Wood Choice - Food For Thought

James Swayne
@james-swayne
last year
1 posts

A very interesting article, Ken.

Brian G.
@brian-g
last year
106 posts

Ken, I am glad you enjoyed it.  :)

Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
last year
531 posts

Brian, thanks for sharing that video. I watched it yesterday and forgot to let you know that. The old Stradivarius has a wonderful sound. It's not what you would expect from a modern guitar.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Brian G.
@brian-g
last year
106 posts

Ken, thanks for sharing that study. It's interesting, but not surprising - scientists have long known that aesthetics will affect perceptions of tonality and resonance. Dusty - I am sure the soundboards were not changed because they substantially affect the sound of an instrument.  You mentioned spruce being the most common.  That's true, as spruce is an excellent sound radiator with a low characteristic impedance beneficial for transmitting sound into air (two characteristics shared by the best soundboard woods). Although instrument players seem to debate this endlessly, scientists have known for a long time that a handful of wood properties (such as speed of sound, characteristic impedance, sound radiation coefficient, and loss coefficient) make certain woods more suited to some instrument parts or types than others.  The combination of properties explains why spruce is a preferred soundboard just as it does why tropical woods are favored for woodwind instruments and xylophone bars, etc. 

As an interesting aside, it turns out that maple pairs well with spruce for the rest of a chordophone instrument, because it is similar to spruce in its ability to radiate sound well, but has a higher impedance that acts to reflect oscillations within the instrument and help radiate them out through the sound holes. And guess who used to use spruce soundboards and maple sides/backs for his instruments (which are in fact the oldest surviving examples using this combination)? Antonia Stradivari.  In addition to the violins for which he is famous, he made other instruments, including guitars, about 4 or 5 of which survive, and only one is playable.  In case anyone would like to hear what it sounds like, a great video was just posted yesterday on Forgotten Guitar. Here is the link:

http://forgottenguitar.com/2016/02/04/the-only-playable-stradivarius-guitar-left-in-the-world-the-sabionari-made-in-1679-video/

 

 


updated by @brian-g: 02/06/16 04:46:54AM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
936 posts

The birch almost has the look of a spalted maple, though perhaps lighter and more consistent in texture.

 

The experiment makes me want to investigate the origin of the use of tropical woods for musical instruments.  It might simply be that Europe had largely exhausted its hardwood supply long before the end of the Medieval period, but they could still find old growth forests in Africa and, of course, in Brazil and the rest of South American once they arrived there.




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

Ain't no money in poetry; that's what sets the poet free.
I've had all the freedom I can stand.
-- Guy Clark
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
last year
531 posts

I also like the look of the birch wood on the guitar used in this study. In this study all of the guitars have European spruce tops which have the same bracing pattern. The are all of the same shape. The only difference in the guitars in the wood of the body, sides, neck, fretboard, bridge, linings, and braces as far as I can tell. They don't say (unless I missed it), but I assume all the guitars are strung with the same make of strings and use identical tuning machines.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
936 posts

That's very interesting, Ken. Thanks for sharing that experiment.  The one caveat I would point out is that this experiment did not examine wood for the soundboard. That might be because soundboards are not generally made of tropical woods (sitka spruce being the most common) and the experiment was specifically interested in tropical woods. But it might also be that wood choice for the soundboard (on guitars if not other instruments) makes a profound difference in tone.

I also have to express my preference for the look of the birch wood. That looks so cool!




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

Ain't no money in poetry; that's what sets the poet free.
I've had all the freedom I can stand.
-- Guy Clark
Bob Reinsel
@bob-reinsel
last year
102 posts

Thanks Ken, that's interesting stuff.




--
Bob
Site Moderator

The greatest music is made for love, not for money -- Greg Lake
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
last year
531 posts

I came across this experiment for classical guitars and found it interesting. http://www.leonardo-guitar-research.com/research-report-lgrp Have fun with it.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."


updated by @ken-longfield: 02/05/16 10:28:03AM