Guitar Physics

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As centuries crawl by, the concept of music has remained largely a part of social and economic interactions within human culture. Of all instruments that contribute, the guitar is one of the most complex and most widely used across all genres of music. There are records that suggest that the guitar has even been played since the time of the Babylonians (Findlay 3). With that said, the guitar is also one of the most elaborate instruments to build, with the most factors and variables involved in construction. The most important variable is the materials chosen to create the instrument. Contrary to popular belief, the quality of said materials to construct a guitar affects its sound immensely. The subject of materials and components has been a matter of debate between stringed-instrument aficionados and luthiers for decades. The driving force that allows materials to affect the resonance of the guitar so immensely is the guitar’s design; it allows the physics of sound to create most of the instrument’s natural tone.
It seems that just picking and choosing the most expensive parts for a guitar will make the most expensive sounding guitar, although that claim is rather incorrect. Prerequisite information that allows one to build a superior stringed instrument is an understanding of the physics of sound, rather than simply a fat wallet. First, one must ask, “What is sound?” Sound is a vibration that propagates as a mechanical wave of pressure and displacement, through some medium. For most purposes, wood and air are the principal mediums in a guitar (Hokin 1). Simply, sound is a wave that pushes (compression) and expands (rarefaction) the molecules around it. Each wave is different in shape and length, and thus makes a different tone....

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...ut it proves to be inconclusive (Lamb par 2). The issue is that while attempting to isolate one variable of guitar aesthetics, all other variables are ignored, and behave differently than regularly. What type of wood did he use? Did he use Maple, Alder, Spruce, Basswood, or something else? All of the woods may have given different results. What type of pickups, strings, or neck, or bridge was being used? It is comparable to The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in Atomic Theory; one may know the location of an electron, but never its velocity, or vice versa. That is why guitar construction is such a troubleshooting craft; no singular part will make the difference, rather it is the relationship between all parts coalescing to create the voice of the instrument. That is why the quality of all components, not the price of one part, affects a guitar’s music immeasurably.

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