An acoustic guitar is made of wood–a raw material wrought by a plant after decades of patient growth. Various types of trees yield various types of wood, and each type of wood yields a different tone when incorporated into a guitar’s construction. Maple top on mahogany causes a different resonance than rosewood on swamp ash. It’s the timbre of timber.
There is also the visual nature of the timber to consider: the swooping grains and reddish golden brown variances. And a quick whiff of the “sound hole” will claim another sense to overwhelm. An acoustic guitar entirely subject to the personality of the wood used in its creation, and can be a total sensory experience.
But there is another element to the instrument as well: the metal. Metal, the kind used to create a steel-stringed acoustic guitar, is intensely man-made. The tuning knobs are chromed, the frets are hammered, and the strings, as their names suggests, are made of steel. Steel is the alloy that has enabled the construction of skyscrapers and bridges, and its prevalence is the surest indicator of economic progress. Steel is a metal forged by fire and implemented by machine.
But together, wood and steel create something sublime and entirely representative of the human experience. Metal and wood. Man and Nature. Rather than being separate elements, in the form of a guitar they both work toward the same goal of producing music. And music is nature’s sound filtered through human creativity.
Nowadays it seems that man is in constant conflict with the natural world, struggling desperately to carve out a place in it with cement and girders. I like to think that the guitar is a glimpse of what can happen when that struggle ceases…