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  #16  
Old 11-05-2016, 11:29 PM
MD1983 MD1983 is offline
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Well, if we're talking about what an average flattop sounds like, I'll say that the average archtop sounds way worse imo. The ones that have sounded great to me come with a price tag close to $10,000, and for that kind of dough I know a couple of builders who can get me into something that sounds like a D-28 and an L-5 in a small 00 body.
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  #17  
Old 11-06-2016, 03:31 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Does it occur to anyone that whilst one may consider generalising both flat-tops and, say, solid electric guitars, and saying that one sounds better would obviously be banal, as they are two very differnt musical instruments and one cold not generalise the sound of a flat-top (e.g. am 0-18 with an SJ200 or a Guild 12 string) let alone "electric" guitar - e.g. A telecaster, with a les Paul, with a ..whatever, as they will all sound differnt, and are affercted by the amplification.

Archtops were made in Chicago by Stella/Harmony and by Hofner in Germany, in their hundreds of thousands and sold for a few pounds/Deutschmarks/dollars for many years, whereas Gibsons, Epiphones, Strombergs were a whole "'nother" thing.

I'l mention once again:
Flat-tops were designed and made to be played fingerstyle until the late '20s when they were generally redesigned to be strummed.

Archtops were re-designed in the early '20s as orchestral rhythm instruments.

Later innovations of acoustic archtops were made lighter to sound less percussive and more "musical" but that is another conversation.

To compare the generalised sound of an archtop guitar with a generalised notion of a flat-top is as useful as comparing an orange with a bicycle.
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  #18  
Old 11-06-2016, 08:53 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
Gypsy jazz guitars: upper mids and all fundamental, very dry.

Nothing like them. VERY fun guitars, and as loud as anything.
I love the Gypsy jazz sound, but I've never played a real Selmer Macafari guitar, or any of the reproductions made by top luthiers, and I've been unimpressed with the import versions that I have seen. I just don't think many high quality examples exist in the region in which I live. However, it seems that with such light strings, they would be at a disadvantage in terms of sheer volume (lighter strings = less top movement = less volume). I've often wondered how Django was even heard at the clubs in Paris, using 1930's sound reinforcement technology. Have you ever tried playing an acoustic guitar in a loud club? Impossible to hear acoustically, and tricky to mic, even with modern technology. It's maybe a subject for another thread, but I wonder how it was possible back then for Django's solos to be audible in a live venue.

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Originally Posted by MD1983 View Post
Well, if we're talking about what an average flattop sounds like, I'll say that the average archtop sounds way worse imo.
I guess I'm the one who used the word "average", but I wasn't considering that most flat tops and archtops in existence are cheap student brands that are mostly unacceptable for any serious player. So let's forget about Kays, Harmonys, Silvertones, or other cheapo brands for the moment. If we're comparing Gibson and Epiphone's vintage archtops vs. Gibson's and Martin's' flat tops from the same timeframe, then I disagree. I would say that the average archtop sounds better to me. It may be apples and oranges, but I like the archtop sound better, and they're far more versatile than some folks on this thread give them credit for.

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Originally Posted by MD1983 View Post
The ones that have sounded great to me come with a price tag close to $10,000
Much like Gypsy jazz guitars, there's not many boutique archtops in this region, but I've played plenty of vintage Gibson and Epiphone archtops, and great sounding examples can be had for $2000 or less. In my experience, the more expensive models are more ornate, but they don't sound much better than their more humble counterparts. In fact, I prefer the sound of Gibson's parallel-braced guitars to their more expensive X-braced models, and Epiphone's parallel-braced models sound even better to me than Gibson's.

You can have the $10,000 archtops. There are plenty of more affordable, more modest vintage guitars that sound just beautiful to my ears.

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Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
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....
...and when approached with both the requisite technique and the requisite mindset there's very little a good archtop can't accomplish;
Thank you. I couldn't have said it better myself.


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Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
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
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKaEiY4Xelc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc1zuJ3VjLI

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Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
Archtops were re-designed in the early '20s as orchestral rhythm instruments.
Nobody bothered to tell Eddie Lang that he was using the wrong guitar for his solo pieces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQjSf4nxP7Q

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Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
Does it occur to anyone that whilst one may consider generalising both flat-tops and, say, solid electric guitars, and saying that one sounds better would obviously be banal, as they are two very differnt musical instruments and one cold not generalise the sound of a flat-top (e.g. am 0-18 with an SJ200 or a Guild 12 string) let alone "electric" guitar - e.g. A telecaster, with a les Paul, with a ..whatever, as they will all sound differnt, and are affercted by the amplification.

To compare the generalised sound of an archtop guitar with a generalised notion of a flat-top is as useful as comparing an orange with a bicycle.
Maybe so... I was just pointing out the fact that I'm disappointed in the tone of most "good" flat tops. If I hadn't brought it up, then we wouldn't be having this interesting conversation. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful remarks, so thanks for contributing.

