Howard Wright's PhD Thesis:

"The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of the guitar"

On this page you can:

You can also listen to an audio example of some of my synthesised guitar sounds.(594 KB, .wav format).


The work presented in this thesis is concerned with the relationships between the perceived tone quality of classical guitars and the vibrational behaviour of the guitar body. A numerical model is described which calculates the sound pressure response of a guitar when a sinusoidal force is applied to one of its strings. The response of the body is described in terms of its modes of vibration, each mode being characterised by four parameters: a resonance frequency, an effective mass, an effective monopole area and a Q-value. Coupling between the string, top plate and fundamental modes of the back plate and air cavity is included.

The output of the model represents the sound of a plucked note as heard by a listener at a given distance in front of the guitar. Using notes synthesised from the model, psychoacoustical listening tests are performed which examine the effect on tone quality of a variety of changes to the mode parameters.

The thesis is divided into nine chapters. Chapter 1 outlines the aims and methods of the research. Chapter 2 reviews the literature relating to stringed musical instruments. Chapter 3 presents a description of the processes that occur in the guitar during sound production. Chapter 4 outlines the theory for the numerical model. Chapter 5 describes experimental measurements of the frequency responses of two guitars and the curve-fitting techniques used to obtain values of the four mode parameters for a number of body modes. Chapter 6 describes experimental measurements of the coupling between string and body. Chapter 7 describes the four psychoacoustical listening tests. Chapter 8 discusses the results of the listening tests, and establishes connections between the properties of the body modes and certain characteristics of tone quality. Chapter 9 presents a brief summary of the conclusions reached, and also outlines topics for future work.

Download a copy of my thesis

Postscript format

Click here to download a zipped postscript file of my thesis (file size: 1.4Mb).

After unzipping you will get a postscript (.ps) file of my thesis. PC users may need to download the free GSView postscript viewer to be able to view the file. The postscript file was created on a Unix workstation, and you may find that when viewed on a Windows PC a small number of figures containing scanned images produce errors. Only a few pages are affected, all others should display correctly. If possible, view on a Linux machine, or try the PDF version.

PDF format

Click here to download a zipped pdf file of my thesis (file size: 2.6Mb).

If you prefer, you can also download an uncompressed pdf version of my thesis (file size: 4.8Mb).

If you don't already have it installed, you will need to install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software to view the pdf file.

More Information

If you would like to know more about the work I did for my PhD feel free to send me an email.

To find out about other research that I have done in musical acoustics, have a look at the list of my scientific publications.

The research for this PhD was carried out at Cardiff University. Visit the homepage of the Musical Acoustics Group at Cardiff for more information.

Last updated: October 2011