Guitar Making Tip No. 131

Guitar Making Tip Number 131 is about the balance that a luthier must obtain between strength and vibration. A guitar is a balance of strength and weakness. The guitar must be strong enough to be stable, but weak enough to allow vibration. Here is how.

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Guitar Making is a Balancing Act

guitar making tip number 131An acoustic guitar has about 170 pounds of string tension in place with the strings tuned to playing pitch. That’s like having an average man standing on the top of the neck at all times.

Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, the strings pull on the structure of the guitar. It never stops, unless you take off the strings. On top of that, when you play you introduce even more stress to the instrument.

It is important that you build a guitar that will last a long time for the player. The structure needs to have the strength to withstand the constant and unyielding force of the strings.

You need to design something that will hold all that force back, not deform, not break, and allow the player to operate the instrument comfortably. You also need to do one more thing as you build. You need to make the structure weak as well as strong…

Balancing Strength and Weakness

It may sound crazy, but you need to make certain areas of the guitar intentionally weak in order to maximize sound. If you were just building for structure, there would be many changes to the guitar you could make without even thinking too hard.

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For starters, the wood for the top could be changed to something stronger. The sides could be thicker, and so could the plates themselves. I bet half inch to one inch tops and backs would make a very strong guitar that would never ever break.

The guitar would be a rock, and an example of excellent structure. The problem is that the guitar would not play. The structure is too strong at that extreme of an example. While it would never ever break, it would also never ever sing. That’s the goal after all, making an instrument is all about hearing it play.

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Planning for Weakness and Strength Together in Balance

When you build a guitar, you need to walk a delicate line. The unit needs to hold up for a long time, but it also needs to vibrate freely when played. This is the beauty and the madness that is instrument making.

When you make a weaker structure, you make more sound. If you go too far, you cause an inferior structure, and a short lived instrument. Go too far back, and you end up with my original example of a solid guitar that never plays.

Instead, always shoot for a balance in your designs. You will learn things over time and each of them will add to your arsenal. When you are faced with a structure or sound problem, remember that they are both connected. What adds to one, subtracts from the other. In this way you can look forward to a lifetime challenge in making the perfect guitar.

Guitar Making Tip No. 131 – Wrap Up

Guitar Making Tip Number 131 is about balancing structure and sound. Weakness and strength. What you add to one end of the balance, you take from the other. Planning too far in one direction will severely limit the guitar in the other direction.

When you are making decisions on your guitar, remember to think of both ends as you create your vision for the perfect instrument. Don’t neglect structure, otherwise you will have a very short lived guitar. Also, don’t neglect sound, otherwise your guitar will never truly live at all.

If you have any questions on Guitar Making Tip No. 131, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.

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