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So I was reading through “A Review of Ancient and Modern Violin Making” (W.W. Oakes, 1899) for my previous post and came across more interesting material. Also…slightly controversial? I don’t know what the general consensus is on soundboard material for guitars regarding softness/hardness (I know all Koa and Mahogany guitars are accepted now – but hey, why not Rosewood or Bubinga? Or Ebony? Softwood tops are the tradition but why not hardwoods generally?), but I want to share the Author’s opinion regardless.

Oakes, W.W. (1899). A Review of Ancient and Modern Violin Making. Seattle, WA: Metropolitan Printing and Binding Co.

This statement was made after the author built many violins using woods from all corners of the globe, with the conclusion being that it is the way the violin is worked and shaped by a skillful maker (rather than the wood used) which makes the tone of a violin – as he puts it, poor wood is a scapegoat used to justify the lack of good tone in a poorly crafted instrument.

Now, does this apply also to guitars? Given the great differences in size and construction, it may be questionable. However, I have often heard in my research online that the sides of a guitar must be hard and dense, and the top light and stiff.  Yet this is in fact the only reference I have found from a builder who built several (more than ten) instruments (although violins, not guitars) before drawing a conclusion opposite to the traditional perspective. This suggests that old growth wood with finer grain is useful not because of its tonal properties, but simply because (as per the last post) it will have less strain under the tension of the strings (because of stiffness – see last post).

An interesting thing to think about! That’s all for now.

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