Brace Yourselves…Teton is Coming!
Several things go into the making of each and every Teton guitar. The sound our guitars produce is contingent upon not only the quality of materials and craftsmanship, but also how everything is assembled. From the outside, you will see various elements that are eye-catching: wood grain, amazing Teton logo, size/shape, and so on. However, underneath everything lies a skeleton of sorts that plays a key role in why our guitars sound amazing–the bracing.
Of course I’m not going to reveal any secrets but I will give you a brief overview. Bracing helps maintain the structural integrity of the soundboard or top, as well as the back of the guitar. Bracing is also very crucial in attaining a great sound as it has a drastic effect on how the top vibrates and how sound travels within the guitar.
The most common form of bracing is what’s known as the x-brace. As you’re looking down at your guitar and the soundhole, imagine two pieces of wood (usually spruce) starting at about the middle of the hole and angling towards each other, eventually intersecting below the soundhole. From here, there are various cross pieces that will line the four open sections of the “x”. There is no standard formula. The layout of the bracing can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from one guitar model to another within the same company. Spruce and cedar are common woods used in bracing material but some companies have also used carbon fiber.
The next formula is how thick to make the bracing and where. Many companies use scalloped bracing. Scalloped bracing scoops down and then back up almost like a suspension bridge. This type of bracing alone has several variations ranging from mild scooping to very severe/sharp scooping. Guitar designers have spent countless years perfecting their ideas and methods. The general idea behind this is to remove enough material from the brace to make it lighter but still allowing it to perform its duties providing a sturdy structure.
Anytime you remove material from a brace it obviously becomes lighter. As the bracing becomes lighter, the guitar’s volume/projection becomes greater. Essentially, the bracing is changing not only how the sound is directed inside the guitar but also how the top vibrates. The tradeoff? The tradeoff is that the structural integrity becomes weakened making the top vulnerable to buckling. So, the trick is finding the perfect balance between sound and structural integrity–a battle that every guitar company is familiar with.
12 String Acoustics
Twelve-string guitars tend to follow the same “x” style bracing but with a few changes. Due to the higher string tension, the tops and bracing are a little bit thicker. Scalloping is used to a minimum, if at all, in order to maintain the tops strength–especially around the bridge. Patterns inside the “x” will also be adjusted as well.
Classical guitars are a different animal. Since nylon strings have less tension than steel strings, classicals tend to have thinner tops and thinner bracing. Two common types of bracing methods for these instruments are ladder bracing and fanned bracing.
Ladder bracing is just that–a basic ladder pattern. A common method is to have a brace above and below the sound hole going lengthwise. The brace that comes after the “below sound hole” brace is usually slightly angled to cover a larger area. Then the final brace towards the bottom is usually kept straight. As you look at the completed bracing, it does resemble something like a ladder but with one of the steps angled a little bit.
Fanned bracing is a bit more complex. Common designs start with a brace above and below the soundhole like ladder bracing. However, below the soundhole brace is something different. Lighter smaller strips are placed in a fan-like arrangement. There are two strips that meet at the center-bottom of the body. From there they extend towards the sides forming a wide and shallow “v” shape. From the bottom soundhole brace, there are upwards of about 7 braces that reach down from here to the “v” shape in a fanned pattern. This style of bracing has several variations.
Designers and builders deal with many, many questions. What kind of bracing to use? How much scalloping to use? Where to scallop? Crossmember placement? Materials? The list goes on and on. Bracing becomes a detailed science due to the fact that even small changes can lead to big differences in sound.
Here at Teton Guitars, we are striving to ensure that our guitars have the best sound possible while maintaining structural integrity. Our ideas, along with the invaluable talents of our factory, have resulted in amazing instruments. With each passing year, we are getting better and better–so brace yourselves….Teton is coming.
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