Making Music the Sustainable Way.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of young people playing guitar, largely due to the popularity of the Guitar Hero video games and artists like Taylor Swift. With all of these budding guitar players comes an increase in production of you guessed it, guitars! Like most people, when I bought my guitar I didn’t think about the harvesting practices that were used to build it. There is no greater time than today for musicians to start examining the impact our craft has on the environment, and fortunately guitar manufacturers are doing the same.
It’s Time to Change Tradition
Responsible harvesting practices are important, as the Martin Guitar Company of Nazareth Pennsylvania discovered 50 years ago when it exhausted its usable supply of nearby Adirondack Spruce. This is when the guitar industry turned to Sitka Spruce, which is found in the Pacific Temperate Rainforest located in southeast Alaska. The process of making an acoustic guitar is very demanding on its wood sources because the main sounding board of the guitar (known as the “top”) requires clear cutting large diameter old growth trees. In addition to guitars, many other wood instruments rely on Sitka Spruce. Other significant strains on the stand of spruce in Alaska are the housing, construction, and furniture industries. This is why it is crucial that musical instrument manufacturers start searching for alternatives before it is too late.
What You Can Do to Help
You can help by seeking out guitars made by manufactures that choose alternate sources of wood. Martin Guitars have been on the cutting edge of sustainable guitar building since 1990 and through the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance, Martin received a FSC certification. High pressure laminates such as Micarta, Stratabond, and AbaLam have all been used to substitute traditional “tone” woods such as Sitka Spruce. The Martin Guitar Company also uses reclaimed spruce, which is music grade spruce salvaged from the scrap of paper mills.
Brazilian Rosewood is another wood that has long been thought of as a premium tone wood for the back and sides of acoustic guitars. In 1992 this species of wood was placed on the CITES list. East Indian rosewood is one of the main substitutes; however it is harvested in a sustainable manner which limits its availability. Taylor Guitars have made use of Ovangkol, an African species Rosewood that has tonal qualities similar to Brazilian Rosewood. Many other guitar manufactures have been experimenting with a wide range of species for their tone woods. Species such as: cherry, claro walnut, redwood, bay laurel, cedar, blackwood, sycamore, myrtle, koa, and maple. These species come from a wide variety of sources including: wood reclaimed from building demolition, trees damaged from forest fire, driftwood, trees that have already fallen, and stands that are to be cleared for agricultural use.
There is nothing more magical than making music, so choose your next guitar wisely and play a tune the environment will appreciate as much as your listeners do.
David Arnold is a life-long musician and worked as a freelance musician and educator for 13 years. As a freelance writer for www.ecofoil.com David has been awakened to the importance of living sustainably in all facets of life.