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Arch Top Guitar

Hey Steve,
I really like your guitars and they sound AMAZING! but I was wondering. Have you ever built an archtop? If so how much can you change the sound of one to make it sound more like a D-18? Really loud and great for taking leads and soloing,

The Arch Top Guitar is the product of a misunderstanding of acoustics. A violin is much louder than a guitar. People, through the years, have thought that if they could make a guitar more like a violin, it would be louder. But the difference between a violin and a guitar is the violin bow. On a guitar, you pluck the string once. The guitar is designed to use that one pluck as efficiently as possible. Every molecule of rosin on a violin bow is like plucking the string once. A violin gets thousands of times the energy input that a guitar gets. So, the design of the violin wastes lots of this input to produce the desired tone. All the hanging down parts of the bridge act as mutes. The strings have muting winds between the core and inner winds and (flat) outer winds. An arched top caries vibration less efficiently than a flat top. And, on a violin, a sound post connects the top and back, requiring the strings to drive both plates.

Folklore says that an Arch Top Guitar is louder and richer than a flat top, but have you ever played one that was? The best sounding arch top that I ever played was a D'Angelico, that sounded like a D-28. Not the best D-28, just a D-28. In fact, most arch tops are from mid-rangey to tinny, and none can compete with a flat top for power. So, the answer to your question is no. Are flat tops better than arch tops? It is like saying a flute is better than a trumpet. They both have completely different overtone signatures. They sound different. You may prefer one tone or the other, but neither is innately superior. An example that I like to use is Django Reinhardt's guitar (which was a flat top and sounded terrible for lots of reasons not covered in this article). His guitar sounded bad, but it sounded uniquely bad, and if you heard one note, you knew that you were listening to Django. You should use an arch top because its unique tone serves the sound that you want to make. If you are looking for the tone of a D-18, get one. They are fantastic. And, much cheaper than the comparable Arch Top.

Steve Mason