In this post we visit Bolivia and look at how an instrument that traditionally was made of armadillo shells has evolved to use wood instead, as the local armadillos became scarcer. We take a look at the world of armadillos along the way.
A campaign to stop clearfelling of old growth forests in the Tongass brought guitar makers together in the Musicwood Coalition, as depicted in the 2012 Musicwood documentary. How did that come about, and what’s happened in the Tongass since then?
The previous post delved into the world of Sitka spruce, focusing on the conflicts surrounding its conservation and use. Here we look at two how guitar makers – Larrivée and Martin have adapted to using different, more sustainable sources of high-quality wood.
Sitka spruce is a tree I first encountered in poorly planned plantations in Scotland and later saw in magnificent forests in western North America. Here we look at the story of the Scottish plantations, the exploitation and conservation of the forests in America, and the conflicts surrounding these.
In this post, we meet Tim Sway of New Perspectives Music, who’s been making guitars from old closet doors and spreading the message that things that are good for the planet can be cool and can be done without compromising quality or tone.
The news is full of heatwaves and forest fires and the grinding war in Ukraine. Here I reflect on living through the Cold War and risk of nuclear annihilation and then confronting the reality of 8 billion people on Earth and what that means for the planet. Despite all the problems, hope for the future remains, and it’s important to hang on to and celebrate that. And we need a living planet to be able to continue to make guitars.
Guitar tone and what contributes to it is a much discussed topic. While the acoustic aspects of tone can be measured, it’s often forgotten that there is a large subjective element in how individuals perceive tone. Here we explore the world of human perception, starting with a college football anecdote and then considering the beauty of wildflowers, before focusing on how sound travels from a guitar through our ears and into our brain.
Bamboo is a widespread, fast growing plant. As well as being what giant pandas eat, it is used in many ways, including as a sustainable replacement for wood as structural material. Yamaha launched a guitar made from bamboo in 2000 which received a mixed reception at the time. Other guitar makers are following suit, and bamboo offers an interesting and different option as a material to make guitars with.
The Martin 00L Earth guitar, with its striking painting of our planet, was inspired by Greta Thunberg and protests seeking meaningful action on climate change. But its roots like back in the 1960s with the first views of Earth from space. Its message is too important to ignore.
Mango and cherry trees provide sustainable wood options in very different ways. They’ve both featured on guitars made by C.F.Martin & Co. whose factory we visit here.