Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

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James Lister
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Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by James Lister » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:20 pm

Hello all,

I just wanted to let everyone here know about an online blind listening test (with classical guitars) that is online at this moment (for 2 weeks) as part of the Leonardo Guitar Research Project. I've talked about the LGRP here before: (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=99433) and the project is now drawing to an end.

As part of the project, a listening challenge has been set up using a video in which several guitars, made from different wood species, were recorded and assembled into one fluent musical piece.

Some of the guitars are made from tropical tonewoods like rosewood, ebony, mahogany and Spanish Cedar. Other guitars are made from local and less commonly used non-tropical wood species.

All guitars are of the same model. They all have European spruce tops, the same bracing pattern and the same strings.

In the challenge, assessors will first hear the audio track from the video. They will then complete a survey, after which they will receive the full video (audio + visual) where they can see the guitars being played and discover which woods they are made from...

You will find the links and more (bilingual) info on http://www.leonardo-guitar-research.com ... -challenge

It would be great if you could share this listening test with others in the classical guitar community! The more people participate the better and the more useful the results of the project will be.

Thank you

James
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Michael Lazar
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Michael Lazar » Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:00 pm

I took the test and completed the survey. This is very well done in my opinion. I'm looking forward to getting the visual that goes with the audio

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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Douglass Scott » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:52 pm

Thanks for bringing this up again, James. I'm more than happy to participate, looks like a very worthwhile experiment.

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:51 pm

Thanks for this James. I'm listening as I type and can honestly say that any tonal changes I hear I would ascribe (if I didn't know the facts) to changes implemented by the player.

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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Douglass Scott » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:52 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:51 pm
... I'm listening as I type and can honestly say that any tonal changes I hear I would ascribe (if I didn't know the facts) to changes implemented by the player.
Yeah, the player or subtle differences in mic/player position. I'd definitely say I hear all spruce tops, but I don't hear different back/side materials at all. I could easily believe that they were all made from the same woods since a luthier could achieve the perceived differences in bass depth, treble brightness, treble thinness/thickness, balance etc. not by using different back/side species, but by simply altering top and back thickness, brace stiffness, and other details during construction.

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:25 pm

Douglass Scott wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:52 pm
I'd definitely say I hear all spruce tops,
I have no idea. They could all be cedar tops...

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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Douglass Scott » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:18 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:25 pm
Douglass Scott wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:52 pm
I'd definitely say I hear all spruce tops,
I have no idea. They could all be cedar tops...
I mean if I had to say, I'd say spruce - but of course wouldn't be surprised if I was wrong. :)

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James Lister
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by James Lister » Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:01 am

Thanks for the responses so far (and to anyone who has done the test without posting here, which is fine of course).
Douglass Scott wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:52 pm
Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:51 pm
... I'm listening as I type and can honestly say that any tonal changes I hear I would ascribe (if I didn't know the facts) to changes implemented by the player.
Yeah, the player or subtle differences in mic/player position. I'd definitely say I hear all spruce tops, but I don't hear different back/side materials at all. I could easily believe that they were all made from the same woods since a luthier could achieve the perceived differences in bass depth, treble brightness, treble thinness/thickness, balance etc. not by using different back/side species, but by simply altering top and back thickness, brace stiffness, and other details during construction.
As much as possible was kept the same for the test - same player, same room, same mic/position etc, but of course there can be very small changes each time the player plays the piece on each guitar.

The guitars themselves are made to the same design, and the top wood, top thickness and bracing were kept as consistent as possible, but again, there are inevitably some differences. One of the difficulties in making a matched soundboard assembly using tropical/non-tropical woods is the bridge. On the first pair of guitars made at Newark College, there was quite a significant difference between the guitars, with the tropical guitar being perceived by most listeners and players as "better" than the non-tropical. I came to the conclusion that this was most likely due to the different bridge materials used. The tropical guitar had a rosewood bridge, but on the non-tropical a much less dense wood was used (I can't remember what at the moment). For the second pair, we used laburnum for the non-tropical bridge, which was very close in density to the rosewood one. This second pair of guitars were much more closely matched than the first.

Note that the Newark guitars were not used in this test - these were all made by CMB students in Belgium.

James
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Aaron Powell » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:44 am

haha, I thought there was a cedar top in one of them. I had to reread the criteria that they were all spruce. Definitely could hear distinct change in the notes a few times but that could relate more to a sound that was pleasing to my ear, and there are sections of that peice which I like more musically, and a few which I prefer less. I would have liked to hear the same 12 bars played by each guitar. Even if there were repeated guitars to make the numbers of guitars mysterious.

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Paul Janssen
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Paul Janssen » Wed Jun 14, 2017 1:50 pm

Very interesting test. I have no idea how many different guitars there were, much less what sort of tonewoods were used etc. This highlights the amazing job that was done in recording the guitars and piecing the track together (that is assuming there was in fact more than one guitar - I still don't know!!).

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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Douglass Scott » Wed Jun 14, 2017 2:33 pm

James Lister wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:01 am
One of the difficulties in making a matched soundboard assembly using tropical/non-tropical woods is the bridge. ...
This exact thought came to mind when I was reading your first post about the project. Making a traditional style bridge with the "right" stiffness and mass out of non-tropical wood is tricky.

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:56 pm

Presumably the whole point of such a blind test is to discover whether a particular wood produces an instrument that is markedly superior to instruments made with different wood. I think the point for me is that we vastly overestimate our powers of objective aural discernment when it comes to such matters.

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eno
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by eno » Wed Jun 14, 2017 4:29 pm

I didn't take the survey and don't know how many guitars were played there but I felt that the sound in the beginning is a little softer and deeper compared to the sound at the end that sounds a little thinner and more bristle. Otherwise not much of audible difference overall.
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:36 pm

There's another thing. Usually it takes a while for someone to really get to know a guitar. Even in a shop, if you're thinking of buying, you'll play for quite a while in order to sense the sound qualities of a guitar. My point is that I wonder how effective a test is when you only have a few moments to assess a guitar, especially when it's not in your own hands; and you're cycling through a number of guitars in that same time frame to boot. In other words, I don't know that guitars 'reveal themselves' in 60 seconds. You certainly wouldn't buy a guitar under these circumstances, which says something.

Still this is interesting.
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Re: Leonardo Guitar Research Project listening test

Post by Pat Dodson » Thu Jun 15, 2017 10:15 am

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:36 pm
There's another thing. Usually it takes a while for someone to really get to know a guitar. Even in a shop, if you're thinking of buying, you'll play for quite a while in order to sense the sound qualities of a guitar. My point is that I wonder how effective a test is when you only have a few moments to assess a guitar, especially when it's not in your own hands; and you're cycling through a number of guitars in that same time frame to boot. In other words, I don't know that guitars 'reveal themselves' in 60 seconds. You certainly wouldn't buy a guitar under these circumstances, which says something.

Still this is interesting.
Yes, by their nature such tests are unnatural. As a sneaky psychologist I've sometimes mused that an alternative would be to use any or all of stains, veneers, switched luthier labels, false prices and downright lies in a dealer's shop, allowing the guitarists all the time in the world with their eyes open. But such a mendacious sales environment would not be natural either of course. :)

I think projects such as this do usefully educate less experienced luthiers and guitarists and chip away at prejudices and traditions though I suspect a bigger nudge will come from the nuisance that CITES regulations create re travel and sales of Dalbergia based instruments.

As you say Jeffrey; interesting. I look forward to reading the results.

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