What Gives a Custom Acoustic Guitar that Exceptionally Great Sound? Part 1. Several factors come together into the puzzling and complex issue; what goes into a custom acoustic guitar to make it sound great? To answer this question is very complex and I’ll suggest to you step by step. Articles will follow this one that will encompass the details of each of the factors involved.
THIS ARTICLE IS INTEND TO BRIEFLY TOUCH UPON SOME OF THE BASICS OF THIS SUBJECT – Great sound in Custom Guitars
First of all, the sound that comes out of a guitar is just what it is, as you hear it. Our Judgment of it is based on what we come to judge throughout history and what we have come to accept as todays standards set by others to what a Good or Bad Sounding guitar for should sound like.
In other words, in nature there is no such thing as a good or bad sound in a strict sense. It is only what we have come to accept as standards to what a guitar should sound like. Developing this idea further, hopefully, in the future we can learn to set higher standards and maybe the custom guitars at that time would even sound better than todays guitars. Woudn’t that be awesome?
The standards were achieved by ground breaking companies such as Martin Guitars and Gibson, who spent money and research to allow standards to exist in the ‘sound’ of a custom acoustic guitar, or any custom guitar for that matter.
OK, let’s get to it.
When you pluck a string, this produces an energy wave that we know as sound. What this guitar must do is transfer the energy introduced by plucking the strings. This is what I call the ‘final widely seen denominator’.
The guitar string energy in motion is transferring through the whole thing (glue and everything, with a dependance also as to the current temperature), how this perceived sound being generated by a complex system, finally producing that resulting factor we call ‘resonance’.
In other words, absolutely everything combined about this “Complete Unit” and all its complexity called a “Guitar”, contributes to the sound you are hearing at the moment the strings are put into action.
Therefor the sound depends on:
The Design of the guitar, it’s shape.
The construction, the manner in which the guitar is constructed.
The types of woods used in the guitar making process
The types of bracing inside on the soundboard.
The materials used for nut and sandal, including the bridge pins.
The finnish used on the outside of the guitar.
There’s more on this later. Ideally a guitar should sound like, what? It is only limited to our imagination. Therefore a custom guitar builder of a size has the same ability to further advance the sound quality of a custom built guitar. What I’m going to share with you over the course of several articles, are any secrets about this and how do we go about constructing a great sounding guitar in practice.
This article will concern itself with the Construction in general and we’ll touch upon the woods and others stuff in a later article. After I built my first Martin Guitar, many years ago with the guidance of my Father a Master craftsman himself during my youth; I discovered that: As a general rule, a lighter built guitar would bring out tones more clearly, and with the right construction technique, a louder response. The energy brought forward by plucking the strings had less mass to hide in, less places to get lost or trapped. The energy had less ‘knee jerk’ obstacles to overcome hence forth, due to fine shaped braces, more on that later. In other words as a direct result, the guitar became more alive and responsive.
The advantage of that is that the whole guitar becomes more flexible and at the same time more producing a likeable and even louder sound. The thinner I made, the back, sides and top, (up to a point, more later) the more sound was able to transfer through the woods. The wonderful advantage of this is that the player can feel the sound transferring into his ear, guts, and body while playing my guitars. As a result, a better and direct connection and relationship with the musician. The guitars simply talk better to the players. This has to be done in it’s own limitations for apparent reasons, the overall strength of the guitar must be maintained we’ll discuss it in a later chapter.
THE INSIDE GUTS
When you look at the basic Martin Cross bracing pattern for the sound board, you’ll feel the representation of a water reservoir or lake. The idea is that if you throw a rock into a calm lake, it produces wave patterns, getting smaller the farther they travel until they disappear back to the balanced state of the water surface or to its original neutrality.
Because the waves of water are essentially the same as the waves in the air, slower because of a thick medium; the idea is to construct the soundboard bracing pattern in such a way that the wave energy generated by the strings, is gently and ‘smoothly’ transferred into the guitar’s soundboard. To help transfer this energy wave back to a state of natural balance of the sound board shape, just like it’s counter example in nature, the rock thrown into the water.
These are the kinds of revelations one receives as a master guitar craftsman, like myself. This way we can create the sound waves the way that I want. This is the doorway to understanding a bit more on creating even better sounds in the future, like the sounds that are produced in the Peace Guitar.
In the case of making a guitar sound good, or Great, on this one point: It is the individual shapes of the braces that represent water waves. And, the idea is to help the energy waves return to their original balance of rest. But the fun of all this is, that I get to surf the waves right in my guitar building shop. I am proud to say that the more attention I pay to this phenomena, the better the guitars turn out and come to sound.
My favorite quote: “better sound is a concept that may be in perpetual changing mode due to human perception.” Stay tuned for more, folks, and see my shop at JonasGuitars.com/Custom-Guitars