bamboo sustainability project

These days, I believe it is imperative to push sustainability as much as you can. As someone who works with wood every day, I’d like to be able to use materials that won’t have any negative impact on our already struggling ecosystem. I would hope other wood workers and the consumers of these products feel the same way.

Due to our global need to improve sustainability, I am offering this beautiful bamboo option for the back and sides of my guitars. Bamboo is extremely fast growing, self-regenerating, requires very little water, and no pesticides; it is the future and more wood workers need to start using it, more consumers need to start buying products made from it, and wood dealers need to start making it available for purchase to everyone. 

And so, to incentivise guitarists to buy guitars made with bamboo, I offer a discount on all orders for a guitar made with bamboo back and sides.

but does it make a guitar that sounds good?

That is the big question many will have, and many have already asked me. Does a guitar made with bamboo sound good? Does it sound as good as traditional materials?

Yes it does.

I ran a small experiment, a blind sound test, surveying luthiers and guitarists. There were three guitars, all with spruce tops, and built in the same way, with the same strings, etc. The key difference between the guitars was the back and side materials. Two of the guitars were made with more traditional and well-respected materials, Ziricote and Padauk, and the third was Bamboo.

Personally, I don’t believe the back and sides matter so much to the overall tone and character of the guitar; the top is what is important. So before I started this test, I expected all the results to be pretty even. I expected the identification to be pretty well varied and I expected the preferences to be as well.

here's what happened

The first question in the test was, “Which guitar is which?”

Guitar 1 was Padauk

Guitar 2 was Bamboo

Guitar 3 was Ziricote

Here is a graph showing the spread of responses to the question. There were 35 responses, and 5 people thought they all sounded more or less the same and were unable to identify them.

As you can see here, the responses are pretty evenly spaced out. One thing to notice is that none of the guitars were correctly identified above the 33% chance. Something to mention as well: only 3 people out of the 35 guessed all three correct.

The second question was, “Which sounds best and which sounds worst?”

Here is another graph. Please note that there were 28 submissions for “Best” and 21 submissions for “Worst”.

This is where things got more interesting. Going in, I expected these results to be very even. Guitar #2 (Bamboo) was the clear favourite, and Guitar #1 (Padauk) was the clear least favourite. This graph kinda speaks for itself.

The third question was, “How confident are you in your response?”

There’s no graph for this one. There were 15 responses. Only 2 people were confident. These 2 both correctly identified one of the guitars, and both incorrectly identified Guitar #2 (Bamboo) which was both their preferred guitar (one thought it was Padauk, and the other thought it was Ziricote).

These results quite clearly demonstrate that a guitar made with bamboo does not sound noticeably different than guitars made with more traditional materials, and may even make a guitar that sounds better.

I can't wait to get more bamboo guitars in the hands of guitarists. Hopefully guitarists might start asking other luthiers for guitars made with bamboo, and then hopefully wood dealers start making it more easily available. Then maybe someone with a bamboo guitar decides their new dining room table will be made of bamboo as well. Do you see where this is going? Every storm starts with a single drop.

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