Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to Walnut

Due to a current shortage of padauk I am switching to walnut as the tone wood for my soprano instruments. Whatever the long term availability of padauk may be, my goal is to replace tone woods harvested from the shrinking rain forests with tone wood harvested domestically.

Does walnut sound as good as good ol' padauk? Let me share with you this sound recording of Patricia Bourne's school marimba group performing on marimbas outfitted with, firstly, padauk bars and, secondly, walnut bars. Have a listen and tell me what you think. Also available, with more readable text, at:

Of course sound recordings never quite capture the live experience but I would be very interested to learn what reaction registers in that space between your two finely attuned ears.

FYI this tune is a choral accompaniment that Patty Bourne arranged for her elementary school kids.

Any impressions of Walnut vs. Padauk?


  1. Hey Tom,
    You are correct in that the sound recording can't convey the true sound of the different tone bar woods. Walnut seems to ring well. Have you ever tried mohogony or cherry? I've had success with both.

  2. Hi Brent - I used to offer cherry as an option and found folks opted for padauk overwhelmingly. Part of this may be the visual attraction of padauk (which changes from orange to brown over time anyway), but I think it is not a coincidence that padauk is chosen so widely for starter orchestral instruments. It just rings longer than any other widely available wood, including cherry, walnut and all the domestic stuff. Longer, not louder!

    But is ringiness always an advantage? We heard something during that live recording that makes me think not. More on this later perhaps....