The Guitar Experiment

The steel-string acoustic guitar is the world’s most popular musical instrument. Unfortunately, the woods popular in guitar manufacture are often from unsustainable sources, a problem highlighted by organisations such as Greenpeace and the Global Trees Campaign. Guitar manufacturers are also well aware of this issue and have taken a range of initiatives to address it, such as using different and more readily available woods as a substitute for the traditionally used tropical hard woods, and researching into new materials for guitar construction, such as high-pressure laminates. The challenge is to find woods that are sustainable and cheap without compromising on the sound quality and playability of the instrument. Although acoustic guitars are routinely compared in specialist publications, these comparisons are susceptible to many different kinds of bias, including factors such as perceived brand quality, price, and visual appearance. In the present project we aim to measure the effects of wood choice on the playability and sound quality of acoustic guitars using a controlled, “blinded,” experimental procedure.


Six handmade Fylde Guitars guitars built on commission from our lab. All the six guitars are based on the same model (Falstaff model), and are identical in every respect, except for the woods used for the back and side plates. The woods used for the back and side plates of the six guitars are: Brazilian Rosewood, Honduras Mahogany, Indian Rosewood, Maple, Sapele, and Claro Walnut. These six woods cover a wide range of availability and price.



Laboratory Tests

If you are a professional, semi-professional, or an experienced amateur guitar player in the Lancaster (UK) area you’re invited to take part in the laboratory tests (running until the end of June 2015). Please, contact Sam Carcagno to book a session.

In the laboratory tests guitar players are asked to play the six guitars under “blinded” conditions (i.e. in a darkened room and while wearing welder’s goggles, so as not to be able to visually recognize the guitar being played). Please, click on the following link to learn more about the laboratory tests.

Online Tests

Guitar players who are unable to attend the laboratory tests can still participate in the study by completing our online tests (non-musicians are also welcome to take part in the online tests). These tests are based on recordings of the six guitars made by a professional guitar player. Please click on the following link to take part in the online tests.

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