Choosing the Right Wood

While an instrument’s design is the greatest determining factor for the quality of sound, the type of wood used also has a subtle effect on the sound’s tone and quality. This is due to the varying properties of each wood type, or even between different pieces of the same type of wood. Wood with an open grain or pore structure will have a rougher surface, causing turbulence as the air passes by it. The result is a warmer, more covered, and diffused tone. Whereas wood with smaller pores and a smoother surface will produce a brighter, more focused sound. As a result, each wood type has its own unique character of sound. 

Keep in mind that, while we can do our best to describe each tone, choosing the wood that is right for you is a very personal choice, and nothing can replace hearing the instruments for yourself. If you are interested in comparing a few different wood types, check out our Instruments on Approval page or contact us for a consult.

 

 Maple Maple has a relatively plain and focused tone, with few overtones. This wood is typically less expensive because it lends itself well to machine production. It is usually impregnated with wax to preserve and stabilize its soft texture.
Pearwood Pearwood Pearwood, like maple, has a simple, straightforward tone, but it is more vibrant and has greater presence than maple wood. Its tone is rounder and fuller resulting in a broader sound. It produces few overtones. This wood is typically less expensive because it lends itself well to machine production. It is usually impregnated with wax to preserve and stabilize its soft texture.
Boxwood European BoxwoodZapatero Boxwood Boxwood has a distinct yellow color when it is not stained and a warm, full sound. European Boxwood (top picture) is typically used for handmade instruments, and Castello and Zapatero Boxwoods (bottom picture), while not true boxwoods, have very similar characteristics and are often used for manufactured rather than handmade instruments. Boxwood produces a strong, clear sound with some overtone character.
Olive Olivewood Olive wood has a warm, open sound and has decent overtone quality (somewhere between pearwood and rosewood) though it lacks some of the higher overtones.
Plum Plumwood Plumwood has a strong, clear sound and plays with warmth, but it has fewer overtones than olive or rosewood.
Rosewood/Palisander Rosewood

Palisander is a Dalbergia species of wood. It has a strong, rich sound and carries the broadest spectrum of overtones, due to its open grain and pore structure.

Tulipwood Tulipwood

Tulipwood is another Dalbergia and has similar characteristics, but with a more striking grain. Its tone is more edgy than boxwood, and its overtones tend toward an oboe’s tone.

Ebony/Grenadilla Grenadilla

These woods are black and heavy. Their tone is silvery and flute-like, and they emphasize the upper end of the overtone series.



Note: Recorder blocks or plugs are almost universally made of cedar, although some manufacturers have begun to use ceramic or synthetic materials.

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