning to wonder what's possible and I know a few good luthiers.
There's going to be a few phone calls and emails this week being made.

I'm grateful you posted the article, you may have started something more than you realised.
I'm grateful. Thanks.
 

Jared Purdy

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I lost a large Rowan tree in the garden to a storm in December, it's been cut into logs at the moment. There's also 3 skinny 8m Sitka Spruces that will be going to allow more room for the 3 other 20m Spruces to flourish and ensure their lifespan.
A large Cherry bough overhanging the neighbours oil tank is due to be chopped also this year.

I love the idea of having a guitar made from these woods from my garden but know nothing about the subject.

I dismissed the idea at first because Mrs K suggested it; to be fair, she does the same with my suggestions, it makes for a long marriage.

After reading the article, I'm beginning to wonder what's possible and I know a few good luthiers.
There's going to be a few phone calls and emails this week being made.

I'm grateful you posted the article, you may have started something more than you realised.
I'm grateful. Thanks.
Glad to hear you got so much out of it! I'm not sure what the ideal diameter of a sitka tree is for the wood to be used for sound boards, but a luthier could certainly answer that question.
As for the cherry, I've never seen a guitar made from it, but that means nothing. Luthiers experiment with all kinds of woods. That cherry limb that's in need of being lopped off, might do the trick. Again, I'd ask a luthier. In the end, if the limb is too small, buy a smoker!! Cherry is a fabulous wood to smoke meat with!
 

teletimetx

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Glad to hear you got so much out of it! I'm not sure what the ideal diameter of a sitka tree is for the wood to be used for sound boards, but a luthier could certainly answer that question.
As for the cherry, I've never seen a guitar made from it, but that means nothing. Luthiers experiment with all kinds of woods. That cherry limb that's in need of being lopped off, might do the trick. Again, I'd ask a luthier. In the end, if the limb is too small, buy a smoker!! Cherry is a fabulous wood to smoke meat with!
Art & Lutherie have been making guitars with wild cherry backs and sides for some time now. Not sure that wild cherry (Prunus avian) is the precise same species as ordinary cherry tree, but same genus at least; I'd let the experts weigh in, if they care.

Here's a small parlor style guitar I purchased for a family member back in 2005-ish. Most of the ones made by A&L have spruce tops with cherry back & sides.

IMG_1344.jpeg


Here's a link to a current model: https://artandlutherieguitars.com/product/legacy-tennessee-red-cw-eq


IMG_1346.jpeg


If you have the time to lurk through the DIY forum here (Tele Home Depot), you'll find any number of projects involving wood harvested from back yards or similar. There are a number of things to be done to preserve the woods usefulness for lutherie purposes - to avoid checking, splitting, and other problems - and the good folks over there in the DIY forum explain a lot of those details. You may have to do some searching...

Also, and I may be mis-remembering, but for a short while, Stew Mac had a few sets (back and sides) available for building an acoustic that allegedly came from the Tree. Very pricey, but looked amazing. This was maybe 7, 8 years ago? Can't pinpoint that with accuracy at the moment.
 

Martian

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This link comes from the Smithsonian Mag web site, one of my Saturday morning reads.


It's a fantastic story, and a cautionary one too. When I was thinking about what forum to attach it to, at first "Acoustic Heaven" seemed like the logical choice, but then I thought with the limited number of views that forum seems to get compared to the huge number of views The Bad Dog gets, this seemed to make more sense.

I figured a lot of pickers, not just acoustic pickers (myself included in that group) would appreciate the story, and may lead to a Tele build out of this wood. Just imagine!! If the admins decide it ought to be moved to Acoustic Heaven, I will not be offended. Happy reading.

EDIT: Seems that I might be one of the last to know about this wood! I copied and pasted a number of the names from the article into Google and low and behold, there have been a number of articles written about it and the luthiers who managed to snag some of the wood, including Canuck based luthier, JOI Guitars, who I have never heard of. Seems Martin too got in on the action years ago, as did Santa Cruz Guitars and several others.

I've long marvelled at the beauty of the grain in some of those tone woods from different species that are found in various Central American countries. Maybe one of these days I'll get a custom guitar made. The price of those instruments, however, begin at around $6K.

From the article, one of the most interesting discussions that caught my attention was the bit about where the author interviewed a prof (Chris Plack) in auditory neuroscience from Lancaster University of England. The prof tested six guitars, all made of different tone woods with 52 different guitarists. They all wore welder's goggles so as to obscure what guitar they were each playing.

The results, according to Plack, were not the least bit surprising. Not only did most of the guitars receive the same ratings, but in many cases "expert" guitar players couldn't even distinguish one guitar from the next. He goes on to say that expectations play a huge role, psychologically, in what we expect to hear. The shear beauty of the wood immediately influences our perception as to what we expect from the instrument.

"Hearing depends on more than what enters the ear canal,” Plack said. He invoked the concept of “predictive coding,” which posits that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s modelled expectations of reality.". Seems that seeing, more than hearing, is believing.

As a final side note, it would appear that at least one builder has in fact made a Tele-type electric guitar out of that wood. Cha ching!!!
Great story. Thanks for posting.
 

teletimetx

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Location
Frontrangia CO
Ok, yup Stew Mac did market some sets as being from the “Tree”:


If you read the Smithsonian article, there is a discussion of “tone wood” which also describes blind testing with Stradivarius violins. The conclusion seems to be that people listen with their eyes, and more so than many would care to admit.

And then again, it’s hard to detach your own impressions of what you think you hear - particularly with acoustic guitars.

Whatever. Ooooh, loook, purdy wood!
 




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