As a former research scientist, I have always wanted to know more about the technical side of how the ukulele and guitar function. Much of this information is difficult to obtain for the average person not having access to extensive library sources. Then I was able to get the back issues of the Journal of Guitar Acoustics from Tim White. I had heard reference to such material before but was never able to obtain it. At last the playing field has been leveled for me. The information contained herein is to me remarkable both for what it is and what it suggests in terms of further personal experimentation. I unequivocally recommend its purchase -- David C. Hurd
Seven issues of
the Journal of Guitar Acoustics were published between 1979 and 1982. These
issues have now been republished as a single volume of 700+ pages, along with an
updated bibliography and additional material. The complete index to the new JGA
volume is printed below. The JGA volume is available for US$70
prepaid or via Priority Mail within the continental US, US$75
in Canada, and US$100
prepaid by bank check or money order only elsewhere, shipped via airmail (yes,
international airmail costs us $30+). Checks should be made out to "Journal
of Guitar Acoustics". To order, send inquiries to:
of Guitar Acoustics
Boston, NH USA 03070
Journal of Guitar Acoustics - Complete Unabridged Collection with Addenda
I. Dear Reader - Introduction, History and Summary
II. Tutorial on Guitar Acoustics
"The Secret Life of the Acoustic Guitar" (46 pages)
Course notes from a course given on guitar acoustics in the summer of 1978 to
the recent graduates of a beginning guitar making course. This course,
designed for non-scientists, introduces the major concepts and analytical
methods essential to understanding how guitars make sounds (Structural
Dynamics), how these sounds are transmitted (Acoustics), and how the human
mind perceives these sounds as musical tones (Psychoacoustics).
III. Journal of Guitar Acoustics - Complete
Issue #1 (December 1980) - Choir of Angels (42 pages)
- - Attitudes on Acoustics - The results of our survey on the experience,
perceptions and attitudes of luthiers and researchers regarding the inner
workings of their instruments.
- - Interview With Richard Schneider - A leading proponent of the Kasha
bracing technology talks of listening tests and imagined soundboard
- - The Guitar's Air Resonance - A luthier just beginning
the study of guitar
acoustics offers a qualitative (and incorrect) description of the instrument's
- The Origin and Derivation of Guitar Scales - A pre-publication chapter from
John Natelson and William Cumpiano's book on guitar technology.
- - The Voice of Experience - An extended letter from Herb David of Ann Arbor,
Michigan concerning the appropriateness of the new (instrument acoustics)
- - Harmonics of a Dead Guitar String: - The unusual situation of a brand new
bronze-wound steel fifth string (A-110) sounding totally old and flat is
explored with acoustical spectroscopy.
Issue #2 (March 1981) - Guitar Circuit Analog (66 Pages)
- - Interview with Fred Dickens - The first physicist/luthier to achieve a
violin-like "ring mode" on the free back of a classic guitar speaks about
equivalent circuits and many other things.
- - Physics at the Workbench of the Luthier - An Australian luthier-
researcher presents data on the guitar bridge's role in high frequency sound
production, and other matters.
- - On Musical Instrument Wood - The first part of a two part summary of Dan
Haines' seminal work on the detailed physical properties of wood types
commonly used in stringed instrument making. Precise measurements are
provided for both modern and antique wood samples, plywood as well as the
effects of varnish, lacquer, etc.
- - Popular Attitudes Concerning Guitar Acoustics - A review of perceptions
in the popular media.
- - Recent Patents - First installment of a regular feature showing stringed
instrument patents, ranging from the amusing to the bizarre, with occasional
glimpses of true invention.
Issue #3 (June 1981) - Low Frequency Resonances (74 Pages)
- - Observations - The first of a regular section on related tid-bits of
acoustical delight from outside the field of stringed instruments.
- - Interview with Daniel Haines - The acoustical researcher and inventor of
the first accurate graphite based soundboard wood analogs reviews the
development of graphite-epoxy composites, their application to stringed instruments, and the importance of keeping up with a daughter learning the
- - Identification of Guitar Resonances - The technique of producing Chladni
patterns on instrument plates and completed instruments is spelled out, along
with advice and historical context.
- - On Modal Coupling in String Instrument Bodies - Guitar mechanics are
visualized and explored with hologram interferometry.
- On Musical Instrument Wood, Part Two - The continuation of Dan Haines'
seminal research on the physical properties of stringed instrument woods.
