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March 21, 2019

Youri Soroka and the “Local Wood Challenge”

Luthier Youri Soroka just informed us that he will be participating in the “Local Wood Challenge” being sponsored by the European Guitar Builders organization. This will be happening later this month, from 22-24 March in Paris at the “Salon de la Belle Guitare” event, which is one of the largest guitar shows in France.

Like the Leonardo Guitar Research Project (who will also be there) that we’ve previously reported on (you can see that post here), the idea is to build guitars with sustainable materials – in this case, using only local woods. So, Youri decided to do an experiment: build 2 guitars side by side using the same top wood with identical bracing and construction process – the only difference being the materials used for the neck, back and sides. For the soundboards, he had 2 spruce sets, both excellent quality, acquired from Granada luthier John Ray that both came from the same tree, with adjacent numbers, same density and therefore same acoustic properties. For the “local woods” guitar, he chose figured alder for the back and sides, plain alder for the neck and wild pear for everything else: fingerboard, bridge, bindings etc. For the “normal” guitar, he chose Madagascar rosewood for the back and sides. At the start of the building process, he found the tap tones on the alder to be quite dull, whereas the rosewood was ringing like a bell. It made him think of the Torres “cardboard” guitar from 1862, with its acoustically neutral body. Upon closing the boxes and stringing the guitars up, Youri tried the two guitars side by side, and reports that both sound great and very similar to one another. He will continue to play them both further after the polishing has been completed.

Comments (3)

Seems to me from reading this article that only the top material is really important since that was the only thing consistent.. Since the Alder one was actually dull and ended up sounding similar to the Rosewood one it appears the body materials are really just decoration and unimportant…

“Upon closing the boxes and stringing the guitars up, Youri tried the two guitars side by side, and reports that both sound great and very similar to one another.”

It’s not that you need to start with the rarest, most exotic and expensive timbers in order to render the strings’ signal and create a rare, exotic and expensive thing that generates magic sounds; rather, the magic sound actually is created as the inherent product of the string’s harmonic series; then the guitar gets in the way and changes it. Poor guitars muffle and diminish it; good guitars are the most transparent to it.

So the challenge is to create a tool with the guitar-shaped form cherished by our culture; that allows you to accurately manipulate the string’s signal; and which is at the same time as transparent as possible—that presents as “open a window” as possible—to the beauty the string is creating.

The popular belief was that THE COMBINATION OF Brazilian rosewood and German Spruce FURNISHED the mystic potion, the magic elixir, that could transform those seemingly random flutterings into heavenly sound. Now, people realize that it is the builder’s restraint, with whatever materials are at hand, that can reveal and free the inherent beauty those ordered movements are creating.

But the guitar, of course, is never completely transparent: since it is interposed between the strings and our ears, so its very presence will bias it—will filter it—to one degree or another. Whether the sieve in between the string’s sound and the sound that we hear be made of exotic timber; wormy pallet wood; carbon fiber; papier mache; glass; or metal; the choice determines the nature and amount of the change, or distortion, of the original source. In each case, it is—in the end–the builder’s restraint that will determine whether the beauty will survive the change.

W.

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