Tasmanian tonewood: from forest echo to violin resonance
Authors: Pulido, Maria Pérez
The type of timber used on bowed string instruments, like the violin, is responsible for tonal quality. The term tonewood refers to the wood species that have shown consistent mechanical and acoustic qualities when used in musical instrument making. There are two types of tonewood: softwood, used for the top plate, and hardwood, used for the back plate and sides. Evaluating and selecting standing trees individually gives an enormous advantage in obtaining the properties needed for tonewood. There are certain steps that must be taken to ensure best quality, without which a high grade tonewood tree could be turned into low grade lumber. Hundreds of years ago, Europeans developed a system for the proper selection of quality tonewoods that luthiers need and expect. Together with the way wood is cut and seasoned, this system has proven to be fully reliable. The aim of this paper is to discuss tonewood selection systems and/or tests currently used by local timber mills, and why the traditional methods might not be feasible; the qualities of four Tasmanian tonewood species and how they compare with the traditionally used ones, and practical approaches of dealing with the sustainability issues facing Tasmanian tonewoods.