Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eco Friendly Musical Instruments Green Guitars

No matter what you call it -- axe, six string or Lucille -- the guitar is one of the most widely recognized and oldest instruments still played today. With a history of over 4000 years to back it up, this instrument certainly has gone through many incarnations over the centuries to become the modern purveyor of musical melody. But in today’s world with its growing concerns of deforestation, what is the future of such an instrument whose primary construction material is wood; often times exotic woods nearing extinction.

Let’s explore a little history of how wood relates to a guitar.

The main concern for any acoustic guitar player will always be the sound the instrument makes. Different models, manufacturers, woods, etc all resonate with a slightly different tone and musicians become loyal to brands due primarily for their own love of the sound quality. The woods used in the construction of a guitar’s soundboard (the top piece where strings generally stretch over the sound hole) Some of the most popular woods used in acoustic guitar manufacture are spruce, red cedar, Brazilian rosewood, mahogany and Indian rosewood while maple, ash and poplar are some of the more common woods used in construction of electric guitar bodies.

So what would need to occur for a musician to change their figurative tune on the materials used in the manufacture of their favorite instrument? The literal tune would need to be one they can get behind.

Many new materials have flooded the instrument world of late from recycled plastics and hemp, to SmartWood, Flaxwood and bamboo and all of them have a little something different to offer in terms of their impact on the planet.

Recycled plastic can be used to create some seriously flashy products due to the array of color pallets that exist in the plastics industry. Simon Lee offers six different guitar finishes in their funky recycled plastic line. Hemp cellulose has been transformed into the slickest looking material for the Mada guitar line (electric). SmartWood is a label attached to woods deemed as sustainable and socially responsible by the Rainforest Alliance. Flaxwood is not only a new type of wood based product but also a brand; the guitars are created from taking wood grains, breaking them down and then using injection molding to bond them to a binding agent which is friendly to tone. All of these new innovations are just that, innovative but none are as similar to the unique properties of wood as bamboo.

Bamboo is a hearty grass and has taken a major leap forward in areas like the building trades due to its resilience and rapidly renewing properties. This material was given special attention by the music industry back in 2000 when Yamaha introduced an acoustic guitar constructed almost fully out of bamboo (Resource Harmony Central®). Since that date, bamboo has begun to make a name for itself in manufacture of guitars due to the fact that it is sturdy, there is almost no potential for warping and it is less expensive than more limited ‘wood resource’ counterparts.

The picture at the top of this article is of Yamaha’s FGXB1 model which sadly was discontinued for production in the United States but the customer reviews I read about this instrument made me want to play! The material was well received. Following in these footsteps is the company First Act who created the Bambusa electric guitar. It is created from bamboo and even has a water based topcoat.

It is nice to see that there are companies attempting innovation in the realm of sustainably resourced musical instruments.

Because I have discovered a world of information regarding many of the popular instruments on the market I will be running a series on music, instruments and their accessories (for Eco-Fashion Friday).

Tomorrow -- Eco Drums!

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