There's growing concern over the future of guitar manufacturing as the much coveted 400-year-old wood needed becomes scarce, but two Wollongong men are out to prove there are solutions to keep the music playing.
University of Wollongong researchers Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren have released a "travel book" on their six-year journey, road-tripping across the world and treking through ancient forests to unearth how such a beautiful thing can still be enjoyed.
The pair initially thought it would be a one-year project, but it instead became a "long and winding road" of destinations and pricey airline tickets.
"We ended up going to to five continents and talking to hundreds of people across the world," said Professor Gibson (who is also a guitarist).
"It's us on the road discovering all these places that sit behind where guitars come from and and all the characters that inhabit those places.
"There were really interesting people who rely on forest and timber to make guitars to make an income, and are really aware they are reliant on resources which are endangered or in short supply."
The Guitar: Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree follows the duo to factories, port cities, log booms, remote sawmills, and Indigenous lands - spread across Madagascar, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Japan, China, Hawaii, and Australia.
Because of the way a guitar is crafted, there are only specific types of wood that are suitable to ensure it won't fall apart, and produces a loud and quality sound.
"I dont think it'll ever get to 'no more guitars', but they won't look and sound like they used to and never will again," Prof Gibson said.
But it's not all doom and gloom in, the pair discover Australia is a "world leader" in producing quality yet sustainable instruments using native trees (which are youngins at 80 to 150 years old).
Dr Warren said he had many light bulb moments during their adventures and hoped the book would give musicians and music connoisseurs a better appreciatoin of the people and resources that go into a product that we enjoy and use in our everday lives.
"Even in factory settings with and mass production, there's still a lot of hand based skill involved in making guitars, and the way in which that is still at the heart the guitar industry was quite encouraging," he said.
The future of guitar making - and other wooden instruments - may look "disruptive" due to depleting resources, but Professor Warren said overseas manufacturers were recognising the problem and taking matters into their own hands.
He said some of them had begun planting new trees - not for manufacting now, but for generations to come - aimed at 100 to 400 years down the track, so the music can keep playing.
The Guitar: Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree is out through University of Chicago Press - and is available now online and in Illawarra book stores from July.
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