Musical Instruments

Some of the world’s most threatened tree species are highly valued as timber to produce musical instruments such as guitars, bagpipes and clarinets. Several of these trees are chosen because of the favourable properties of their timber: the colour, the grain density and/or the sounds they produce. Many of these instruments have been made using the same materials for centuries and are highly sought after. However many of the common materials come from threatened trees.

Pau Brasil – Caesalpinia echinata

As well as being a flagship species, pau Brasil is considered essential for making violin bows. It is an extremely wasteful process with a single violin bow using a kilogram of wood. Unsustainable harvesting will lead to further population decline and close monitoring is therefore essential. This species is protected under Appendix II of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), regulating the international trade of the timber.

Honduran Rosewood – Dalbergia stevensonii

This tree has a dense wood making it a perfect material for xylophones and claves. This tree has not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List, however it is thought that its population is in decline due to over exploitation for timber. This trade threat is recognised by CITES where this species is also listed under Appendix II, limiting international trade.

Credit: Mega Udonitron, Flickr

Many guitar fretboards are made of rosewood. Credit: Mega Udonitron is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mpingo – Dalbergia melanoxylon

This tree is exported from sub-Saharan Africa to make woodwind instruments in Europe and North America. The wood of the Mpingo tree is highly valued as it is thought that other materials cannot make instruments with same mellow tones. Because the tree naturally grows twisted, up to 90% of the wood can be wasted in instument manufacture.  There have been extensive conservation efforts in recent years to protect this species and the tree is considered Near Threatened. Sound and Fair are working in partnership with The Global Trees Campaign to promote sustainable harvesting of this species through community-based forestry management.


clarinet - Pixabay:

Clarinet. Credit: