Musicwood – instrument making and sustainability

For hundreds of years guitars have been made the same way, but now this could all change. A new music documentary, “MUSICWOOD” follows the journey of a band of the most famous (acoustic) guitar-makers in the world as they attempt to save a primeval forest and the acoustic guitar.

Musicwood Documentary – 2 min trailer from Helpman Productions on Vimeo.

Link at Acoustic Nation

Of course, Paul Fischer already foresaw the problem of diminishing stocks of precious instrument hardwoods and in 1983 he was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to extend his research into the forest of Brazil.
He produced many instruments with alternative, non-threatened hardwood species and did a memorable “blind test” with John Mills playing traditional Brazilian rosewood and mixed other species (e.g. Kingwood, Jaguar wood) behind a curtain, with the audience invited to judge whether or not they could tell the difference.
Nowadays, it is quite common to find instruments made of alternative hardwoods (the most common and long standing being the so-called “Indian” rosewood). but Paul was a pioneer who did research with the help of native Brazilians such as Sergio Abreu.

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The Vihuela da Mano and Spanish Guitar by Jose Romanillos

Paul Fischer's Vihuela ca.1977

Paul Fischer’s Vihuela ca.1977

Paul Fischer
made me a vihuela in 1977 and we had to go to great lengths to find a suitable model, as there were not many extant from the period (the 1530s). We ended up using paintings and drawings of the time, and Paul produced an elegant instrument of sycamore, spruce and satinwood. It was much like the viola da mano, which was played by Francesco da Milano and that was actually my preferred repertoire at the time.

If this book had been available then, it would have been a useful guide to the accuracy of our guesses and also some of the personalities who were responsible for this forerunner of the modern guitar. Jose Romanillos, is of course, well known for his collaboration with Julian Bream, but is also a scholar of the history of guitar making and has written a book on Antonio Torres as well as this exhaustively researched volume.

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