“Rosewood: The Ivory of the Forest”
“More Lucrative Than Cocaine”
International Manufacturers panel discussion on the future and challenges of trading and transporting rosewood.
Representatives from international marimba manufactures from (left to right) Demorow , Bergerault, Marimba One, Adams, Mode Marimba and Majestic at the 2018 Percussive Arts Society International Convention candid talk on rosewood as a material and the current and future challenges of rosewood. Percussive Arts Society International Convention 2018. Rosewood: “One Last Breath”
click here for full transcript.
Rosewood the Heritage
The words marimba and rosewood are deeply intertwined. The desired "sound" was made from what the locals referred to as the “wood that sings”, rosewood. Select Rosewood bars had the best tone quality and ultimately set the stage for keyboards of today. The history and heritage of the marimba was designed around the beautiful sound created by this exotic wood.
Rosewood the Sound
We can exclusively thank select forests of South and Central America for introducing us to this rich and complex sound and for creating the rosewood heritage.
Due to over consumption of rosewood today, there are many mallet keyboard instruments manufactured with imitation "rosewood". Disappointingly, many of the materials claiming to be rosewood are not rosewood, and do not provide the richness of the rosewood sound. Even true rosewood varies in sound depending on many variables: the tree itself, the growth pattern, the age of the tree, which cross-section is used, as well as the drying process of the lumber. This contributes to traditional logic of the importance of playing any wooden marimba before making a purchase.
For example, consider middle C across diverse types of instruments, they all sound different even though they are generating the same primary frequency. In addition to the fundamental or primary frequency of a note on an instrument, there are other audible (more subtle) frequencies or overtones that create the "sound" of an instrument.
This is the reason there are “different” sounds for the same note. Each individual wooden marimba or even individual marimba keys on the same instrument may sound different in natural overtones and sustain. Higher sound quality instruments come with a subtantially higher cost ($20K+) due to the rarity and selection of individual pieces of wood.
A vibrating bar with free ends (the marimba key) vibrates at many frequencies simultaneously. Traditional marimba tuning involves balances the 3 primary frequencies in harmony (additional overtones or frequencies are still present.) This combination of 10 plus frequencies is a function of the mechanical properties of the material the sound waves are vibrating within. Not only do we hear the tuned frequencies, but we hear all of the other subtle frequencies at the same time. This combination of dissonate overtones with the harmonized overtones creates the unique "sound" or tambor of a particular key on a particular marimba.
Mode Marimba Inc. offers exceptional quality and consistency of the rosewood "sound" with a synthetic, durable tone bar created to emulate the body of overtones in the traditional high quality rosewood instrument.