You can’t have a guitar without wood. And not just any wood will do. Certain varieties have those special je ne sais quoi characteristics that translate into sublime sound.
One of the most coveted guitar woods is a type of green ash that grows along the Mississippi River. Because these trees spend many months partly submerged in water, the resulting wood is very low density. That’s what guitar makers are looking for. Known as “swamp ash,” guitars made from it have a warm and clean sound. It also grows really quite fast, which means it can be harvested in large amounts every year.
Fender, makers of the iconic Stratocaster, loves using green ash not only because it sounds good but because it used to be cheap and plentiful. Not anymore.
There’s now a shortage of swamp ash because the lower Mississippi floods for longer than it used to. That makes accessing the trees harder. More worrisome is that the extra time in the water changes the sonic properties of the guitars made from it. Blame climate change for that.
There’s more, too. The population of a wood-boring beetle loves the new climate–and they love to munch on green ash.
The shortage has become so acute that Fender is moving away from green ash for Strats and Telecasters. They’re still making the guitars from the traditional wood, but only for special editions. And they’re expensive.
Read more at Scientific American.