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Bernard Richardson  BSc PhD

Dr Bernard Richardson


Honorary Lecturer

School of Physics and Astronomy

Queen's Buildings - North Building, Room Room N/2.08b, 5 The Parade, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 3AA


I enjoyed 41 years in the School of Physics and Astronomy from arriving as a PhD student in 1976 to being a Reader on retirement in 2017.  I served as Director of Undergraduate studies for many years overseeing teaching organisation, curriculum development and the learning experience of undergraduates.


Research interests

My primary research interests are in the acoustics of musical instruments, particularly the guitar and violin family.  My overall objective is to understand the physics of sound production from stringed instruments and, in particular, to derive quantitative relationships between the construction of the instrument and their perceived tone and playing qualities.  The work has a number of challenges: the physics of sound production by musical instruments is surprisingly intricate at times, and for the results to have any real meaning they must be interpreted sensitively in a musical context.  Perhaps the biggest challenge of all, however, is conveying meaningful physical ideas, concepts and practical help to musicians and musical instrument makers.

Practical studies of real instruments have involved the development and use of techniques such as holographic and speckle interferometry for the detection of the modal characteristics of guitars and violins.  With a good understanding of the mechanics of the acoustical function of these instruments, we have applied numerical techniques such as finite element analysis and the boundary element method to calculate the vibrations and sound radiation fields from instruments.  The work allows sounds to be calculated purely from data relating to the dimensions and construction of the instrument.  The work has led to new insight into the acoustical function of the guitar and the importance of certain low-order vibrational modes.  Psychoacoustical listening tests have been employed to relate constructional parameters with perceived sound quality, and we are thus beginning to establish acoustical criteria for use by instrument makers.  This “theoretical model” has identified various acoustical parameters which have a major influence on the musical quality of the instrument.

In a past life, I was also involved in the School’s scanning probe microscopy initiatives during the period 1987-1997.  Our primary aims were to investigate and understand the physics, electronic properties and morphology of surfaces and interfaces in semiconducting materials.

Selected Publications:


  • Hill T.J.W., Richardson B.E. & Richardson S.J. ‘Acoustical parameters for the characterisation of the classical guitar’ Acta Acustica united with Acustica, Vol. 90 (2004), 335-348
  • Richardson B.E. ‘Simple models as basis for guitar design’, Journal Catgut Acoustical Society, 4(5) (2002), 30-36
  • Hill T.J.W., Richardson B.E. & Richardson S.J. ‘Input admittance and sound field measurements of ten classical guitars’ Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, 24 (2002), CD-10 pages
  • Richardson B.E., ‘The acoustical development of the guitar’ Journal of the Catgut Acoustical Society, Vol. 2 No 5 (Series II) (1994), 1-10

Book Contributions:

  • Richardson B.E., ‘Stringed Instruments: Plucked’ in Encyclopedia of Acoustics, Ed. M.J. Crocker, John Wiley & Sons (1997), 1627-1634
  • Richardson B.E., ‘The acoustics of the cello’ in Cambridge Companion to the Cello, ed. R Stowell, Cambridge University Press (1999), 37-51
  • Richardson B.E., ‘The acoustics of the piano’ in Cambridge Companion to the Piano, Ed. D. Rowland, Cambridge University Press (1998), 96-113
  • Richardson B.E., ‘The physics of the violin’ in Cambridge Companion to the Violin, Ed. R. Stowell, Cambridge University Press (1992), 30-45


Over the years I have taught all manner of subjects, including acoustics and studio techniques, quantum mechanics, optics and Fourier transforms, waves and vibrations, signal processing, analogue and digital electronics, computer interfacing, computer programming, and practical physics.  I also taught an acoustics module to students in the School of Music for many years.


I obtained my BSc Physics degree from Salford in 1976, where I was able to specialise in acoustics.  Following that I moved to Cardiff to undertake my PhD research on the acoustics of the classical guitar under the guidance of Professor Charles Taylor.  I then held various posts in Cardiff as research assistant and tutorial fellow before being appointed to the lecturing staff in 1984.  Until my retirement in 2017 I held the post of Reader.  I am a member of the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Acoustics.

My love of physics and my research work actually stem from interests in music and making musical instruments.  I just kept asking “Why?” and “How?” until all the answers ran out and I realised I would have to find out for myself.  Music plays an important part of my life and I spend many hours making music on the French horn.

Honours and awards

I currently perform various duties for the Institute of Physics.  I am a former Associate Editor of Acta Acustica United with Acustica and former member of the Council of the Institute of Acoustics.

I have given many invited papers at conferences and at learned societies, including giving a Royal Institution Friday Evening Discourse (2000) and I am a former Kelvin Lecturer of the British Association.

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Institute of Physics
  • Member of the Institute of Acoustics
  • Associate member of the Acoustical Society of America