Last edited by Hot Vibrato; 11-06-2016 at 09:00 AM.
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  #19  
Old 11-06-2016, 10:50 PM
Spook Spook is offline
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Flat tops do not sound like archtops. They do different things. I use an oval hole archtop for a many styles but the sound envelope is still different from my Martin dread or Goodall concert.

For those that have distinct preferences for whatever reason, that's fine. But what is 'better' depends on the music being play and the musician playing it.
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Last edited by Spook; 11-06-2016 at 10:59 PM.
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  #20  
Old 11-07-2016, 05:24 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
Flat tops do not sound like archtops. They do different things. I use an oval hole archtop for a many styles but the sound envelope is still different from my Martin dread or Goodall concert.

For those that have distinct preferences for whatever reason, that's fine. But what is 'better' depends on the music being play and the musician playing it.
Those who claim that archtops are genre-specific don't seem to get it. They're far more versatile than people give them credit for. If played properly, a good acoustic archtop can sound very much like a good flat top. The reverse is not true.

Oval hole archtops can sound cool, but they are generally brighter and have less bass response. Therefore they are not as versatile, and should therefore be relegated to specific tasks where an "archtop sound" is appropriate. I contend that a good acoustic archtop with f-holes, if played with the proper finesse, can sound as good or better than a flat top in virtually any musical scenario.

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Originally Posted by Spook View Post
For those that have distinct preferences for whatever reason, that's fine. But what is 'better' depends on the music being play and the musician playing it.
Just speaking for myself, in any situation that requires a steel sting acoustic guitar, I feel more comfortable with an archtop in my hands regardless of what type of music I'm playing.
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  #21  
Old 11-07-2016, 11:30 AM
Spook Spook is offline
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OK.. So I made this long argumentative post completely worthy of deletion (why does Internet suck us into that?). My apologies. Basically I'm just really glad there are flat tops, arch tops, nylon string, and in-betweens out there to enjoy and I think they are all quite different. That and I don't agree about oval holes. They aren't brighter and actually have more bass bridging the gap (to a degree) between flat top and arch top.

And yes.. archtops are amazing guitars that aren't as well appreciated as they should be. Part of that is that you have to be a fairly advanced player before their attributes shine brightest.
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Last edited by Spook; 11-07-2016 at 09:04 PM.
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  #22  
Old 11-07-2016, 12:59 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
...I have a 17" floater, 17" built in, 18" pure acoustic, 16" gypsy jazz, 17" mahogany, 17" oval (maple), 17" oval (mahogany), and a really good Monteleone copy. I play archtops every single day...
What do you do in your spare time...?
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  #23  
Old 11-07-2016, 05:40 PM
gmr gmr is offline
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I too think that archtops are generally far more versatile than the very narrow realm to which they seem to have been relegated since the flattop guitar became the predominant choice of acoustic guitar. Changes in musical style sure has played a role in that as much as did the electrified age of guitar. Personally, I do prefer the sound and feel of an archtop guitar and I think most any sort of acoustic style can be reasonably played on one. Certainly there are compromises and limitations especially where the musical ideal is toward jangle, ultra resonance, and notes that carry forever, or chord strumming that sizzles with unending shimmer(Taylor). That would seem to be an idealistic territory for the modern flattop and one an archtop would not directly duplicate, though the result may well be tolerable to the ears of some listeners and not completely offensive to a majority....just not the preference for most. I do think a reasonable Spanish sound can indeed be successfully coaxed from the depths of an acoustic archtop. The guitar work on Marty Robbins' recording of El Paso was done on an archtop guitar from most all accounts I have read. For me, that 5 minutes or so of guitar work is truly some of the most memorable acoustic guitar in the country music genre and sounds very gut string guitar-ish to me and to most folks, I imagine. Like most folks here, I have flattop, archtop, nylon string, resonator, and electric guitars. I like them all. But of them all, I enjoy the sound, feel, challenge , and certainly the rewards of coaxing sweet tones from archtop guitars. I do not play jazz and my archtops are of the very meek variety so my commentary must be taken with a grain of salt... I am more Mother Maybelle variety archtop. If my musical tastes were different my opinions and preferences would most likely be a bit different as well. It doesn't hurt that my Father played archtops. I never saw him play anything other than an archtop. Had he lived longer I am certain he would have had some flatops in his hands....

Last edited by gmr; 11-07-2016 at 06:00 PM.
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  #24  
Old 11-07-2016, 06:48 PM
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iim7V7IM7 iim7V7IM7 is offline
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Default I like them both!

I think as others have said, you need to appreciate what each type of instrument does well. They excel at different things. Archtops in general excel at fast attack, string-to-string clarity, balance and projection. Flat tops in general excel in their bass response, sustain and overtones. I frankly enjoy both!

I have also lucky enough to have the opportunity explore a spectrum of hybrid guitars that incorporate features and tone characteristics of both types of guitars through some custom commissions. I have a 16" maple archtop (left), a 16" mahogany hybrid oval hole archtop with a flat back guitar (middle, left), a 15" carved maple back, flat top guitar (middle right) and I have a 15" african blackwood oval holed flat top guitar.

