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  #1  
Old 12-14-2009, 10:35 AM
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Default Will a solid/carved archtop "open up" as much as a dreadnaught?

Will an archtop with solid top, back, & sides open up over time as much as a dreadnaught guitar?

Just curious.

Thanks.
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Old 12-14-2009, 04:52 PM
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Lots of mandolin players seem to think so.
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Old 12-14-2009, 05:17 PM
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Several luthiers have told me that arched top instruments open up while flat top guitars don't.
Flat top guitars change tone due to hardening of the finish and drying of the woods.
Arched tops actually go through a molecular change that causes the opening up to happen.
I can't prove this, but I see no reason to doubt them.
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Old 12-14-2009, 08:08 PM
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Default Molecular What?

While the lore associated with guitars opening up never seems to fade or surprise, there is no physical reason why one wood would undergo some "molecular" change and another would not.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:09 PM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PastorSteve View Post
While the lore associated with guitars opening up never seems to fade or surprise, ...
Aint that the truth.
I guess an carved top guitar can open up (or not open up) as much (or as little) as a flat top guitar.
Or, at least, somebody could THINK they did.
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Old 12-15-2009, 12:40 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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From what I've seen with both archtop guitars and archtop mandolins, yes, but it takes longer and requires a lot more effort on behalf of the player.

The reason the Romans used the arch as one of their primary building structures is that it's one of the strongest shapes in nature, which is why the Romans featured it in their aqueducts, their window shapes and just about everything else. And carved, arched stringed instrument tops are naturally stronger than flattops, for the same reason: the compression of the arch under tension makes it naturally support itself.

I'm not explaining that well, but what it means in practical terms is that you have to put some serious playing time on an archtop instrument - guitar, mandolin, mandocello, what have you - before it has any effect on the tone you get. If the archtop mandolins I've broken in are anything to go by, I'd say it takes at least three to four times as long as a comparable flattop instrument for an archtop to loosen up and play in, perhaps longer.


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Old 12-15-2009, 05:37 AM
Brackett Instruments Brackett Instruments is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 815C View Post
Will an archtop with solid top, back, & sides open up over time as much as a dreadnaught guitar?

Just curious.

Thanks.
It's a good question, and one I don't have an answer for.......but I've got an observation.
I do believe that a guitars tone changes some as it ages and gets playing time................however, I don't think a guitar that's bad when it's new is ever going to be good. Don't buy a guitar for what it might sound like in the future.
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:20 AM
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Tell me what you mean by "open up" and I'll tell you if I've ever heard it happen to an archtop. I seem to hear changes in my instruments as time goes on, but then, I'm getting older as well as the wood (and there's more "listen time" on my ears as well as "play time" on my instruments.... it goes on.)

That said, I do like the changes I experience as time goes on.

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Old 04-16-2014, 08:27 AM
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I've wondered about this as well. My experience tells me there is truth to the idea of a guitar opening up, but I wonder if it's not in reality a symbiotic event as the player becomes more sensitive and in tune to the particular instrument. That said, I'm all in favor of any type of magic with acoustic instruments. I play mandolin and fiddle as well and have experienced this on all three.
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Old 04-16-2014, 09:09 AM
Archtop Guy Archtop Guy is offline
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Most archtop makers and owners believe that they change over time.

Many archtop players also believe that a guitar that has been stored or not played in some time requires some playing time, anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, before they sound their best. Preferably, they should be played hard to wake them up.

That's the lore. I own some old guitars and they do sound good. I have personally experienced the wake up phenomenon. But still, I'm not sure I would testify to it in court.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:28 AM
jc1027 jc1027 is offline
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I think that they do....About a month ago, I picked up a '27 Gibson L-3 that was in need of some repairs. Who knows how long it had been since this thing has been strung up.
After the repairs were completed and it was strung up, over the past weeks the sound of the guitar has changed. From a very thin mid range to a very full open sound with distinctive highs and lows. It's turned into to a really unique sounding great little guitar.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:12 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
From what I've seen with both archtop guitars and archtop mandolins, yes, but it takes longer and requires a lot more effort on behalf of the player...what it means in practical terms is that you have to put some serious playing time on an archtop instrument...before it has any effect on the tone you get...I'd say it takes at least three to four times as long as a comparable flattop instrument for an archtop to loosen up and play in, perhaps longer...
Agreed on all points, especially the "longer" part - I've played a few Big Band-era veterans over the years that were first coming into their own decades after manufacture; I've also found that, for better or worse, it's easier to "play a tone" into an archtop instrument - and nearly impossible to get rid of it. Simply put, IME if you want an archtop that sounds like an archtop - punchy, clear, resonant, and with more sustain than most players have come to expect from these instruments - avoid anything that was owned by a fingerpicker or light strummer, and find one that has even wear over the entire length of the neck/fingerboard; by the same token, if you're buying new plan on getting into some serious scale/chord study (a worthy end in itself), and working your instrument hard over its entire range for a couple years - as you state, the dividends will be well worth the effort...
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:48 PM
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In my experience, yes archtops like flattops do "open up" and change over time. Regarding the rate and magnitude of the change, I really can't quantify it reliably because it is variable like all things that are reliant on memory and senses.
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Old 04-17-2014, 06:32 PM
dkwvt dkwvt is offline
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On a carved top archtop the plate starts out relatively straight grain and quartered appx 1.5" thick. It ends up less than .25" thick and curved in all directions with the straight grain now resembling a stack lamination in cross section. New moisture faces are opened up and new stresses and tensions are introduced due to the removal of this much wood. This requires a new equilibrium and it all changes again as string tension is added to the equation. These forces and yields take more time to balance in an archtop because they are more structural in nature. You have the same type of effect in figured wood, straight or carved, due to the nature of the grain. To my thinking, most archtops have alot to reconcile... ;-)
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  #15  
Old 04-19-2014, 08:37 AM
peterbright peterbright is offline
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Slap a Tone Rite on it and it won't take 20 years to "open up" an archtop. It will take considerably longer than using one on a flat top.
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