Bracing and voicing

All guitar makers owe a debt to CF Martin for the X bracing design that has become a part of most steel string guitars. Most makers like to interpret those features in their own ways, but it would be wrong to claim that a minor modification is actually a radical departure.

The features that are incorporated into Fylde instruments come from the application of engineering and scientific principles to wooden components.

The  top brace above the soundhole is probably the most important part of the structure. Together with proper support on the underside of the fingerboard tongue, it transfers string tension to the curving guitar sides and across the width of the soundboard

The soundhole  removes wood from an area that is highly stressed and  is in the direct “path” of the distributed string tension. Adding reinforcement to the soundhole edges in the form of a patch or doughnut is an idea actually taken from Spanish tradition, but should be regarded as essential in a steel string guitar.  That is what can be seen around the soundhole edge of a Fylde guitar- the extra reinforcement that will keep your guitar strong. Arranging extra bracing either side of the soundhole in two angled legs is similar to the engineering design of bridges and trestles, and again, is essential. 

If the upper bracing and soundhole area can support the tension of the strings, then the design, shape and spacing of the bracing on the  larger, lower area of the soundboard, can be adjusted to manipulate  the tone of the guitar.

This part of guitar making is often described as “ Voicing” and involves removing wood in calculated places, but having more and more wood from braces mostly leads to greater bass response, volume, and attack.  Eventually it leads to making a tuned drum, or a banjo. 

Rather than carve away the centre section of every brace on the soundboard - scalloping, which simply weakens and lightens the structure, I try to be more thoughtful about the shape and style of each brace. The idea is to spread the pull of the strings across a wide area and adjust the stress in different parts of the soundboard to encourage response over a wider spectrum. 

If we want to produce a guitar that has the required character of say, a Falstaff model, then this part of the work has evolved over fifty years and thousands of guitars and I know what needs to be done.  There is little to be gained from tiny individual adjustments to such a well developed design, those tiny adjustments have already been made, a little at a time over many years. 

Many makers will disagree. They haven’t made as many guitars, for as many professional players as I have. 

If I do want  a particular guitar to respond in a  different way, then yes, I will be making those adjustments, but I will also  be making changes MUCH earlier in the process.   

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