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  #25  
Old 11-07-2016, 08:57 PM
Spook Spook is offline
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You know Bob, when it comes to the pinnacle, artistic and scientific, of the luthier's craft over the last decade of two, you have the best guitar collection ever.
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  #26  
Old 11-08-2016, 06:48 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
OK.. So I made this long argumentative post completely worthy of deletion (why does Internet suck us into that?). My apologies. Basically I'm just really glad there are flat tops, arch tops, nylon string, and in-betweens out there to enjoy and I think they are all quite different. That and I don't agree about oval holes. They aren't brighter and actually have more bass bridging the gap (to a degree) between flat top and arch top.

And yes.. archtops are amazing guitars that aren't as well appreciated as they should be. Part of that is that you have to be a fairly advanced player before their attributes shine brightest.
I read your post last night, and it did not strike me as being overly rude or combative. But to be honest, my opinions here have dug me into a hole that may be hard to get out of. Your points are valid, and it's not my intention to disparage flat tops or those who play them - I mean, Doc Watson played flat top guitars, and music just doesn't get any better than that...

Things have been kind of slow here on the archtop sub-forum, so I'm glad to have started a thread which sparked such a lively discussion. I was going to prepare a response to your previous post, but then you had to go and be all diplomatic, which just helps to prove what I've always thought - that people who play archtop guitars have class.

Regarding the topic at hand:

I'm a fingerpicker, and I love the way a good archtop sounds played fingerstyle. It takes a more aggressive attack to get a rich tone (than with a flat top steel string or classical), but the sound is just heavenly to my ears. I've often wondered why archtops haven't caught on with more (non-jazz playing) fingerstyle guitarists.

Regarding oval hole and round hole archtops - my experience is mainly with Gibson L-1's and L-3's, which are small guitars, so that may have caused me to form the opinion that they lack bass response. I don't see too many other round hole examples of archtop guitars very often, so maybe it's not fair for me to even have a general opinion of how they compare to f-hole guitars.

I do agree that it takes a fairly advanced player for their attributes to shine brightest. It's definitely easier to sound good on a flat top. Archtops require a certain touch to make them sound their best. Another member here ( I think it was Steve) says the old-timers called it "coaxing the velvet out". I love that.

I've had to delete posts and apologize for my behavior on the internet in the past as well. When you're as opinionated as I am, you're bound to rub some people the wrong way. But internet forums are more fun when these discussions don't escalate into petty bickering. Thanks for taking the high road.
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  #27  
Old 11-08-2016, 06:53 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
You know Bob, when it comes to the pinnacle, artistic and scientific, of the luthier's craft over the last decade of two, you have the best guitar collection ever.
Man, you're not kidding! That's a sweet looking batch of guitars there!
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  #28  
Old 11-08-2016, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
You know Bob, when it comes to the pinnacle, artistic and scientific, of the luthier's craft over the last decade of two, you have the best guitar collection ever.
Thanks Spook...

I am very fortunate to have amassed such a fine collection of instruments and had the privilege of getting to know such fine artisans through these projects has been my great pleasure. They ALL continue to make me smile every time I play them.

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Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Man, you're not kidding! That's a sweet looking batch of guitars there!
Appreciated...

I shared these specifically because they explore the space in between the two instrument types. The archtop/flat back performs more like an archtop but adds to the bottom register and a bit of complexity to the tone. The carved back/flat top sounds more like a flat top but adds the speed and projection of an archtop. The oval hole flat top really just sounds like an excellent flat top.
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  #29  
Old 11-08-2016, 09:56 AM
StuartDay StuartDay is offline
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Interesting thread.

I think one of the things that make the guitar such an amazing instrument is the sheer amount of variance that exists. In the flat top world you have so many different instruments that provide different tones. Same as the arch top world.
So its just very difficult for me to agree with broad brush statements.

I build both arch top guitars and flat top guitars. The flat top market is much better than the arch top market so, from a business standpoint alone, it makes sense to focus a lot of my efforts there. But from a lutherie standpoint, my passion is definitely in the arch top guitar. I wish I could focus more on archtops as it is certainly my speciality.... the market just doesn't support it unfortunately.

I believe the arch top is an incredibly under-rated instrument when it comes to its acoustic dynamic range and versatility. But the misconception is fair because proportionally I feel like there are more bad sounding archtops in the market than flat tops.

But if you are lucky enough to be exposed to really nice archtops then it can be a pretty eye opening experience.

I'm not usually a fan of conversations regarding tone of instruments because I feel they are usually pretty unenlightened conversations that are stuck in old ways of thinking. But I do think Silly mustache is correct in saying its all about choosing the right tool for the job. Each instrument offers a different voice... if you lean towards arcthops thats awesome. I think (and hope) that more people start realizing the arch top offers more than they've been told. Because it does. But I also love a good flat top.
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  #30  
Old 11-17-2016, 04:59 AM
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Here's my attempt to make a flat top do an archtop's job....

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