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  #1  
Old 11-04-2016, 09:31 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Default Flat top guitars sound lame to me

I hope the title of this thread isn't too snarky, because it's not intended as such. It's just an observation about how my perception of acoustic guitars has changed over the years.

Years ago, my main experience with acoustic guitars was with flat tops. When I started working at a guitar repair shop in 1995, I had the opportunity to work on some archtops - some nice ones, and some that were not so nice. My general impression at the time was that archtops were thin sounding and and had weak bass response.

Around that time, friends were turning me on to some good jazz, so I got to hear how a good archtop sounds in the right hands, and my fascination with archtops began. I began to hear the beauty in their tone - the subtle responsiveness, the way they bark when you chomp out Freddie Green chords. No flat top can sound like that. I realized that archtops can sound heavenly if you play them just right. Since then I've acquired some good sounding vintage archtops, and sold off my flat top guitars.

At some point along the way, my ideal for what an acoustic guitar should sound like has changed to the point that now, most every flat top guitar I play sounds muddy, tubby, dark, unresponsive, mushy and ill-defined. Now I wonder what I ever saw in flat top guitars...

I still work on guitars for a living, and don't get me wrong - every now and then a flat top comes across my bench that just floors me. But the average flat top just sounds bad to me.

Any similar experiences?
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  #2  
Old 11-04-2016, 10:44 AM
LouieAtienza LouieAtienza is offline
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Well my parents use to cook with MSG, until they found out that it's not the best thing for heart health. So they stopped cooking with it, and we got used to the taste of food without it. So much that we liked it, and anything with MSG tasted wrong to us. So possibly it's the same thing going on here... or maybe a change in musical tastes...
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Old 11-04-2016, 02:53 PM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
At some point along the way, my ideal for what an acoustic guitar should sound like has changed

Any similar experiences?
Yes. Of coarse. I think it's the reason some people sell and buy guitars. Their tastes change. Be it the back wood or the shape like dreads and 00s. Things like that. You can find yourself watching/hearing someone play a guitar that you would have given your eye teeth for and yet you have changed and find it interesting.
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Old 11-04-2016, 04:20 PM
HHP HHP is offline
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If, by "lame", you mean has dynamic range, I would agree.
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Old 11-04-2016, 04:54 PM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Flat tops sound lame...if you expect them to do what an archtop does.

The converse is also true.

It's why I own both.
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Old 11-04-2016, 09:11 PM
Bax Burgess Bax Burgess is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
I still work on guitars for a living, and don't get me wrong - every now and then a flat top comes across my bench that just floors me. But the average flat top just sounds bad to me.

Any similar experiences?
What were the flat tops that stood out?
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Old 11-04-2016, 09:17 PM
billgennaro billgennaro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
Flat tops sound lame...if you expect them to do what an archtop does.

The converse is also true.

It's why I own both.
There you go!
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:09 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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I still like flattops too. My Altamira Gypsy Jazz guitar is an interesting hybrid. Much better volume and tone than most any flattop I've played. Every so often I bring it to our bluegrass jam and show the Martin pickers what a banjo killer sounds like.

It's funny how we get bound by tradition. Someone decided that Martin was the standard for bluegrass, but they just can't hang with a fiddle, mandolin, banjo or dobro. Everyone has to back WAY off when the Martin picker takes a break.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:13 PM
jomaynor jomaynor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
Flat tops sound lame...if you expect them to do what an archtop does.

The converse is also true.

It's why I own both.

Stop making sense. ; -)
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Old 11-05-2016, 08:44 AM
Bax Burgess Bax Burgess is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
I still like flattops too. My Altamira Gypsy Jazz guitar is an interesting hybrid. Much better volume and tone than most any flattop I've played. Every so often I bring it to our bluegrass jam and show the Martin pickers what a banjo killer sounds like.

