Effect of back wood choice on the perceived quality of steel-string acoustic guitars

Samuele Carcagno, Roger Bucknall, Jim Woodhouse, Claudia Fritz, Chris Plack

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Some of the most prized woods used for the backs and sides of acoustic guitars are expensive, rare, and from unsustainable sources. It is unclear to what extent backwoods contribute to the sound and playability qualities of acoustic guitars. Six steel-string acoustic guitars were built for this study to the same design and material specifications except for the back/side plates which were made of woods varying widely in availability and price (Brazilian rosewood, Indian rosewood, mahogany,maple, sapele, and walnut). Bridge-admittance measurements revealed small differences between the modal properties of the guitars which could be largely attributed to residual manufacturing variability rather than to the back/side plates.Overall sound quality ratings, given by 52 guitarists in a dimly lit room while wearing welder's goggles to prevent visual identification, were very similar between the six guitars. The results of a blinded ABX discrimination test, performed by another subset of 31 guitarists, indicate that guitarists could not easily distinguish the guitars by their sound or feel. Overall, the results suggest that the species of wood used for the back and sides of a steel-string acoustic guitar has only a marginal impact on its body mode properties and perceived sound.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3533-3547
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
Early online date27 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2018


  • musical instruments
  • endangered timbers
  • subjective evaluation
  • perception


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