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The Pro's and Con's of Hardwood and Softwood in Guitar-Makin

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Myles Cooper

on 18 December 2013

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Transcript of The Pro's and Con's of Hardwood and Softwood in Guitar-Makin

Soundboard is made of softwood because:
low impedance: sound can travel easily from sound board to the rest of the body due to low density and modulus.

Sides of the instrument are made of hardwood because:
low damping constant: sustain notes longer and be louder.
higher hardness and Young's Modulus make a stronger body.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
Instrumental Wood:
The Pros and Cons of Hardwood and Softwood in Guitar-Making

Density calculation
What Matters?
Mechanical Properties
Acoustic Properties
How easily does the wood bend, how well does it keep its shape, and how well does it hold up over time?
How does the instrument sound?
Young's Modulus
Characteristic Acoustic Impedance
Sound Radiation
From Angiosperms (broad-leaf trees)
Cellular structure includes vessels, which look like large pores
Fibers are shorter and less organized
Less lignin
From Gymnosperms (evergreen trees)
Cellular structure is more regular
Fibers are longer and more regular
More lignin
What is used in instruments?
Sides of guitar: bent hardwood
Soundboard (top): unbent softwood
Janka hardness test
3-point bend test
force required to embed a .45" diameter steel ball half-way into sample
used to determine if a species of wood is suitable for use as flooring
Softwood (Pine) Cells
Bent Poplar
Unbent Poplar
Hardwood (Mahogany) Cells
Bent Mahogany
Unbent Mahogany
Connection to Materials Science
measured using laser proximity sensor
free vibration displacement test
processed in MATLAB to find logarithmic decrement, a metric of damping
Young's Modulus:
slope of elastic region
Conducted on both dry and steamed samples.
known to be linked to many acoustic properties
Hardwood has higher characteristic impedance than softwood mathematically because of its higher modulus. That higher modulus is caused by the disorganization of the hardwood cellular structure.
Softwood has more damping because its structure is less stiff and thus can absorb more vibrational energy to cause damping.

General Wood Information
Wood is an organic composite made of cellulose fibers that are connected by a "glue"-like polymer known as lignin

Hardwood is generally a more preferable choice for a guitar body because of its higher hardness and Young's Modulus making a more resilient body. Additionally, lower damping would allow sound to resonate more in the body of the guitar.

Softwood is more optimal for a soundboard because it has a lower characteristic acoustic impedance and thus can transfer sound more easily to the body of the guitar.

Damping and sound radiation turned out not to be important acoustic factors to the softwood soundboard, as the soundboard's function is not to amplify vibrations.
Out of the Woodwork
Full transcript