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archtop guitars with a soundpost?


Deo Lawson
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I am not close to finishing my archtop so it will be a while before I can test this for myself. But is there a precedent for guitars with a soundpost (and I suppose bracing only on the bass side)? Since the design is inspired by the violin family it would make sense to borrow the soundpost as well, yet there's no mention of it anywhere.

 

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21 minutes ago, Deo Lawson said:

there's no mention of it anywhere.

There's probably a reson for that.

Guitars and violins are completely different animals functionally, although they might have some similar-looking features.  Most archtops use either 2 splayed tone bars or X-bracing, similar to mandolins.

I think a soundpost in a guitar would only be a fix for a body that was made too floppy.

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If you listen closely you will find that an archtop guitar sounds similar or like a classical guitar. 

It is tough to finger jazz chords and play scaler jazz runs on a classical guitar hence the refinement of the archtop.  I have never heard the older examples though those were originally made to cut through the sounds of other orchestral instruments.

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A sound post would convert it more or less to a cello. Which is made for bowing. The bassbar-soundpost arrangement assures strong asymmetry, which is probably essential for powerful sound.

I've never made an (archtop) guitar, but I'm puzzled that they are not made more asymmetrical in their bracing. That goes for flattops too, I think. Would not that make a richer sound?

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20 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

Perhaps you should be asking on a guitar forum, rather than a violin family forum. There are several different bracing models for archtops, some look a bit like 2 bassbars.

Yeah, but there are all sorts of people on here too.

I imagine it would make the sound brighter, more powerful, and a little thumpy. Less sustain? Perhaps such a guitar would be better suited to playing unamplified in a large space. I'm tempted to try, but if I don't like the result then getting the top off to install treble bracing would be a nightmare...

 

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45 minutes ago, Deo Lawson said:

I am not close to finishing my archtop so it will be a while before I can test this for myself. But is there a precedent for guitars with a soundpost (and I suppose bracing only on the bass side)? Since the design is inspired by the violin family it would make sense to borrow the soundpost as well, yet there's no mention of it anywhere.

 

It is my expert opinion that one experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions.

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I made an 8 string  guitar, which wasn't an archtop, with a violin-type bridge for a friend. He wanted to have a soundpost too but I read about someone who had tried it and it was not a success.  Apart from anything else I think a problem would be that you would be diverting  input energy straight to the back, which is damped by contact with the players chest, or belly in some cases. I also thought that you might need to arch the back , or put in some bracing on the back, to take the forces from the soundpost.  Anyway, I convinced him that we should go one step at a time and start with the bridge.  I built that and he was happy so I managed to avoid any more messing around.

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The thing to remember is that plucked instruments and bowed instruments are entirely different things. While pizzicato on a violin can be an interesting tonal accent, it isn't how the instrument is usually played, and that's a good thing. The tailpiece compared to a fixed bridge on a guitar is also a different animal. If you take two similar guitars and set up one with a tailpiece and the other with a more conventional (guitar) bridge, they will sound different. Someone did an experiment a couple of decades ago to determine the primary way a guitar bridge moves. The rocking motion proved to be far more important than the up and down motion. An arch top guitar with a tailpiece may be somewhere in the middle, but it is still very different from a bowed instrument.

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I  seem to recall (back in the eighties or so) a few jazz guitarists playing amplified archtops at high volume used to have a really massive soundpost inserted— to reduce resonance and discourage feedback.  Some others used to close up the f-holes or fill the body with synthetic foam for the same purpose.

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I believe that Grestch fitted a number of their archtops from the 1950's with soundposts, but you'd better check that with experts on the subject.

I did fit one to my Martin F-65. Its top was sagging from an unglued treble side brace, and I wanted to gently nudge it back into shape before gluing up the brace. I didn't make it round, but rather a long oval, hoping it wouldn't distort the top. After the arch seemed stable, I reglued the brace and decided to try the guitar both with and without the soundpost. I found the guitar noticeably louder and more responsive playing acoustically with the post, so it has stayed in ever since. This is a two parrallel brace top, and the treble brace is still in, the soundpost standing just inside of it. It has a Melita bridge with wide feet, so there's plenty of contact area next to the brace.

This is just one anecdote about one guitar, so I wouldn't extrapolate any generalities from it, but I thought I'd share it if it can be of any help. 

P.S. I can't comment on whether the soundpost has reduced feedback or microphonics, since I never crank this guitar up that high.

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15 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

 I found the guitar noticeably louder and more responsive playing acoustically with the post, so it has stayed in ever since.

This is just one anecdote about one guitar, so I wouldn't extrapolate any generalities from it, but I thought I'd share it if it can be of any help. 

 

I too have put soundposts in acoustic guitars, arch top and flat top models.

It can sometimes make a noticeable difference in the sound and play ability. It can increase the volume and focus, or quiet it down

It can actually be used to adjust the sound for different applications, like  performance venues, or in recording situations. A guitar has to have a focused clear sound when mixed with many other instruments it needs a tight space.  a sound post can help with that. But in solo work a large spacious  juicy sound is sought after. The closer to the final sound you start with the easier it is and the better the final product.

It's just another tool in the belt.

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