Famed manufacturers, like Gibson and Fender, are experimenting with innovative ways to use their ever-dwindling supplies of prized timber
Next time you go to smash your guitar after a particularly rocking concert, realize that you may be destroying a section of a 250-year-old spruce tree, a rare cut of mahogany, or a slice of endangered Brazilian rosewood.
Musical instruments don't use much timber, but when they do, it's usually prized wood. Large forested areas often need to be cleared in order to reach these supplies. This puts specialized, high-quality wood at a premium for luthiers, and when it comes to living species, there are some federal regulations. What will musicians do if guitar makers run out of supplies good enough to produce the right sounds?
"Expensive musical instruments are a combination of many species from many different parts of the world," said Scott Paul, director of the forest campaign for Greenpeace. "In order for a musical instrument manufacturing company to become more sustainable, they have to look at the primary resources from the planet that they're using and get those resources in the most environmentally sustainable way."
The largest environmental focus for guitar manufacturers is ensuring that the wood they need will be around for centuries to come. Alternative sources just don't cut it for traditionalists, who can claim the ability to hear the difference between Indian rosewood and rosewood from Madagascar, Paul said. Still, some guitar companies are researching other ways to produce the desired tonal quality without using precious timber sources -- before it's too late.