Research Report LGRP#2

This research was carried out beginning 2017
The report from Phase #2 is in the making. On this page we present already a preview of the Introduction.
Publication of the full report is planned for end 2017, beginning 2018


For over a few centuries it has been widely believed that high quality classical and steel-string guitars – their soundboards being the major exception – have to be constructed from rare and exotic timbers.This applies particularly to backs and sides (rosewood/mahogany), fingerboards, bridges (ebony/rosewood), and necks (mahogany/spanish cedar).

Indeed most builders and players alike consider the now archetypal tropical hardwoods as the preferred, if not the only choice for instruments of the highest tonal quality. Whilst some non-tropical back and side woods have become established for certain applications - most notably cypress for flamenco guitars and maple for the more affordable “student” classical models - experimentation with other, alternative non-tropical woods has only ever occurred on a small scale and has not delivered the empirical proof required to indicate that such woods can be regarded as acceptable tonewoods.

LGRP study, Phase #1 / 2014

Until the Phase#1 LGRP comparitive study on sound preferences between guitars made from tropical woods, and guitars made from non-tropical woods (carried out in 2014 ref 1), there has been no reliable, scientific investigation into the suitability of non-tropical species such as alder, ash, cherry, plane, birch, poplar, chestnut etc. for guitar building.

In order for the widespread belief in the tonal superiority of tropical wood in guitar making to be validated, research would be required to prove that, under blind conditions, experienced guitarists and listeners show a clear preference for guitars made from tropical woods, and are able to reliably distinguish them from their non-tropical counterparts.
The LGRP phase #1 study, however, showed that first-rate guitar players and experienced listeners alike were unable either to register a clear preference between the two sets of guitars or to distinguish between both wood groups at anything better than chance levels. Furthermore, under non-blind conditions, the non-tropical wood guitars show, on average, a marked fallback in preference of some 50%. This would indicate that sound perception is strongly influenced by visually transmitted information such as the aesthetic qualities of an instrument, or the preconceptions surrounding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ tonewoods that their recognition allows.

LGRP study, Phase #2 / 2017

The phase #2 study was designed to retest the findings from the phase #1 study, but this time (a) with a larger number of guitars and players, (b) with the tests executed in 3 countries, (c) with guitar ‘pairs’ (1 guitar made from tropical wood and one guitar made from non-tropical wood, by the same builder), (d) to investigate if cognitive and/or visual information about the instrument would influence the scores and/or the sound perception, and (e) to get an idea of the ability of the guitarists to objectively assess the sound qualities of the tested guitars.
The tests of the first phase were executed by professional players and listeners, as well as by public audiences. The results showed that the players were the most reliable in their ability to assess the guitars. Therefore we chose only to work with professional players for this second phase (ref 2). This methodology for phase #2 also provided the players with a longer evaluation time per guitar. / ....

(to be completed...)