It's funny how we get bound by tradition. Someone decided that Martin was the standard for bluegrass, but they just can't hang with a fiddle, mandolin, banjo or dobro. Everyone has to back WAY off when the Martin picker takes a break.
Man o man, the Altamira 'kills it'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQTCITJmvlQ

Sure, I'd wholehertedly agree that it'd dominate a Martin dread, but is the Martin's role to hold the middle to lower ground while the others, as would the Altamira, add color above it?
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Old 11-05-2016, 09:15 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Gypsy jazz guitars: upper mids and all fundamental, very dry.

Nothing like them. VERY fun guitars, and as loud as anything.
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:16 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bax Burgess View Post
What were the flat tops that stood out?
Good sounding flat tops I've heard lately: Gibson L-00, LG-2 (banner logo), Martin 00-18. Not too crazy about dreadnaughts these days, but I'm occasionally impressed by D-28's, D-18's, and vintage J-45's (but I'm usually underwhelmed by most dreadnaughts)
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Old 11-05-2016, 03:28 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HHP View Post
If by "lame" you mean has dynamic range, I would agree.
I've been playing archtops since 1962, and if you can't achieve at least as great a range of dynamics and tone color from an all-solid carved archtop as you do from an all-solid flattop, you're not playing it correctly, period. In case you're unaware the basic technique is far more refined than that of flattop players - "stroke" instead of "strum," "glide" rather than "pick" - more akin to orchestral strings and as much a function of restraint as enthusiasm, in both its philosophy and execution; simply put, don't expect to just whack away on a pre-war Super 400 or Epiphone Emperor as you would a comparable-vintage dread/jumbo and expect a similar level of instant gratification. FYI archtops were considered virtuoso instruments in their day (there was a whole school of classical and classically-influenced music that grew up around them between the wars, and it has been argued that only Segovia's sensational American debut in 1928 prevented them from becoming the accepted concert instrument), and when approached with both the requisite technique and the requisite mindset there's very little a good archtop can't accomplish; small wonder Jimmy D'Aquisto considered them to be the ultimate guitar ...
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Old 11-05-2016, 05:45 PM
Nailpicker Nailpicker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
... so I got to hear how a good archtop sounds in the right hands....
The same could be said of flattops, solid or hollow electrics, nylon string guitars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
...I realized that archtops can sound heavenly if you play them just right.
The same could be said of flattops, solid or hollow electrics, nylon string guitars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
...But the average flat top just sounds bad to me.
Average anything leaves much to be desired.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
...Any similar experiences?
No.

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The guitar is powerless without the right musician.
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  #15  
Old 11-05-2016, 08:28 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Folks, I really get the impression from this and other threads that some folks don't learn/understand the design history of steel strung guitars and the work that was done in the main large companies to design and redesign instruments to meet the rapidly changing demands of popular music

Gibson was a mandolin company that redesigned the mando after violin family standards then applied the same logic to guitars. The Style "O" then the L-3,L04,L-5 l-7 etc.

After tyhe L-3 (wide thick neck, 13 fret, round or oval hole prbably with rhthm for mando and banjo orchesras.

As the Dance/Jazz bands rejected tenor banjo, theL-5 was designed - fine wods, carved topad back, beautiful design - but not for a solo player, or a finder picker. My'34 L-4 is a case in point - remarkably similar to the L-5 but not so fancy. It is an orchestra instrument - not intended o be subtle but incisive- notmuch bass but plenty of high middle. It would cut through a piano, bass and drums easly. It stated many other makers to compete.


Martin tried to introduce archtops but they were not successful,so they tried to redesign the 12fret 000 and dreadnought for ochestral work - not a total success as they had too much sustain and unadequate cut through.

The The did as rewquested by a banjo player and made a "OM" with skinny neck to 14tg and called it the OM as they also called heir first attempts of14fretreads. Niether did the job well soGibsons and Epis got gthe gigs.

My archtop is voiced for cutting through,but ythe much later Eastman AR805 same woods is voiced to a later smoother sound and more like a flat top.

Ironically many liked the OM for fingerstyle (despite the rhythm neck) and it became a favorite for fingerstyle so . The new dread also did well for a strumming box during the folks scare.

It's about the tool for the job
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