According to many musicians, in order to have the best sound possible, an acoustic guitar has to be made from the "right" type of wood. Unfortunately, such wood often comes from endangered, unsustainably-harvested trees. A new study, however, suggests that wood type makes essentially no difference.
For the study, a team from Britain's Lancaster University contracted luthier Roger Bucknall (of Fylde Guitars) to build six steel-string acoustic guitars.
All of these were identical, apart from the type of wood used for their back and side plates. "Varying widely in availability and price," those types consisted of Brazilian rosewood, Indian rosewood, mahogany, maple, sapele and walnut.
Fifty-two guitarists were then brought into a dimly-lit room to play each of the instruments – they also wore welding goggles, to ensure that they couldn't see which guitars were made from which type of wood. When they assessed the sound quality and playability of the guitars, their ratings for all six were very close.
Additionally, when 31 of the guitarists were asked to identify which instrument was which based on its sound and feel, they had considerable difficulty doing so.
"Overall our results suggest that the back wood has a negligible effect on the sound quality and playability of an acoustic guitar, and that cheaper and sustainable woods can be used as substitutes of expensive and endangered woods without loss of sound quality," says Lancaster's Prof. Christopher Plack.
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more