Thoughts About the Design of the Classical Guitar

Contents by Juan F. Fernandez-M. (about me)

 Please write me if you have any comments to improve these pages.


These pages explore some of the rich features on classical guitar design by (modestly) analyzing the work of famous guitar builders. I will base my discussion on the detailed plans available from the Guild of American Luthiers, Roy Courtnal and Allied Lutherie.

It is strongly advised, in addition to the recommended references below, to read the chapters on guitar and violin acoustics by Erik Jansson. Also, see the striking results from Dr. Bernard Richardson from Cardiff University showing holographic modal analyses of guitar tops. Finally, take a look at the rich site by Bert Eendebak's about designing and constructing a classical guitar from A to Z.

I hope I can aid the amateur luthier to understand better the interaction between the design and the functioning of the classical guitar to improve the control over the real world instruments.

 In Memoriam

I. Generalities

II. Evaluating Classical Guitar Design with Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

III. General issues

IV. Thoughts about asymmetrical designs


V. Thoughts about Harmonic Bars & Struts

VI. Thoughts about Guitar Designs



So what can we conclude from all these simulations?

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Useful Links

Acoustics and Physics

  • School of Physics at the University of New South Wales, with Chladini vibration modes of an asymmetric folk guitar top.

Luthiers & Lutherie, forums

  • WilliamCumpiano a Luthier's luthier, needs no presentation, author of the guitar construction bible...
  • Check out the advice from Maestro Brian Burns for measuring wood properties and top resonances.
  • David Schramm excellent site of guitarist/luthier shows step by step construction. Don't miss his Hauser I 1937 CD tutorial. and his analysis of the Hauser guitar design.
  • Ukuleles by Kawika contains lots of useful information regarding string instruments, construction tips including a side bending machine. A must. Author of book "Left-Brain lutherie"
  • Neil Ostberg's step by step construction of a Torres "La Suprema" 1864 guitar with full size plans.
  • Milburn guitars excellent French polishing tutorial.
  • Fritz Mueller explains his observations of  Chladni patterns in the guitar. Nice solution to elevated fingerboards also.
  • Shel Sax 's guitar making site contains detailed photographs of the building process and a very interesting and simple side bending machine.
  • For Spanish (Castillan) readers, don't miss this building tutorial from Kuntur-Huasi
  • Also in Spanish, this chronicle of guitar assembly by Rafael Lopez Porras, from Guitarra.Artepulsado, a great guitar forum.
  • forum in French by Jean-François Delcamp with discussions and high quality public domain music scores.
  • Liutaio Mottola with very detailed information about the physics and construction of the violin, guitar and bass instruments. Provides plans also.

Guitar Plans 

  • Roy Courtnall Summerfield provides a comprehensive set of classical, flamenco, jazz and manouche guitar - Macafferri plans. Dont miss his book "Making master guitars", the other bible of guitar making this side of the Ocean. He teaches at the Newark School of Guitar Making.
  • Guild of American Luthiers, probably the best repository of information for string instruments and the largest collection of plans that I know of.

Lutherie Supplies

  • Luthiers Mercantile International the one stop shop for guitar building. Besides woods and tools, you find a comprehensive set of books and plans.
  • Allied Lutherie for that unique piece of wood for your back and sides. They carry a small set of plans including some difficult models to find such as Kohno and the old Friederich design.
  • Stewart-MacDonald needs no presentation.
  • Madinter everything to build a classical or flamenco guitar serving from Spain.... y hablan castellano!
  • Gaignard-Millon  has  the largest collection of fine working tools for instrument making and  sculpture in  Paris, at the historical neighborhood of Faubourg Saint Antoine.
  • Best router bases around for Dremel and larger formats from Bishop Cochran.

Guitar dealers with lots of pictures!

Last updated: August 2013