Rabu, 23 Januari 2013

How To Build An Acoustic Guitar The Bracing - Part Four

When I built my first weissenborn guitar I would lay awake at night, partly excited, partly scared I would ruin it all by some fatal mistake. I reasoned though, after a while, well so what? it's only wood, I can always buy a little bit more and so it all over again.I did manage to feel a little better after that! The guitar, of course, is a magnificent example of the whole being a sum of it's parts. We are led to believe that every tiny item either adds or detracts from the well being and quality of the finished guitar..but does it really? Who can explain how a cheap budget guitar made, God knows where, in Asia or even Timbuktu, can whip the hide off a really expensive name guitar?
I recently played an acoustic Gibson and was thinking that something was very wrong with this guitar and was just about to say so to the owner( I was teaching him some guitar tabs on this machine) when he blithely informed me that he paid SIX thousand U.S. dollars for it. I was stunned to say the least. Furthermore he said that the bridge had fallen off it some six weeks later.He said it was taken back and settled for a repair. The repair was abysmal and you could still see glue and dye all around the repaired bridge. He settled for it because frankly, the guy knew zippedy doo-da about guitars. Just so happened he had the dough and always wanted a name guitar.
I went home that night feeling quite faint.
So even the experts can produce some very ropey stuff, it would seem, not always but sometimes!
However, if we get back to the bones of the matter, does every single thing you do to a guitar affect the tone, volume and so on? Well, some of it does, of course, and it's a question of deciding exactly what those things are. What is the magic formula? Isn't it the wood? is it the Rosewood compared to the Brazilian mahogany? is it the design?
I, for one, have a very firm belief that the bracing inside a guitar is one of those components that do make a difference to the overall sound, resonance and richness of the tone that is released when it is played.
I reinforce that statement based not only on many years of owning many different guitars but also on the fact that my Taylor Baby Grand ( although a budget guitar) under a thousand dollars is one of the very best examples of how bracing can make all the difference. So why does the bracing in my Taylor improve the sound ,volume and clarity of this guitar? This is so easy to answer because simply, there aren't any braces..well at least not in the back of the guitar anyway! What? yes, that's right, there are none! and that results in the effect of allowing the sound to ring on longer, stronger and with a benefit in volume and timbre..surprised? well, so was I!
Look at it this way..play a drum ..boom, boom. Loud and ringing, full of tone, dependent on its volume and sound on how tight the skin is and how big the drum is..next, lay a heavy stick across it and then play it..Yuk! what a horrible noise!
Ok, so what happens here? the stick INHIBITS,PREVENTS AND DAMPENS THE TONE AND SOUND.
In fact being an ex-drummer,I know that drums are deliberately dampened by mechanical devices, we often see a drum kit with a pillow stuffed on the bass drum! Ever heard a quiet banjo?? course you havn't..what are they? LOUD,VERY LOUD! Why? no braces on the skin allowing full release of the volume. OK, we now come to the obvious when we talk about guitars. Braces are needed what for? To strengthen the sound board and back, we suppose..so how come the Taylor has none in the back?..because, instead of bracing they used an alternative ..they dished the back during construction ..The strength of the bowed timber makes up for the lack of braces. Therefore my Taylor sings, has sustain and is what?..LOUD!
Last deductions. If therefore when you build a guitar, you have to brace it, then use the strongest, lightest wood available and make the braces as delicate, as flexible and as light as possible but with the minimum of strength to prevent the soundboard from bowing.. how do you do that? Look at a lot of expensive classical guitars, look at a Taylor Baby Grand, think ouside the circle and use the best spruce that money can buy and be minimal.. a last word on scalloping..you know, the shell- like shaping of the braces? The jury is still out about the total effect of the scallops but my money is on the fact that scalloping lightens the brace, allows the soundboard to flex but strengthens the tendency of the string force to bow the soundboard..think I'm wrong? well just stick any old lump of timber under the soundboard and call it bracing..you'll soon see the results!!

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