Grenadilla, also known as African blackwood, has been the favourite flute wood for the trad player. It is dense and resinous, and a Grenadilla flute gives a good “bark” and has plenty of volume. One drawback is that the resins in this wood can cause contact dermatitis.
Mopane is equal to Grenadilla, and often takes on a richer and more complex tone than its rival, after a few months of playing. Mopane flutes come in many shades of brown, with different grain patterns. The wood has a rich tone quality, and is hypo-allergenic.
African Olive is another hypo-allergenic flute wood. It’s density varies more from tree to tree than does Mopane or Grenadilla, so its potential is less easy to categorize. A flute can be sweet, yet a real honker. It can play whisper tones, then blow you out of your seat. Whatever the case, an African Olive flute gives the most tactile feedback in the player’s hands.
A flute made of any one of these three can dominate a session with a good embouchure and in the right hands.
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