The project programme

The Leonardo Guitar Research Project (LGRP) is an EU funded co-operation and partnership between 3 European guitar building schools and 4 independent luthiers, which is investigating the possibilities of using locally sourced, non-tropical woods in guitar making / Read more about the LGRP-Partners

The project was born out of the necessity to proactively seek alternatives to the exotic tropical woods traditionally used in guitar making, many of which are becoming increasingly scarce and hard to obtain, and whose future supply is far from guaranteed / Read more about the needs and wants from an economic and environmental perspective 

Phase 1: May 2012 - July 2014

Research on sound preferences. A comparative study of the sound preferences between guitars made from tropical woods, and guitars made from non-tropical woods. 

The first phase of the research started in May 2011 and was funded by the Leonardo da Vinci programme of the EU-commissionBy building a number of guitars of the same model (Torres classical) both from traditionally used tropical tonewoods and from a variety of non-tropical local woods whose tonal properties have remained largely unexplored, we set out to determine if guitars made from non-tropical woods could be distinguished for sound quality from their tropical wood counterparts. The project guitars underwent a rigorous testing program consisting of various blind and non-blind comparative tests using professional guitarists and expert listeners in room conditions, and with public audiences in concert hall conditions.

Key findings are as follows:

1) Comparative blind testing shows that the group of guitars made from non-tropical woods was equally preferred for
    sound quality to the group made with tropical woods. This shows that non-tropical woods can be used to make
    guitars equal in sound acceptance to those made with tropical woods.

2) However, in non-blind tests, the sound preference expressed for the non-tropical wood guitars was majorly reduced
    by around 50%. This appears to be due to the visual nature of these tests, where aesthetics and preconceptions
    about tonewoods appear to exert considerable influence on sound perception.

to see the Research Report, click here
to see the wood species used for the project guitars, click here



Phase 2: September 2014 - July 2017

Additional Research and Development of a Knowledge Platform

Additional funding has been secured from the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission to allow the project to continue till end 2017. During this second phase of the programme we shall not only be building more guitars and refining our testing procedures, but also increasing our cooperation with external experts (environmental organisations, forestry experts, other research institutions etc) and the international guitar building community as a whole. Our aim is to develop an LGRP-Network and a Knowledge Platform around the use of alternative non-tropical woods in guitar making.

ProgrammeThe second phase of the LGRP program covers the following areas;

1 - Further research on sound preferences 

A group of expert teachers and advanced students from the 3 guitar making schools will carry out a more in depth study on sound preferences between tropical and non-tropical woods. For example, each student or teacher will make a matched pair of guitars (one guitar made from non-tropical and one from tropical wood, both an identical model ).
This will allow us to reduce the influence of the builder when assessing sound preference. The series of matched pairs will be assessed using enhanced methodologies with the support of professional musicians.

2 - Execute comparative workability tests for tropical and non-tropical wood species

This area of work will look to compare the workability properties of non-tropical wood species in general versus those of tropical wood species (in such areas as; bending, planning, scraping etc), and also their reactions to stress and humidity. These assessments will be carried out by the students during the making of the guitars and during a number of workshops that have been organised across the duration of the project where students and teachers from the 3 schools come together for an intensive week focussed on one or more aspects of the project.

3 - Defining terms used in guitar making

Whilst definitions exist for many aspects of wood workability and physical characteristics, this tends to be in a general context and not specific to instrument (guitar) making. After making a literature survey on what is available, and obtaining input from our luthier network, we will compile an online glossary for use in guitar lutherie.

4 - Explore history of tropical and non-tropical woods in guitar making

Many people believe that tropical woods were traditionally used in early guitar making but this is, in fact, not the case. Early guitar lutherie used a variety of woods primarily from local sources. A historical study of the woods used in guitar making is currently in progress and will be published on our website when completed.

5 - Developing a knowledge platform

Our aim is to create a broad network and knowledge platform around the use of non-tropical woods in guitar lutherie. The key elements would be:
a) A luthier network; We have recently set up a network for luthiers who wish to participate in the research or simply        
share their knowledge in this area.
b) An enhanced educational curriculum; Together with forest management experts, wood suppliers and
    environmental organisations we want to develop an enhanced teaching curriculum for the 3 schools to increase
    students awareness and appreciation of the commercial and ecological aspects of tonewood supply.
c) A depository/library where relevant findings, workshop learnings and research reports are published
d) A contact database that allows luthiers to locate suppliers of non-tropical tonewoods, and guitar players to locate
    luthiers that make guitars from non-tropical woods.
The knowledge platform, once set up, would cover all aspects 
of the project and would be accessible by the general public.

6 - Supply development of non-tropical woods

We will work with tonewood suppliers to have a selection of local, non-tropical woods in their tonewood offerings. As said above, we are currently building an online data base of tonewood suppliers offering non-tropical woods, and of luthiers who make custom made non-tropical wood guitars. These databases will be part of the knowledge platform.

7 - Communication and dissemination

General communication of the project and results of phase 1 is currently being carried out across guitar fairs and in the specialist guitar media. Our next event will be at the Holy Grail Guitar Show in October 2015 in Berlin. A comprehensive dissemination event covering all aspects of the project including the phase 2 results will take place during a joint LGRP/Cordefactum  event in Belgium in May 2017. 



People or organisations who wish to gain some first hand experience of the LGR-Project, would be welcome to visit the Centre for Musical Instrument Building (the co-ordinating LGRP organisation www.cmbpuurs.be ) in Belgium. Here you can visit our facilities, play and compare the non-tropical and tropical guitars and discover all there is to know about the project. Another opportunity to gain more information is to visit the Cordefactum Guitar Show, April 2017, where we will give lectures and demonstrations. All guitars build for the Second Phase will be displayed, see: www.cordefactum.be


Please contact us when you have more questions > leonardo.guitar.research@cmbpuurs.be