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  #1  
Old 07-23-2016, 03:23 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Default The "sound" for differnt styles ???

Hi, despite owning three lovely archtop guitars, I am, very much a float-top flat-picker.

I tried to master (or rather serve) swing and western swing rhythms but, frankly pretty much failed.

My first was a 1966 Harmony Monterey -

Just a pressed top etc., but if you are comping ...it works.

After a few other attemps ampts - I got this:


An Eastman AR805e - fully acoustic carved top, with a floating p/up.

A completely different sound - more open .... good for anything but definitely a rounder more melodic, less incisive tone than this:



This was the fist year (I'm told) that the L-4 went to f-hole design. It isn't a strummer, less of a soloing instrument but very much an incisive rhythm guitar for chopping out comping. (in 2011, my teacher had a 1934 L-5, compared the two and said he couldn't tell the difference tonally).

Am I correct in assuming that when the Gibson L-model F-hole guitars came out they were designed to be incisive rhythm boxes, and that we we proceeded through the decades - archtops (acoustics) were built more lightly and became more resonant ?

Thanks in advance for your comments.
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  #2  
Old 07-23-2016, 09:36 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
...Am I correct in assuming that when the Gibson L-model F-hole guitars came out they were designed to be incisive rhythm boxes, and that we we proceeded through the decades - archtops (acoustics) were built more lightly and became more resonant?
A bit oversimplified, but that pretty much sums it up...
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Old 07-23-2016, 09:44 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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On the MIMF a chap named Eric is rebuilding a water-damaged Epiphone Triumph from 1938. He's going to measure and plot the top and back, but initial measurements show that it was carved a lot heavier and thicker than current practice. So I would say that there is something to the idea that early archtops were meant for heavy comping, and not a light touch.

Brian
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1935 Dobro model 25 resonator
1943 Paramount (made by Kay) mandolin
1946 Epiphone Zephyr electric archtop
1957 Hofner Senator archtop
1962 Gibson Melody Maker electric
1963 National Dynamic lap steel
1996 Landola jumbo
1998 Godin Artisan TC electric
1998 Epiphone SG electric
2010 GoldTone PBR-CA resonator
2015 Evans electric archtop
2016 Evans archtop
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  #4  
Old 07-24-2016, 04:58 AM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Carl Kress & Tony Mottola - Jazz In G
https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=4oip4U853u0

This provides an interesting contrast in tone, Carl Kress and Tony Mottolla on a pair of L5s. I believe it's from 1941 and was available on the "Fun On The Frets" album. Kress handles the chords, albeit in an unusual tuning that I think he derived from the tenor banjo. Mottolla's leads are a good demonstration of archtop lead playing. It is midrange focused, but it has more in common with flattop tone than the rhythm cannon big band image might imply. Check out anything Kress did up to 1941, solo and duo: Though he was the master of chordal playing, his tone was anything but the often harsh "drive the big band" sound.

The irony is that what many people consider the definitive fingerstyle steel string, the Martin OM, was designed to compete with the Gibson L5 as a plectrum dance band rhythm instrument. I believe that Perry Bechtel found the L5 too harsh and went to Martin for something that would give volume with a less cutting tone. Given that history, I guess the quest for a flattop tone in that setting has always been there.

To me, a 16 inch Gibson "L" series f-hole has more of an intimate, almost parlor voice compared bigger instruments like the 18" Super 400 - itself capable of more suppleness than one might think at first listen. But I do agree that modern archtops seem voiced emphasize the frequencies most associated with flattops.
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Old 07-24-2016, 05:25 AM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Here, playing solo, Kress's tone (to my ear) is quite lush,

Love Song by Carl Kress (1939, Jazz Guitar)
https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=REvSHiqxd_8

and illustrates the "parlor" sounds that a vintage L5 can give you- emphasized here by Kress playing in a "plectrum classical" vein.

