L aurence Stahl Guitars
The Big Island of HawaiiA tropical hardwood, koa’s tone blends the midrange of mahogany with the top end of maple. Due to its density, a new koa guitar tends to start out sounding a little bright and tight, somewhat like maple. But the more a koa guitar is played, the more the sound opens up, expanding the midrange and rewarding the player with a richer, sweeter, more resonant tone. Like Mahogany or Bubinga, it offers a crisp snappy sound with a strong midrange and sparkling high end. A common mistake is when a bright player buys a koa guitar in part for its visual beauty, finds it to be too bright, and doesn’t play it enough to allow the wood to warm up. Similar to mahogany or maple but fuller and richer. Goes well with fingerstylists who play more with the pads of their fingers and tend to have a meatier touch. Bright players need to be careful because of koa’s existing brightness (one might try experimenting with different pick materials).
Hawaiian Koa is easily one of the most sought after tonewoods available, with colors ranging from brown to gold, with rich and varying grain. Koa looks as exotic as the region it’s from. With an open pore structure like Mahogany, it needs to be filled, but works well in all respects with the usual care taken for curly figure. Curl or flame has been exhibited in Koa trees less than 20 years old and these trees grow fast. Instrument size and grade wood is rare because most of the old growth has been cut down. Luckily, Hawaiians are making an effort to plant Koa along with other native trees to help assure they will be available in the future. But until then, good wood is scarce and the rising prices reflect that.
Highly figured Koa is a prized tonewood for both its beauty and influence on sound. Koa produces a warm rich sound – somewhere between the darker sounds that Rosewood guitars produce and the clean bright sound of a Maple guitar. Increasingly, Koa is becoming difficult and very expensive to obtain in master-grade sets. This wood is likely to see a dramatic rise in price over the next several years. The wood is native to, and only grows on the islands of Hawaii. Koa is renowned for its iridescent shimmer and luscious color which ranges from tan to warm gold with brown and black accents. The iridescence in this wood is particularly exceptional on the quarter.
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