- - Simple Model for Low Frequency Guitar Function - A detailed technical
analysis of phase and frequency relationships in the guitar body's most basic
resonances is offered along with some remarkable derivations of various
- - Recent Patents - Stringed instrument patents from January 1981 through
Issue #4 (September 1981) - Puerto Rican Quatro (84 Pages)
- - Observations
- - Translation of a Lecture by M. Lieppe - A 1977 presentation by a leading
French researcher on stringed instruments whose formal investigations first
bore fruit with the introduction of nylon to the manufacture of musical
- - What is a Decibel? - A basic physical term is commonly misunderstood.
- - The Puerto Rican Quatro - Bill Cumpiano introduces the reader to this
soulful 8-stringed instrument indigenous to Puerto Rico, known for its
exquisite sweetness of tone and simplicity of construction.
- - Physics of Guitars - An Introduction - A non-luthier professor of
physics presents the guitar as a system of coupled oscillators.
- - Impulse Excitation Rediscovers the Headstock - It is quite incorrect to
ignore the neck and headstock as a significant pathway of vibrational energy
from the strings to the instrument body.
- - Recent Patents - Stringed instrument patents from March 1981 through
Issue #5 (July 1982) - Fundamental Resonance Tuning (66 Pages)
- - Observations
- - The Shigometer and Patterns of Resistance to a Pulsed Electrical Current in
Sound and Decayed Utility Poles - Wood types are distinguished by their
properties of electrical resistance. Refinements of these techniques may lead
to the characterization of instrument grade sound-board wood.
- - Manuel Velazquez: Grandmaster of Guitarmaking - Bill Cumpiano visits
this world-class luthier at his home in Puerto Rico, who expresses his
thoughts on the relevance of the scientific method to guitarmaking.
- - Fundamental Resonance Tuning of Guitars - Translated from German, the
relationship between physical structure and acoustical behavior is studied
among guitars varying in architecture to provide a quantitative understanding
of the relationship of basic guitar components as they interact in the lower
- - Some Notes on Classical Bracing Design - Two scholars of fretted
instrument evolution suggest that guitar designs are best evaluated by the ear
of the beholder.
- - Recent Patents - Stringed instrument patents from July 1981 through
Issue #6 (September 1982) - The Chicago Papers (130 Pages)
An international collection presented at the April 1982 convention of the
Acoustical Society of America.
- - The Guitar Frequency Response - by Graham Caldersmith
- - Quantitative Models for Low Frequency Guitar Function - by Ove
- - Fundamentals of Guitar Tone - by Erik Jansson.
- - Guitars - Steady State and Transient Response - by Ian Firth.
- - Studying a Guitar's Radiation Properties with Nearfield Holography -
by William Strong, T.B. Beyer, D.J. Bowen, E.G. Williams, J.D. Maynard.
- - Inharmonicity of Wound Guitar Strings - by Adrianus Houtsma.
- - Plate Vibrations and Applications to Guitars - by Thomas Rossing.
- - Experimental Studies of the Acoustics of Classical and Flamenco Guitars
- by W. and P.A. Bartolini.
- - Applied Mechanics and the Modern String Instrument - Classical Guitar -
by Michael and Nicolas Kasha.
- - The Influence of Signal Processing Devices on the Timbre Perception of
Electric Guitars - by Elizabeth Cohen, Jeff Hasselberger, Robert H. Weir.
- - The Reactions of a Research Scientist, a Master Luthier and a Performing
Artist on Developing a New Guitar - by Michael Kasha, Richard Schneider
and Kurt Rodarmer.
Issue #7 (May 1983) - God's Luthiery (123 Pages)
- - If Rivers Talk - by Theodore Steinway. One of the great master's last
essays relates personal experience with the perception of human voices in the
sound of stream water in remote lands.
- - God's Luthiery - The evolution and physics of sound producing mechanisms
- - The Response of Played Guitars at Middle Frequencies - Long-time-average
measurements of acoustical power density spectra of music played on a
- - Early Digital Synthesizers - Before Rolands there were
player pianos, and plenty of them.
- - Recent Patents - Stringed instrument patents from January 1981 through
IV. Appendix A - Additional Readings
If you like the types of problems discussed in
this page, please consider being a participant in the LEFTBRAINLUTHERIE
An extensive bibliography of additional books, technical papers and other
publications relevant to the study of guitar acoustics on subjects such as
computer software, dynamics and acoustics, experimental techniques, guitar
analytics, guitar construction, strings, violin, wood properties and
The list is
now being managed by Australian luthier Jeremy Locke and is available at:
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