Guitar Maker – David Poulter
The maths in guitar making involves measurement and understanding curves and angles. An appreciation of the connection between music and mathematics helps in the design process. Every guitar is different, the finest adjustments done in the right way gives each guitar its unique sound.
My daily job at Maton is the construction of the neck and the fingerboard and attaching them to the body of the guitar. The first task requires quite a bit of geometry to fit the neck at the correct angle within an accuracy of 0.25 millimetres.
You have to have a firm grasp of maths to get that specific. A nice little bit of maths is working out where the fret slots go. The fret spacings are based on an exponential function.
I did maths to Year 11, and wish I had continued to Year 12. Then I did a guitar-making course at TAFE. My advice for anyone doing maths is to stick with it for as long as possible. Employers are looking for certain qualities like the ability to measure and to work in an organized and orderly fashion. Doing a reasonably high level of maths in school gives you these skills.
I am over the moon that I got this job at Maton and I couldn’t be happier. I am rapt because without that basic understanding of maths, I would not be here right now!
“Maths and physics connect wood to sound. I am an engineer, and use my knowledge of maths, physics and engineering to enhance the design and building of custom-made guitars. I also teach a guitar-building course at TAFE.”
– Ian Noyce, Luthier, Noyce Guitars
To control sound quality, measurements and calculations need to be made in the design phase and in the construction phase. My guitar neck design borrows from the structural mechanics techniques used in bridge building. The relationships between string length, string tension and the resulting pitch can be explained using mathematics.
I do experiments to determine the sound properties of different types of wood and record the details in a spreadsheet. This allows me to control and predict with confidence the sound quality of a new instrument.
The Maths: Make your career count series was produced by AMSI and funded by the Australian Government under The Improving Mathematics in Schools (TIMES) project. Visit the Maths: Make your career count website at http://mathscareers.org.au/