Ideas for Science Fair Involving Guitars

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by BenjaminW, Nov 14, 2017 at 7:55 PM.

  1. BenjaminW

    BenjaminW SS.org Regular

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    I'm in 8th grade and this year, my science teacher is having my class participate in our science fair (duh) and he wants to come up with some ideas and I chose to do something involving the guitar. It must have the scientific method (question, hypothesis, experiment, etc) and involve a constant, independent, and dependent variable as well. One of the ideas I have is "How does the design of a guitar body affect its tone?" and I am looking for some more ideas to consider for the project. I am supposed to have the list of ideas sent to my teacher by Thursday. Please don't send an idea my way that involves soldering because A) I don't know how to solder and B) I do not want to risk making any real damage to my guitar.

    It CANNOT be an explanation as to how something (like a truss rod, for example) works or why it works. It has to be something that I can research, hypothesize, and experiment on my own.
     
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  2. kindsage

    kindsage SS.org Regular

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    You could get a strobe light and see how tension affects wave propagation. Would make for a cool demonstration too
     
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  3. Wolfos

    Wolfos SS.org Regular

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    If you put a sand table over your amp facing up you could show how sound forms shapes depending on what note or chord you play.

    Edit: Assuming you play an ERG because it works best with very low notes.
     
  4. BenjaminW

    BenjaminW SS.org Regular

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    Unfortunately, I don't but I can see what I can do with a six string.
     
  5. CrazyDean

    CrazyDean SS.org Regular

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    Ha, my initial thought was trying different capacitors - sizes and types. However, that requires soldering. This could be a good time to learn a new skill. It only takes a day to learn, and a capacitor has only two solder points.

    The reason I suggest this, is that it gets overlooked quite often, and there are a million different capacitors to choose from. Also, it seems quite easy to maintain consistency with any other variables that may arise.

    As for guitar body shape, how would you go about that? To get a real answer, you would need two guitars that have the same electronics, wood, and construction only with different shaped bodies. I'm not saying that it's a bad idea. There are just a lot of variables that you won't be able to control. Meaning that your conclusion could be a result of a change in variables.
     
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  6. BenjaminW

    BenjaminW SS.org Regular

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    I could always give soldering a shot in the future since it really is helpful to changing out the electronics of the guitar. For the body shape, I can definitely further think about how to go about that plan.
     
  7. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    Regarding the original request, how about:

    Hypothesis:
    For a fixed pitch and string tension, the speaking length is inversely proportional to the string diameter.​
    That is pretty visually straight forward, definitely easy to calculate/graph theoretical vs. actual, easily repeatable live at the science fair (three BIG science fair plusses) and fairly easy to design/build.

    I will. This is a horrible idea. OP will not be able to prove anything just by listening. Then if OP does believe they hear some difference, there will be no way to get past confirmation bias. If OP had access to a high-end spectral analyzer, then maybe they might get something quantitative.
    The situation is even worse than that. Any kind of statistical analysis with a sample size of less than 20 is pretty worthless. So, OP would need 20+ of each model. Plus, even having the same brand, etc. of pick-ups, electronics, strings, etc. installed in all 40+ guitars would be sufficient grounds for variations that would invalidate the whole study (too many uncontrolable fixed variables). To be closer to descent, the same set of pick-ups and electronic would have to be moved from guitar to guitar.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017 at 1:46 AM
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  8. CrazyDean

    CrazyDean SS.org Regular

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    Lol, lighten up ElRay. It's a middle school science fair, not a dissertation. :fever:
     
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  9. R34CH

    R34CH Counter Culture Bullet Vulture

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    This doesn't necessarily relate exactly to guitar but more to general music theory. One thing I've been thinking about recently (let me know if this is too in the weeds for 8th grade) is coupled resonance for frequencies that are put together to build chords.

    Essentially if you built 3 pendulums each hanging from the same bar and then did some math (I'm sure it's pretty simple but where is @bostjan the physics guy!) that relates the frequency of each note in the chord (using a D major chord as an example - D, F#, and A) to the length of the string for each pendulum. Then you set the D pendulum swinging and see if the F# and A pendulums also start swinging due to resonance.

    I'm wondering if you would see any difference between major chords, minor chords, tritones, 3 chromatic notes, etc.

    Another thought I just had was putting an acoustic guitar on top of the pendulum and then hitting a D chord and seeing if you could get the pendulums to swing through resonance that way.

    Dunno just a thought...
     
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  10. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    :lol: this thread made me remember that my 8th grade science fair project was making plants listen to the Deftones :lol::hbang:
     
  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Hey, I'm flattered!

    For small displacement angles, the frequency of pendulum oscillation goes like one over the square root of the length, but for a string, it's like one over the length, so you'd have to work out a little extra length change.

    As for resonance, you'd need a pendulum with a really high frequency to get it to truly resonate with the fundamental frequency of the strings of a guitar, unless it really djents hard. :lol:

    Maybe, as a hypothesis, you want to start with an observations, like "When ____ happens, I also see _____," and then you can come up with something that fits an "If ____, then I think ____ will happen" format.

    For example,
    Observation: When I use a harder pick, my tone sounds brighter.
    Hypothesis: The hardness of the pick makes the tone sound brighter.

    Then, you try to disprove your own hypothesis. So, try to find a soft pick that makes a bright sound. Once you do, then you refine your hypothesis and try again, if you want.

    There are a lot of guitar-related things that are sort of up-for-debate, at least on forums, like:

    a) Does the wood from which a solid body electric guitar is made affect it's tone?
    b) Does the length of the cable between the electric guitar and the amplifier affect the tone?
    c) Does tuning down an arbitrary amount make riffs sound "heavier?" (This is sort of complicated if you want to take it seriously)
    d) Do larger speakers sound bassier than smaller ones?
    e) Do different string materials provide different tone? For example, do stainless steel strings sound brighter than nickel steel strings?
    f) Does the finish on an electric solid body guitar affect tone?
    g) Do heavier guitars sustain a note longer than lighter guitars?
    etc.

    If you have a few different guitars and you now what they are made of, or you have different cables with significantly different lengths, different amps, etc., it might be easier. If not, you might want to avoid some of these, but maybe to get started, think about:

    c) It's tough to define "heavier," but you could do some secondary research to dig up metadata on which bands sound heavier, then get help from a couple classmates as you put them through a blind test of the same riffs played with different tunings in random order.
    g) You could clamp weights to your guitar and then try to time how long a note rings out. Make sure to use towels and/or blankets so that your clamps don't hurt the guitar's finish. You might also want to be thorough and play with different positions of weights, too.
     
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  12. BenjaminW

    BenjaminW SS.org Regular

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    I ended up going with my original plan of how does the guitar body affect its sound but all these ideas were some great suggestions.
     
  13. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    Finally, the tonewood debate can be settled in an 8th grade classroom in the literal sense.
     
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  14. BenjaminW

    BenjaminW SS.org Regular

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    I'll make sure to mention that in my presentation!
     

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