Fender PM-1 LH

Rosewood! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rosewood. Do We?

As you may know, just over two years ago back in January of 2017, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) moved rosewood from one of their no-no lists to another making it virtually impossible for guitar makers to get their hands on this wood which historically been so often been used, especially in guitar fingerboards.

In May of 2017, Fender said they would no longer be using rosewood for the fingerboards of its guitars made in Mexico or in its American Elite line of instruments. The former switched to Pau Ferro, and the latter changed to ebony.

What makes the change by CITES so difficult for rosewood users? Let me quote an article from Music Radar on this subject.

“…CITES is legally binding for its Parties, but does not supersede or replace national legislation. That means that legislation is enforced by different departments and with different levels of severity from country to country, even from province to province. That inconsistency in administration and enforcement is what’s giving the guitar industry such a monumental headache in 2017.”



But wait! There’s a new hope on the horizon. Some of the leading guitar makers – Fender, Martin, PRS and Taylor (and others) – are trying to get an exemption to the CITES listing for musical instruments.

They say that what CITES did was intended to prevent abuses in the furniture industry, not the music industry, so they should be allowed to import and export rosewood as they had in the past. As of this writing, the jury hasn’t convened on this case yet.

Even if the powers that be decide in favor of guitar makers, that doesn’t mean said makers will automatically switch back to using rosewood. After all, they’ve been using something else for about 2 years now. Why make another change?

Why make another change? Because guitar buyers want rosewood.

There are arguments on both sides of the issue, but I’m not really on either one. I guess you’d say I’m sitting on the fence then. I understand why those who want the return of rosewood do want it, but I think you have to be a real connoisseur to even notice or care that much. I mean, is your average listener (and most of your listeners are average) able to tell whether your fingerboard is rosewood or Pau Ferro? If they can make the distinction, do they care?

I don’t think so.

Gary Sonnenberg
Latest posts by Gary Sonnenberg (see all)
Rosewood! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rosewood. Do We?
Article Name
Rosewood! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rosewood. Do We?
Rosewood has been hard to come by for a couple of years. That may now change.
Publisher Name
My Musical Picks
Publisher Logo