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Thread: The Wood Doesn't Matter ...

  1. #1
    Senior Member gjmalcyon's Avatar
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    The Wood Doesn't Matter ...

    At least according to a study from Lancaster University in Britain: "Overall our results suggest that the back wood has a negligible effect on the sound quality and playability of an acoustic guitar ..."

    From today's New Atlas feed.


    (full version of the paper in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America here).
    Last edited by gjmalcyon; 01-22-2019 at 04:23 PM. Reason: Found the full paper.
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  2. #2
    pallet guitar :)
    Wood

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  3. #3
    Senior Member dreadnut's Avatar
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    Aesthetics are also a desirable attribute.
    "Heat lightning burnt the sky like alcohol." John Prine

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    Super Moderator Default's Avatar
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    Why does my maple guitar sound different than my rosewood?
    "Steve, you are a man of many goats."~ capnjuan

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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Default View Post
    Why does my maple guitar sound different than my rosewood?
    +1...
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  6. #6
    deaf people are also entitled to an opinion

  7. #7
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    They must have built some real clunkers of guitars for this study, if rosewood wasn't readily distinguished from maple.

    Or, used off-the-shelf low-end Taylors.

    .
    .
    .

    Kidding!

    I perceive the results of that study to be different from "the back wood doesn't matter". My take is that a skilled luthier who is familiar with the attributes of the six wood species used in this study, can build a good-sounding instrument from any of those six woods, because he/she knows how to work with those woods to obtain the best sound from each of them.

    Also, I thought it interesting that one of the graphs shows maple & walnut to rank lowest in the guitarists' preferences. Both of those woods would likely have drier tones, whereas the two rosewoods, mahogany, & sapele would be warmer sounding (and more similar to each other).
    several Guilds, one Gretsch, one Taylor, & a Squire CV tele

  8. #8
    Senior Member adorshki's Avatar
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    No big "revelation" to me, because I think the conclusion itself is flawed, what does "negligible" mean?
    In fact why the hell they even threw "playability" into the picture baffles me.
    What does "playability" have to do with "voice color"?
    A red herring intended to beef up the hypothesis, methinks.
    I think we've all pretty much agreed for a l-o-o-n-g time that the top is the single most critical element in sound character, and a figure of 99% might be hyperbole but it wouldn't surprise me.
    Analogy time:
    Can you taste 1% of salt in a cup of water, vs, say, 1% of oil of peppermint?
    If nobody volunteers I'll try to remember to do it this weekend.
    In the meantime I bet even 1% difference is enough to be audible and "color" the individual sound of a given instrument.
    Also: while the study was at least based on instruments constructed as identically as possible by the same builder, nothing was said about the credentials of the 51 guitarists performing the "playability" exercise nor why only 31 of them performed the "sound color" discrimination test.

    May I also present an analogy in the paper industry, where there are virtually infinite shades of "white"; but there's an industry standard acceptance that whites are categorized in 3 different "shade" categories.
    Depending on what agents are used to bleach and whiten paper, especially plain copy paper, it can appear pinkish, bluish, or even slightly greenish, especially under flourescent light.
    There's a whole paper-making science dedicated to creating papers that are "neutral" for optimum results with color lasers and inkjets, that's one reason that stuff sells a for a premium if you've ever wondered.
    Papers that are punched up in the blue end of the spectrum to artificially brighten them wind up making flesh tones look gray and muddy.
    Is it such a stretch to comprehend how the frequency-reflecting characteristics of a given body's tone wood color the sound of an instrument, perceptibly?
    Does anybody here really think it's just a myth propagated by instrument builders that mahogany, rosewood, and maple all have different resonating and frequency reflecting characteristics?
    Then why can I hear such a vast difference in sustain and clarity of notes between my buddy's G37 maple archback compared to my own D25 mahogany archback?
    Do you know why maple is perceived as "jangly"?
    Because it tends to reflect all frequencies with equal emphasis, but the human ear perceives a bass tone at a given amplitude as being much quieter than a treble tone of the same amplitude.
    Our ears are built to need bass frequencies to be amplified just to perceive them as being equal amplitude to mid and treble freq's, in fact we're tuned to the midrange of the human voice.
    And are so sensitive as to be able to distinguish between hundreds of different human voices.....
    'Hog tends to emphasize midranges and rosewood tends to emphasize overtones, and each of those characteristics does color how a given guitar sounds.
    And if there's a difficulty in hearing those differences it's either due to an uneducated ear and/or flaws in the testing model including construction flaws that obscure the tonewood's voice character.
    OK, rant over, I say the experiment's flawed, I'll check back later for "reactions"....
    Last edited by adorshki; 01-22-2019 at 09:26 PM. Reason: correcting typos
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by adorshki View Post
    No big "revelation" to me, because I think the conclusion itself is flawed, what does "negligible" mean?
    In fact why the hell they even threw "playability" into the picture baffles me.
    What does "playability" have to do with "voice color"?
    A red herring intended to beef up the hypothesis, methinks.
    I think we've all pretty much agreed for a l-o-o-n-g time that the top is the single most critical element in sound character, and a figure of 99% might be hyperbole but it wouldn't surprise me.
    Analogy time:
    Can you taste 1% of salt in a cup of water, vs, say, 1% of oil of peppermint?
    If nobody volunteers I'll try to remember to do it this weekend.
    In the meantime I bet even 1% difference is enough to be audible and "color" the individual sound of a given instrument.
    Also: while the study was at least based on instruments constructed as identically as possible by the same builder, nothing was said about the credentials of the 51 guitarists performing the "playability" exercise nor why only 31 of them performed the "sound color" discrimination test.

    May I also present an analogy in the paper industry, where there are virtually infinite shades of "white"; but there's an industry standard acceptance that whites are categorized in 3 different "shade" categories.
    Depending on what agents are used to bleach and whiten paper, especially plain copy paper, it can appear pinkish, bluish, or even slightly greenish, especially under flourescent light.
    There's a whole paper-making science dedicated to creating papers that are "neutral" for optimum results with color lasers and inkjets, that's one reason that stuff sells a for a premium if you've ever wondered.
    Papers that are punched up in the blue end of the spectrum to artificially brighten them wind up making flesh tones look gray and muddy.
    Is it such a stretch to comprehend how the frequency-reflecting characteristics of a give body's tone wood color the sound of an instrument, perceptibly?
    Does anybody here really think it's just a myth propagated by instrument builders that mahogany, rosewood, and maple all have different resonating and frequency reflecting characteristics?
    Then why can hear just a vast difference in sustain and clarity of notes between my buddy's G37 maple archback compared to my own D25 mahogany archback?
    Do you know why maples is perceived as "jangly"?
    Because it tends to reflect all frequencies with equal emphasis, but the human ear perceives a bass tone at a given amplitude as being much quieter than a treble tone of the same amplitude.
    Our ears are built to need bass frequencies to be amplified just to perceive them as being equal amplitude to mid and treble freq,, in fact we're tuned to the midrange of the human voice.
    And are so sensitive as to be able to distinguish between hundreds of different human voices.....
    "Hog tends to emphasize midranges and rosewood tends to emphasize overtones, and each of those characteristics does color how a given guitar sounds.
    And if there's a difficulty in hearing those differences it's either due to an uneducated ear and/or flaws in the testing model including construction flaws that obscure the tonewood's voice character.
    OK, rant over, I say the experiment's flawed, I'll check back later for "reactions"....
    Seems to be sound reasoning.

    Ralph

  10. #10
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    Although my guitar playing skills are below average, I think I have a pretty good ear and there's a huge difference (at least to me) between a Maple, Mahogany and Rosewood dread or Jumbo.
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