The Symphonic Guitar
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Traditional methods of guitar making focus on repetitive, iterative practice, but may be challenged by emerging digital technologies to embrace innovative strategies for sound production through immersive specialist design experience. This research project focused that challenge on exploring an ideal of symphonic sound for an archtop acoustic guitar, through intuitive design methods and practitioner testing. It established and evaluated a prototyping method that used comparative analysis and iterative design practice to compare a series of novel construction approaches. Testing fifteen small scale prototypes and two full scale instruments, the research developed innovative changes in soundboard and soundhole form and function, enabling a re-imagination of the archtop acoustic guitar. The test approach proved accurate and insightful, providing a validated foundation for future development; the final full scale archtop guitar showed improved waveform development; faster attack with a brighter, even frequency response. The non traditional soundhole resolution successfully augmented the changes in sound production supporting better sound quality. This thesis is a design response to the research question “How can the sound of the archtop acoustic guitar be influenced by emerging digital technologies to enhance symphonic sound?” The project reveals further opportunity for guitar designer/makers to engage with digital technologies as a way of augmenting traditional tacit knowledge and practice led discovery.