W elcome to the home of the The Sonic Sitka Project. It is an ambitious project by Denis Merrill designed to study the changes in the topwood of an instrument over time. Here’s an introduction from Denis himself:
The Sonic Sitka Project is designed to answer a fundamental question in guitar making. Does sound change in an instrument as it ages and is this sound influenced more by use than design and construction? To answer this question, I proposed that a series of instruments be built at the same time using wood that was nearly identical, sourced from a small section of an old growth Sitka Spruce tree. The wood selected was well quartered with an unusual reddish color, highly bear clawed, with a high count of grain lines per inch.
I proposed that these guitars be tested as close to the finish of construction as possible, and that they be displayed to the public frequently. The testing would include collecting photographs and making recordings, and the recordings would be repeated as many times as possible for at least ten years. The project has no end date – as long as guitars exist, they can be tested with audio capture technology, always using the latest generation of software, until the guitars are unplayable. This could be 150 years or more.
My proposal was published in the major luthier journals and I traveled extensively to festivals and gatherings to speak about the project. I distributed 92 tops, out of a total of 118 tops from the log. Each instrument had no design restrictions and was the property of its owner/builder. Upon completion of the initial photography and recordings, the guitars would be certified as being included in the project. A remote testing protocol was established for data collection so that the instruments might be tested more frequently, with annual testing to be offered for any instruments that could be brought to a major festival during the initial ten years. This would be accomplished through a registration list of the owners as Friends of the Sonic Sitka Project.
The initial unveiling of the project will be at the 2010 Newport Guitar Festival in Miami Beach, Florida (April 16 – 18), with half of the instruments debuting there for playing by the public and review by the general press. A dozen more instruments will be at the Montreal Guitar Show (July 2010), with arrangements being made for the remaining instruments to be viewed as time allows at major shows in 2011. An approximate one year build time is planned for the entire project.
Logo courtesy of Tim and Mary McKnight. Used from Permission.
Text Copyright 2010 Denis Merrill