Savart Journal

science and technology of stringed musical instruments

Comparing Subjective and Objective Data from a Pool of Classical Guitars

Mark French, Laura Lydy, Miles Crawford


A pool of classical guitars was evaluated subjectively by a group of trained musicians and frequency response functions were measured. The two goals of the effort were to determine whether musicians would largely agree on the tonal quality of the instruments and whether their subjective opinions could be correlated with features in the frequency response functions. These questions are the subject of debate within the community of guitar makers and there is little academic literature that can inform the discussion. The quality of the guitars varied widely, spanning the practical range of instruments available. Subjective results showed that the group tended to agree on the quality of the lowest rated and highest rated instruments. Furthermore, there was no clear correlation between features of measured frequency response functions and subjective ratings.

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Article published Nov 21, 2019.
This article has been accessed 1171 times since publication.


The Savart Journal is published in collaboration with the Guild of American Luthiers.

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Mark French
School of Engineering Technology, Purdue University, 121 Knoy Hall, 401 N. Grant St., West Lafayette IN 47907
United States

Mark French is a professor in the School of Engineering Technology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. He was originally trained as an aerospace engineer and spent the first 10 years of his career as a civilian engineer for the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in OH. He then spent 9 years as a lab manager and senior engineer in the automotive industry in Detroit. In 2004, he moved to Purdue University. There, he created the guitar lab, wrote two books on the technical aspects of guitars and started a class on stringed instrument design and manufacturing. He works on problems in guitar design and has been making guitars since 1990.

Laura Lydy
School of Music, Purdue Fort Wayne, 21010 E. Coliseum Dr., Ft. Wayne IN, 46805
United States

Ms. Laura Lydy serves as the Director of Guitar/String Studies at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Her areas of specialization include teaching applied guitar, pedagogy, and guitar ensemble. She holds a M.M. in Guitar Performance from the Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana. While attending Indiana University, Ms. Lydy studied with renowned classical guitar virtuoso Ernesto Bitetti and early music scholar Thomas Binkley. In addition to her studies, she co-founded and directed Indiana University's Young Guitarists Program. Laura Lydy is an active performer and has appeared in venues across the United States and Europe. She has been featured as both a soloist and as a member of the saxophone/guitar duet Duo Brioso with colleague Farrell Vernon. Their recordings can be heard on Arizona University Recordings and the Centaur label.

Miles Crawford
United States

Miles Crawford worked on this project as part of his M.S. in Engineering Technology at Purdue University. He now works as a design engineer for Scotsman Ice Systems in Vernon Hills IL. A dedicated urbanite, he lives in Chicago.