28. May 2010 · 5 comments · Categories: Oboe

One man’s firewood is another man’s oboe talks about African blackwood. I’ve always called it grenadilla, some say mpingo (but I can’t pronounce that!), I’ve heard it called ebony, and from what I read here I guess it’s all one and the same. And it’s a threatened species.


  1. I think the author (the author at safarigeek.com, that is) makes a couple of assumptions that are false:

    First, African blackwood is NOT in serious danger of extinction per se. The problem is that the straightest trees, the ones suitable for woodwind making, are being harvested much more than the crooked ones. This leaves the crooked ones to reproduce. So the species isn’t likely to disappear, it’s just likely to pass on fewer and fewer of the “straight” genes to future generations of trees.

    Secondly, the author falls into the common trap of thinking that the wood has “tonal” qualities in a wind instrument. What blackwood does have is a nice, tight, uniform grain, suitable for tooling at precise tolerances. (Also, he/she claims that oboes, clarinets, and “Picoloes” are “traditionally” made from blackwood, for “centuries”–this simply is not true.) I rant more about this here.

    Okay, I’m done.

  2. You sound a bit angry, Bret? Having a bad reed day? 😉

  3. PS I frequently ask my students about where the “sound” comes from (meaning timbre) and they point to the oboe. Or maybe the reed. I point to the inside of my mouth and even down the throat. Scientific or not (I’m FAR from being a scientist, to be sure) I still say my sound is different then others even if I play their instruments and reeds. I believe it starts with the person. I’m stickin’ to that. 🙂

  4. Sorry about that. Not angry, just opinionated.

  5. I’m just teasing you! I do that. But sometimes, since folks on the blog don’t really know me, it doesn’t come across right. 😎

    No need to apologize.