Wood for guitars

Let’s Start! We begin a series of entries about the acoustics of wood for guitars. In this section you will find out what is important for us when we start to working on the construction of a new electric guitar. Namely, the selection of wood for guitars. What does “acoustic wood” mean and why is it so important? So let’s start from the beginning:

The most popular types of resonance wood for that are good for the construction of electric guitars are mahogany, maple, ash, alder and rosewood. Of course, there is much more types of wood that you can use to build a guitar but that is not the most important in today’s article. Resonant wood for guitars that we use to make our electric guitars is characterized primarily as much as possible by equal graining without any defects, especially those in the form of curves grain, knots and annual rings of different thickness. The reason of the selection of wood for the guitar is an excellent cooperation of this kind of material with a vibrating string of instruments. One of the most important advantages of the use of wood for guitars is an uneven velocity of sound depending on the direction of sound propagation.

Some time ago, we were thinking about producing guitar with material other than wood. When we was searching for information we found an instrument built from carbon fiber. This was the violin created by an experienced luthier and a group of scientists who wanted to build an instrument of material with a „perfect” acoustic conductivity. The problem started during the first tests of the violin. The uniform, ordered structures such as plastics including carbon, sound traveled at the same speed in all directions, resulting in the great majority of cases excessive resonation. The result was the creation of an independent vibrations resulting in excessive excitation of the entire instrument, thereby precipitating a string of natural vibration. The end result of this failed experiment was the suppression of violin body by ordinary cardboard.

Wood is an anisotropic material, which means that the properties of this material are different in different directions, and therefore the problem of excessive resonance does not occur. Sound travels at different speeds in every way, faster along the grain than across what it means that the body of a violin or an electric guitar made of good quality wood resonance is able to work with a vibrating string and at the same time does not allow for too excessive excitation of the whole instrument that can lead to uncontrolled enhance or extinguish produced by string vibration. Straight and parallel arrangement of the grain of the same width makes that sound wave does not encounter any obstacles that could be cause scattering or focusing. Wood takes the vibrations generated by strings, and the different speed of dispersing vibration does not allow for too excessive stimulation of the wood which eliminates the effect of excessive excitation of the entire instrument. Every of this things makes that logging resonance wood to build guitars is extremely difficult.

In the next post we’ll tell you about the drying of wood and all the interesting phenomena that occur during this process. Bad ways of drying wood can make lot of defects.

wood for guitars

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