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Tone by Hardness
Hard bones produce sharp tones. Soft bones produce dull tones. This page makes it easy see which is which.

Hardness tells you how hard one substance is from another. The Janka hardness test measures the hardness of wood. (The Janka rating for non-wooden bones is estimated). So if you want sharper tones, then get harder bones. If you want duller tones, then get softer bones.

Get the Tone You Want
What is the difference between a dull tone and a sharp tone? It's just the difference in tone relative to hardness. Click a sub category above to view the world's largest selection of musical bones grouped by similar tone quality.

What is the difference between hardness and density?
"Hardness refers to the pressure required to compress the material. Hardness is that property by which a body resists any foreign substance that attempts to force a passage between its particles. The hardness of a body depends on the degree of firmness with which its particles cohere. It is therefore entirely distinct from density, which depends on the number of particles in a given bulk. Thus lead is dense, but not hard."

George P. Quackenbos (1826-1881)

Tone Variables
  • Higher moister content produces lower tone. Lower moister content produces higher tone.
  • Smooth textured bones produce sharper tone. Rough textured bones produce duller tone.
  • Wide bones produce a greater tonal range than narrow bones composed of the same material.
  • Thick bones produce lower tones than thin bones composed of the same material.
Choose softer bones when you want dull tones that won't overpower other instruments. Choose harder bones when you want sharper tones that can stand out from the rest of the band.

How can this tone guide be improved? Send comments and suggestions.

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Hardness Guide

Figures are approximate (but pretty darn close)

Tone Quality/Janka
Sharpest Tone 3000+
Sharper Tone 2500 - 2999
Sharp Tone 2000 - 2499
Medium Tone 1500 - 1999
Dull Tone 1000 - 1499
Duller Tone 500 - 999
Dullest Tone 300 - 499


5000+ Aluminum, Brass, Plastic, Slate (estimated)
4500 Lignum Vitae
4000 Verawood
3680 Ipe, Ironwood
3220 Ebony
2730 English Boxwood
2720 Rosewood
2700 Mexican Kingwood (est)
2690 Bubinga
2600 Satinwood
2500 Tulipwood
2350 Jatoba
2300 Chechem
2200 Bocote, Ziricote
2040 Osage Orange
2090 Purpleheart
1930 Michigan Ironwood (est)
1890 Shedua
1850 Goncalo Alves
1820 Hickory
1730 Peroba Rosa
1725 Padauk
1720 Blackwood
1639 Bamboo
1630 Vermillion, Wenge
1575 Zebrawood
1450 Maple
1360 Oak
1350 Tanoak
1136 Cocobolo, Granadillo
1030 Canary Wood
1010 Walnut
1000 Teak
950 Cherry
840 Lacewood
800 Mahogany
660 Primavera
580 Western Cedar
568 Cedar
540 Poplar
460 Pine