Alan Reuss had something of that quality even in a big band setting. Again, this is on an L5:

Allan Reuss ~ Pickin' For Patsy
https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=i5tJlXCZBes

It would be interesting to hear modern and vintage OMs in the same setting, or to A/B them against their archtop equivalents.
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Old 07-24-2016, 09:05 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Three beautiful guitars! Thanks for sharing SM! I'd love to pick on that L-4. Just stunning!

I've been in love with archtop guitars for almost twenty years now. I love swing-era jazz, western swing, and honkytonk country, and archtop guitars are a significant ingredient to the overall sound of those genres.

I think there's something to be said about the distinction of parallel vs. X-bracing. Here are my impressions:

The X-braced design is the "modern" sound. It's mellower, with less of the high/midrange peaks that a parallel braced guitar typically has. The archtops of the 20's, 30's and 40's were mostly parallel braced, and were the perfect sound for chomping out rhythm in a big band setting - a role that was previously served by the four string banjo, which accounts for the prevalence of the four-string "tenor" archtops of that era. As guitar became the rhythm instrument of choice for the big band era, banjo players could simply switch over to a four-string guitar tuned the same as their banjo. Some of the great guitarists of that time, I believe were former banjo players who switched over to tenor guitar. Carl Kress, Tiny Grimes, and Eddie Condon are examples that come to mind.

Any time I pick up an archtop, I judge its tone on the merit of how well it "barks" when chomping jazz chords at the middle of the neck. The vintage Silvertones and Kays, etc. just don't have that sound. They have a bluesy midrangy tone that I really dig, but they don't sound like swing jazz to me, which is what I'm looking for in an archtop.

I personally prefer the sound of a parallel braced archtop, because in my experience, they have a sharper, more articulated "bark" when chomping chords than an x-braced archtop.

For a player who is accustomed to flat top guitars, an archtop at first sounds kind of thin and lacking in bass response. And indeed, a flat top is most likely better suited for strumming folk chords in the open position. But because the resonant frequencies of a good archtop are voiced higher than a flat top, the sweet spot of an archtop is further up the neck, and that's where an archtop shines and a flat top falls short, generally speaking.

I do feel that an archtop is more sensitive to picking velocity and position. It takes a more aggressive attack to get a good sound out of an archtop, and heavy strings are imperative for good tone. IMO, if you want an archtop to sound good, you have to use .013"-.056" gauge strings or heavier. It takes some time to adjust when switching from flat top to archtop, but if you finesse the strings just right, you can get a good archtop to sound fantastic even in the open chord positions.
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Old 07-24-2016, 09:16 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
...I do feel that an archtop is more sensitive to picking velocity and position. It takes a more aggressive attack to get a good sound out of an archtop, and heavy strings are imperative for good tone. IMO, if you want an archtop to sound good, you have to use .013"-.056" gauge strings or heavier. It takes some time to adjust when switching from flat top to archtop, but if you finesse the strings just right, you can get a good archtop to sound fantastic even in the open chord positions.
The old Big Band players used to call it "coaxing the velvet out"...
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Old 07-26-2016, 09:20 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
The old Big Band players used to call it "coaxing the velvet out"...
Ha! I never heard that before. A very apt description.
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Old 07-27-2016, 10:19 AM
urlkonig urlkonig is offline
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Great Thread!

