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Cocobolo Vs Rosewood: Which Guitar Material Is Better?

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If you’re curious about cocobolo vs rosewood as guitar materials and how these tonewoods differ, you’ve come to the right post!

I’m not necessarily a guitar expert, but I have played since 2003 and know a thing or two about this instrument.

Choosing the Right Tonewood

As you probably already know, almost all guitars today are made out of wood. But it isn’t just any kind of wood. There are specific wood types that are better for musical instruments than others. This, of course, also includes guitars.

And the choice of tonewood for guitars has been a major issue for many decades. Sure, we can discuss its impact on solid-body electrics. But all other guitar types are a different story.

In case you didn’t already know, different tonewoods are used for different parts of guitars. But here’s a list of wood types that are most common in high-quality instruments:

  • Mahogany
  • Adler
  • Ash
  • Spruce
  • Cedar
  • Maple
  • Ebony
  • Basswood
  • Poplar
  • Rosewood
  • Koa
  • Walnut

The full list would be much longer. However, these are the most common wood types for guitars.

Mahogany, Alder, ash, poplar, and basswood are all widespread. Spruce is common for acoustic guitar tops.

As far as necks go, mahogany and maple are the way to go. Walnut also has its use for necks.

And then there are fretboards. Rosewood is a pretty common one for this purpose. However, it’s also used for acoustic guitar body sides. This wood is known for being thick and heavy. That’s why it’s really not popular as a solid-body electric guitar material. 

Cocobolo Vs Rosewood

What we’re interested in here is how rosewood compares to cocobolo. But we’re mostly considering Brazilian rosewood. Indian rosewood is a common substitute for Brazilian because the two have some similarities. However, the more common Brazilian rosewood will be my focus in this article.

What’s more, the comparison isn’t really that simple. And I’m going to explain why before we get down it.

Plot Twist: Cocobolo is Taxonomically Pretty Close to Rosewood

Cocobolo is a part of the Dalbergia genus. This is the same genus where both the Brazilian and Indian rosewoods belong. In fact, some builders count it as rosewood.

So although it’s not a rosewood, it’s pretty close. And, due to its properties, it’s also used as its substitute. After all, these are all within the genus of Dalbergia.

Rosewood

As mentioned, rosewood is pretty common as a guitar fretboard. This goes for both acoustic and electric guitars. Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, PRS, and many others still use it to this day. However, we can also find some rosewood guitar bodies.

Firstly, rosewood has a specific appearance. It’s a purple-ish brown color and it has some variety in overall appearance.

As far as its sonic properties go, it’s a more balanced option. It brings some clarity to the tone, although there’s a noticeable mellowness to it as well. However, the experiences differ and there are also differences between Brazilian and Indian rosewoods. Indian rosewood is known for sounding more evened out as it cuts out some of the mids.

Rosewood fretboards bring a brighter twist to the tone. And they also come with their noticeable darker slightly purple appearance. You’ll see them on almost all Gibsons and they’re also on 1960s-style Fender Strats and Teles.

Although more favorable, Brazilian rosewood is becoming less common. These days, Indian rosewood is more popular due to its cheaper price. But, in my experience, there’s almost no difference between the two except for the appearance. The Indian rosewood seems a bit grainier.

Cocobolo

In more recent years, we’ve seen cocobolo stepping in where rosewood was formerly used. Cocobolo trees usually grow in Central America and on the Pacific Mexican coast. As time goes by, we’re seeing more shortages. This also impacts the wood’s price. There’s even some illegal trade from Mexico to the US, but that’s a different topic.

As far as the looks go, cocobolo is pretty. The texture resembles Brazilian rosewood. However, it doesn’t have such a purple-ish brown shade. Instead, its color is kind of like chocolate. This grows darker with time as it oxidizes.

With all this said, cocobolo is a pretty dense wood. It’s noticeably heavier than Brazilian rosewood. This is why it’s usually an acoustic guitar tonewood. You couldn’t imagine a practical solid-body electric guitar made out of cocobolo. It would be pretty heavy.

Some say that cocobolo is rough on the tools. It has a more noticeable blunt effect on their edges, which can impact an instrument’s manufacturing costs. Additionally, some have claimed it’s difficult to work with due to a specific scent even claiming it’s highly allergenic.

When it comes to the tone, cocobolo is a brighter tonewood. Due to its properties, you get clear and articulate notes. Some say that it’s more focused. It’s also often compared to koa, although it has more bottom-ends. 

How Do They Compare?

Both rosewood (be it Brazilian or Indian) and cocobolo are more common with acoustic guitar body sides. And, of course, they’re pretty common as fretboards.

Cocobolo has this reputation of a more exotic tonewood. But it’s actually not that rare. Sometimes, it’s a selling point, boosting up the price a bit. But I see no specific reason for it. It’s not like it’s way better than Brazilian rosewood, it’s just different.

Visually, cocobolo is more unique. Its chocolate shade of brown is often has pronounced stripes. On the other hand, Brazilian and Indian rosewood is more purple-ish. And these have less pronounced stripes and wood grain.

The biggest difference is in the density. Cocobolo is a stronger wood, often more difficult to work with. This, of course, impacts the tone. Brazilian rosewood brings a bright sound. But cocobolo adds more treble to the mix.

So if you want sharper high-ends with other rosewood traits, then an acoustic guitar featuring cocobolo could be a great choice for you. Such a guitar may be better suited for lead players.

If you want to learn more, here’s a brief comparison of different tonewoods. Of course, it also includes rosewood and cocobolo. But you can also hear how it stands up to mahogany.

Cocobolo Vs Rosewood: Conclusion

I hope this article has clarified some of the differences between cocobolo vs rosewood.

And if you want to read more articles of mine about guitar materials, check out Corian as a Guitar Nut Material or Alnico 3 vs 5.

Lastly, feel free to message me in the comments below if you have a question about this or another guitar-related subject!

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