The Responsive Guitar

The book set The Responsive Guitar and Making The Responsive Guitar by Ervin Somogyi, along with his DVD Voicing the Guitar, opened my eyes to the importance of light construction. My understanding is that the best guitars are on the verge of collapsing from the 180# pull of the strings. The challenge is knowing when you’re near that point. While the book set provides excellent direction, I was unable to find specific information on bracing and soundboard thickness that would provide a starting point.


I decided the best way to learn was to build a guitar near or beyond the point of collapse. The experimental guitar was the Malaysian Blackwood guitar. Bracing was reduced to ¼” wide, and the soundboard was thinned to 2.2mm. I also followed Ervin’s advice to diligently tap all sections of the soundboard to get a full, consistent sound. The sound of the Malaysian Blackwood guitar was a significant step forward.


The tap response process will typically take more than a day of tapping, listening, trimming braces, tapping, listening, trimming, etc. To assist the process, I added a clamp ring to my outside mold to allow the soundboard to be removed for easier access to braces. This also allowed me to measure Chladni responses as I progressed.  I wanted to observe the progress on both Chladni patterns and Responsive tuning together.



As I noted previously, the lightly built Malaysian Blackwood was a significant improvement in sound and response. And it’s not near collapsing. But I was able to further improve the sound in the next phase.