The Guitar Material Characterization Project



The observed data allows us to conclude several things:

  • Each hardwood does have a different frequency response and transfer function.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, the frequency responses observered essentially confirmed the "traditional wisdom" of guitar material selection.
    • Ash didn't overly color the sound and offered fairly good response at several harmonics.
    • Maple had a quirkier response curve, and attenuated several of the lower harmonics while emphasizing the upper ranges.
    • Koa -- exotic, exciting koa -- had strong bass response and an interesting ringing effect.
  • Synthesis of a particular waveform, using just a coarse approximation of the transfer function, proved to be very effective. To the ear the synthesised ash sound and the natural ash sound were nearly identical.

Future Development

The main area of future development that we'd like to explore is a greater range of frequency measurement. We only examined the effect of the wood on the harmonics of the 440kHz note. If we could algorithmically examine other ranges, we could get a much better picture of a wood's potential as a guitar material.

A secondary area of development would be synthesis. If we can synthesize the effect a wood has on a sound, then a guitar could be built out of a cheaper wood and run through a filter that replicates the transfer function of an expensive hardwood. This would, no doubt, make us large amounts of money.

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