Rock on! Wood type doesn’t matter for guitars

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In the United Kingdom, Lancaster University researchers got to rockin’ with guitar players in the name of research, testing six different acoustic guitars in a study addressing the effects of the type of wood used in their construction.

Some of the woods used for guitar backs are revered by guitar players for their acoustic qualities, and are claimed to be tonally superior to other woods. Unfortunately, many of these woods are expensive, rare, and from unsustainable sources.

The researchers tested six steel-string acoustic guitars which were specially built by guitar maker Roger Bucknall (Fylde Guitars). They all had the same design and material specifications except for the back and side plates which were made of woods varying widely in availability and price

Overall sound quality ratings were then given by 52 guitarists in a dimly lit room who played the different guitars while wearing welder’s goggles to prevent visual identification. They gave similar ratings to all six guitars, while blinded tests by 31 of the same guitarists indicated that they could not easily distinguish the guitars by their sound or feel.

Professor Christopher Plack of Lancaster University said, “Overall our results suggest that the back wood has a negligible effect on the sound quality and playability of an acoustic guitar, and that cheaper and sustainable woods can be used as substitutes of expensive and endangered woods without loss of sound quality.”