Larry Stamm, Luthier

Stringed Instruments and Tonewoods

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Grade and Size Specifications


Ordering Wood



Wood Testing

Music and Acoustics

Even before my interest in luthiery began I was intrigued by the obvious difference in tone between otherwise similar instruments and wondered at the interplay between the science of acoustics and music. When I began to build guitars, I heard a lot of comments about the tone generated by this or that wood, or how certain bracing shaped the tone. To me, these explanations sounded overly simple, and I resolved to find some solid answers for myself. Little did I know just how complex this search for answers would be, but it has been a fascinating journey so far. Reliable answers are hard to come by, but a few glimmers of how instruments are used to create music are becoming clearer.

First, music requires the interplay between musician and an audience, and is intermediated by the venue in which the music is happening. Sometimes the musician and the audience are the same person, for example when we sing for ourselves. But the musical experience of singing in the shower is quite different from singing on a wide open prairie. And every musician can remember performances where the audience response made a very positive addition to the music, as opposed to another performance where the very same material fell on seemingly deaf ears.

As luthiers, we tend to concentrate mostly just on the instruments because that is what we can influence. But it is a mistake to ignore the player (musician), the intended audience, or the expected venues where our instruments will be played. We can't control these factors, but they need to be kept in mind as our instruments are designed and created.

Nevertheless, my desire for nice definite answers has led me to do some measuring and calculating, both on the raw wood I am using and the instruments built from that wood. Here are some of my results, starting with the tonewood:

Soundboard Properties

Acoustical Properties of Instruments

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Copyright Larry Stamm
Last modified: Jan 2, 2005