Love Kress's sound on that first track. With a Blue Chip, I can get a similar sort of "velvet" out of my '37 Epi Broadway. For more treble bite and rhythm comping, I have some Dunlop "primetones" that do the trick.
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Old 07-27-2016, 01:29 PM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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I recently built a 17" traditional archtop, mahogany back and sides with a curly redwood top. I carved it to the Benedetto recipe but varied the bracing to be a kind of triple X - one brace right on the center seam in the middle of the normal X brace. I carved the braces quite light. The sound is very transparent, kind of shimmery and clear sounding, with good balance and rather astounding power. You can get single note volume that hurts your ears, it's by far my loudest guitar. I went through many string sets of widely varying gauge and type, and settled on Ernie Ball Aluminium Bronze in .011 - .052. Every time I tried heavier gauge and higher tension strings the guitar lost all it's character and just sounded tight and flat. The best it ever sounded was actually when I put some heavier gauge strings on, and tuned down to D. It was awesome, but I wanted to play in standard tuning. So that old wives tale of you need to play heavy strings on an archtop does not always apply.
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1935 Dobro model 25 resonator
1943 Paramount (made by Kay) mandolin
1946 Epiphone Zephyr electric archtop
1957 Hofner Senator archtop
1962 Gibson Melody Maker electric
1963 National Dynamic lap steel
1996 Landola jumbo
1998 Godin Artisan TC electric
1998 Epiphone SG electric
2010 GoldTone PBR-CA resonator
2015 Evans electric archtop
2016 Evans archtop
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Old 07-27-2016, 02:10 PM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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I found this and thought it was relevant to this discussion - very early gibson L7 getting restored. Have a look at those braces! Not only are there two huge transverse braces, the X braces are like girders! easily twice a big as I use, and I pattern mine off a 1920's L5 Gibson that I saw with the back off. Very delicate and light parallel braces in the L5.

http://www.premierguitar.com/article...d--s-gibson-l-
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Brian Evans
1935 Dobro model 25 resonator
1943 Paramount (made by Kay) mandolin
1946 Epiphone Zephyr electric archtop
1957 Hofner Senator archtop
1962 Gibson Melody Maker electric
1963 National Dynamic lap steel
1996 Landola jumbo
1998 Godin Artisan TC electric
1998 Epiphone SG electric
2010 GoldTone PBR-CA resonator
2015 Evans electric archtop
2016 Evans archtop
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  #12  
Old 07-27-2016, 07:16 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MC5C View Post
On the MIMF a chap named Eric is rebuilding a water-damaged Epiphone Triumph from 1938. He's going to measure and plot the top and back, but initial measurements show that it was carved a lot heavier and thicker than current practice. So I would say that there is something to the idea that early archtops were meant for heavy comping, and not a light touch.

Brian
I just finished working on an early 1950s Epi Triumph and the top plate thickness at the rims front and back measured 3/16."
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:54 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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The top plate measurement in the recurve and in the center of the arch are the numbers that are interesting. 3/16" at the edge is very standard. It's funny that the mandolin guys have this all mapped out, you can get exact measurements of a Loar-signed F5. But nothing similar on a Loar signed L5 from the 1920's
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Brian Evans
1935 Dobro model 25 resonator
1943 Paramount (made by Kay) mandolin
1946 Epiphone Zephyr electric archtop
1957 Hofner Senator archtop
1962 Gibson Melody Maker electric
1963 National Dynamic lap steel
1996 Landola jumbo
1998 Godin Artisan TC electric
1998 Epiphone SG electric
2010 GoldTone PBR-CA resonator
2015 Evans electric archtop
2016 Evans archtop
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  #14  
Old 07-30-2016, 09:00 AM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MC5C View Post
The top plate measurement in the recurve and in the center of the arch are the numbers that are interesting. 3/16" at the edge is very standard. It's funny that the mandolin guys have this all mapped out, you can get exact measurements of a Loar-signed F5. But nothing similar on a Loar signed L5 from the 1920's
I always wondered if what separated old Epiphones from Gibsons was Epi's tradition of building violins. Gibson did not start building violins on a regular basis until late in the game and quickly gave up on it. If you ever got hold of a Kalamazoo-made fiddle it is not hard to figure out why. They sucked. While I am not much of an archtop guy, I have found I prefer the old Epiphones to Gibson. When it comes to flattops though, it is all about Gibson as I own a 1942 J-50, 1946 LG-2 and 1960 J-200 (this one is for my wife who prefers the sleeker neck).
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