How can you tell if it's Brazilian?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jerry J, Oct 7, 2001.

  1. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Does anyone know how to tell if a fingerboard is Brazilian rosewood or not? :p
  2. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    isn't called Bolivian Rosewood? aka Pau Ferro, Iron Wood, Caviuna, Morado, Jacaranda Pardo...

    Well i think that is indian rosewood, but ask rickbass1, you may also need a close-up.
  3. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    PoT, there's Bolivian, Brazilian, and Indian rosewood.

    In order of desirability, least to most:

    Indian -> Bolivian -> Brazilian.

    Indian and Brazilian are fairly similiar in their grains and color. However, I've found I can tell the difference through tone and feel. Indian Rosewood feels and sounds like putty...just IMO. Brazilian is harder and very stronger under your fingers, and has more punch, depth, and bloom than Indian rosewood. Colors are brown to dark brown with chocolate brown or red streaks, if any. Fairly linear grain pattern.

    However, import of Brazilian rosewood to the US was outlawed a few years back, so it's getting tougher to find, especially since it's such a highly prized bass tone wood.

    IIRC, Bolivian is much lighter in color; almost tan, with lighter figuring, if any. As far as stiffness in tone, it's somewhere between rosewood and ebony. Definitely stands out more than the other Rosewoods...sort of like the black sheep of the family.

    Hope it helps.
  4. pau ferro isnt really a rosewood. if you're questioning the bass pictured, its indian. brazillian rosewood was only used on the pre-cbs basses.
  5. JimS

    JimS Gold Supporting Member

    Pau ferro = Bolivian rosewood = morado.

    I think I can tell the difference between that and Brazilian: Brazilian has a "wet or oily" feel that, despite the adjectives, feels very good. This was the wood of choice for making marimbas. I think it sounds great but it's hard to know if that is due to that wood or the synergy of all parts of the instrument.

    My morado instruments have a smoother feel.

    While it is cherished for its tone it is only one ingredient of many in the construction of an instrument. A nice piece of Brazilian rosewood (BRW) on a lousy piece of maple and mediocre piece of body wood won't sound great. I had a slew of instruments, many with BRW and some sounded great and some did not.

    You also have East Indian, Madagascar, Palisander, and African. I think the latter two may be the same but I'm not sure.
  6. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Thanks for the replies. My bass in the photo is a '69. I had been talking to Rickbass1 about it and he was thinking that Fender hadn't used all the reserves of the bass woods for quite awhile after CBS took over. So he thought that it might be Brazilian. Another guy told me that he was sure the bass has a swamp ash body since it is so light weight.

    Also, I've been told that Honduran rosewood is sometimes used. And that the only difference between the two types was stepping over the border between the two countries.

    It really doesn't matter to me either way as the bass is sweet. Great playability and tone for days.

  7. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Seattle, WA
  8. there's a possibity that all the reserves werent immediately used up, but theres no way it extended to 69
  9. FWIW - I didn't know this thread was going on and sent Jerry an email with an answer after calming down from a gig about 5am this morning. We have been emailing each other numerous times since I am buying some cabs from him.

    A very credible source I found states that CBS ran out the leftover supplies of Brazilian from the days of Leo's reign, by 1966, backing up what narud says.

    I would like to mention - when I first brought up the subject of Brazilian possibly being on Jerry's `69 in an email to him, I felt it was really no big deal in terms of a tonal difference over East Indian rosewood used at that time. It would be just kind of cool in terms of vibe, like having one of the last nitrocellulose finishes before CBS ran out those supplies and switched over to poly.

    East Indian rosewood of the quality that was used back then has since been depleted, according to what I've seen. Like SAT scores, the lower grades have been bumped up to higher grades to satisfy the demand. This isn't to say some of the best Indian rosewood available today isn't quite good, but it costs.
  10. I've heard that bubinga is often referred to as "African rosewood," which is a definite misnomer.
  11. analog - Don't you find that it's like many things - the more you know, the less you know for certain???

    The best advice I've had to sort this stuff out is to look for the scientific name for the genus, like rosewood is "dalbergia", and see if the scientific specie name contains that name.

    It may seem inconsequential, but it tells you a lot about the true character of the wood, (e.g., oily, soft/hard, etc), when it comes to selecting woods.

    If you ever want to give someone a headache, tell them to look up "purpleheart/morado/bolivian rosewood" in lumber info. and in scientific info. What a mess. :rolleyes:
  12. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    Brazillian Rosewood speaks Portugese.

  13. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Most of the instruments I've seen that use Brazilian rosewood (aka jacaranda) display a lighter color and wavier grain pattern than those that use Indian rosewood. Not really a foolproof test, just my experience. A couple of bass sites, such as Acacia's and Ken Smith's, provide species names and swatches of various woods for reference.
  14. pbassman

    pbassman Guest

    Aug 29, 2001
    Brasília, DF - Brazil
    Hey guys, I'm from Brazil and I'm really happy tp discover Brazilian rosewood is so great to build basses. I really don't know if it's the same as jacarandá, which is really awesome and is getting rarer everyday.

    Anybody got a clue?
  15. Welcome to Talkbass, pbass! As far as I know, you're our only Brazilian representative.

    "Jacaranda" is the same wood, but "Brazilian rosewood" is the name most commonly used on the English-speaking wood market or by musical instrument makers. It's tone and appearance made it the ultimate wood among the classical/flamenco guitar makers.

    It is has been banned from international trade since 1992 by the CITES agreements, (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). It is still sold as lumber and used for instruments in the US because the wood is either;

    - salvaged from old furniture/pianos
    - was harvested before the ban went into effect. For instance, I found a guy selling some that was found in an out-of-business furniture company's warehouse.

    From what I understand, they are replanting the trees in your country but we in the US will have to wait a while for the wood - the trees have to be about 100 years old before they are commercially useable.

    Bigleaf mahogany is another Brazilian wood that may soon be banned by CITES. There's another banned wood that I love the name of - Chilean monkey puzzle!
  16. I'd just like to take this time to point out that if you buy an all-domestic-wood bass from Matt Schmill (, he'll knock 5% off your price. I was tempted to do that, but the lure of stripe-figured bubinga was too strong. :D