Can someone explain to me simply bracing styles?

Welcome to SCGC Players Forum Forums A General Discussion Can someone explain to me simply bracing styles?

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    • #3365
      Acoustic Soul

      Tapered vs Scalloped and hybrids…. can someone explain to me their experiences?


      I thought I had a pretty good hold on what they were and what they sounded like… until this year I played a slope shoulder tapered santa cruz that sounded like it had qualities of their D lineup… and then I played a firefly which to me I thought would have been tapered due to the sound and surprise it was scalloped.  Does the bracing not have as big of an effect on the voice as I thought?

      Curious how this plays into the sound of a guitar.  Thank you   –  Matt I know we spoke a little bit about this but never got to finish

    • #3367
      Matt Hayden

      Tapered is often very even throughout the spectrum and (IMHO) sounds better for harmonically complex chords.   Scalloped often enhances bass and can be very warm.   But those are guidelines.

    • #3368

      Yow!  If this doesn’t sound like a podcast, I don’t know what does!

      Honestly, I have so little to offer – what I understand is that scalloped bracing helps push energy to the high points, and make the valleys more flexible, because of where weight is located. Tapered simply distributes energy along the entire brace more evenly.  But how that correlates to tone and attack, and how it can be used to modify or regulate same, is way above my pay grade –

      Lots o’ SCGC guitars! But never ask which is my fav

    • #3370
      Acoustic Soul

      Hmmm interesting response.

      Thank you Matt and Tad, yes I agree it sounds like a podcast.

      See, I theoretically understand what you’re saying Matt on them, but a lot of the scalloped guitars from Santa Cruz to me seem to be great for finger style in the sense you’re talking about but those qualities morph when you start strumming and playing with blue chips.  A lot of the scalloped guitars – I think firefly being an exception – seem to emphasize the top two strings to me in the voice.  I can listen and hear the balance, but my ears just casually musically listening hear tension and a shift to the upper part of guitar.  The tapered ones usually seem to be better with picks in that they don’t do that and have more fundamental depth.  Having said that, I played a VS that sounded more like a D model SC than a Sloped D… and then one that sounded like what I expected.

      That’s why I’m confused.  Perhaps scalloped works better for lighter driving of the top and tapered works better when playing very strummy and rhythmically?  More even punch?  Maybe scalloped has a quicker response and thusly has more PANG on the top end but tapered is more even and has more Thwump?

      Then there is the Firefly I played in Houston and put up on the forum that just defies all of that.  lol  –  I would LOVE to know more about it Tad, so if you could do a podcast on how bracing and body shape effects the VOICE but not necessarily the power and amount of bass that would be cool.  I’m talking about the voice as the perceived qualities of the guitar that are at the forefront and give it it’s character.

    • #3374
      Old 97

      My 1982 Dread Cutaway has tapered bracing. Strong bass without overpowered boom bah.

    • #3375

      It’s now on the list – but I think it’s a subject that truly depends on the player, and on the top itself. The top material, its thickness and its stiffness has to taken into account when shaping the braces. We should not stop a discussion because we’re expecting Richard to provide “answers”. Matt has some great insight into how the bracing works, especially as a perceptive musician, and I know a number of other forumites have alot of experience with this, so I would encourage them to contribute their comments, especially how they perceive the bracings contribution to tone with different top materials.

      It also is a subject that is hard to explain purely in words, so next trip to the mothership I will have to start getting some pictures of various tops in process – especially of I can get some hardwood tops in the works!

      Lots o’ SCGC guitars! But never ask which is my fav

    • #3381
      Matt Hayden

      The nominal purpose of scalloping is to remove wood in a way that loosens the top in a way increases amplitude mostly in the bass range, or so I’ve read in articles by people who know more than I do.  My experience (and I acknowledge that anecdote != data) accords with that.  I tend to find scalloped-braced instruments a bit outsized in the bass, and that’s playing finger type with a bare thumb (no pick).  Thumpy bass is useful for some players, but in general, I’m not one of them.

      By contrast, the straight-braced instruments (mostly Martins) from the late 40s through the 70s tend to sound better for strumming with a pick.  My working hypothesis involves the additional stiffness imparted to the top by larger, mostly uncarved bracing helping to even out the peaks and valleys of sound and requiring more energy per dB to drive the top, possibly resulting in some effects which mimic electronic compression.  The bass is relatively tight and the dynamic range is reduced, or at least they feel that way to present deponent.

      Tapered has a bit more bass than straight-braced instruments and less than scalloped, IME. It seems a good bit more even in terms of volume throughout the compass of the instrument, with nice trebles and a solid but not thumpy bass. It seems that the purpose of the tapered shape has to do with loosening the top in a way that is qualitatively different from scalloped; it should change the way the Chladni (vibration/glitter) patterns present bc the location of the vibrating nodes and antinodes on the top change quite a lot. I suspect that it elides some of the strong nodes seen in scalloped x bracing and makes the frequency response of each vibrational mode a little wider.

      I’ve played instruments that  refute this in one way or another, but it’s a rule of thumb that has at least a germ of truth, alt least for what I play (fingerstyle, complex chords, etc).  Fortunately, Richard has access to and ongoing interest in the science of guitar acoustics, and consequently can talk much more knowledgeably and with greater confidence about specific frequency response curves imparted by different bracing patterns.

      For me? Small, shallow body, tapered bracing, long scale, big neck, wide string spacing; in general tghose attributes, in my experience, will get me most of the way to what i want.  As always, usual disclaimers apply: YMMV, anecdote != data, IANAL, et cetera.

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by Matt Hayden.
    • #3383

      Well said Matt, I have similar experiences. First of all, custom shops like SCGC are so very diff than big factory assembly lines like Martin, Taylor, etc recipe guitars.

      Two very similar slope shoulder body style guitars but.. very diff tone characteristics. My SCGC VJ is the best all-arounder ever for me, sometimes call it the best D18 ever built. This guitar can make me happy with anything I play or try to play.
      They both are honduran mahogany with the diff spruce, sitka VJ and red spruce CJ. The VJ is full scale and CJ is short scale. The VJ has tapered xbrace and tone bars, the CJ has scalloped xbrace and tone bars. The CJ is loud and punchy but can have a tamed warmth using a lighter touch. Light gauge Curt Mangan round core strings on the VJ. Lights can’t drive the red spruce top of the CJ, so D’Ad True Medium EJ24s.    note:  the old style K&K is being replace with a new one…. sometimes along the way.      02c bert

    • #3391
      Acoustic Soul

      Wow nice pic upload!


      I’m going to echo some of my experience as well in relation to Matt’s post.

      I will say the Firefly seems to sound more like a tapered guitar to me, but any OOO, OM, OM Grand, or Square Shoulder D from Santa Cruz that is scalloped I have noticed when you strum it with enthusiasm or using blue chip picks etc, it becomes very unbalanced in it’s voice.  It has a shift towards getting lean or shallow on the low end, losing mid punch, and accentuating the treble.  That’s what happens under my fingers to my ears.   Mediums help smooth that out, but my OM Grand sounds too dark and thick with them… loses the air that it desperately needs

      I’ve noticed the tapered bracing in VS or F models for the songs I play tends to give me back what I put in without messing with it as much.  The H13 is kind of somewhere in between.  Shockingly the firefly is like that even though it’s scalloped.  If I were playing less laid back music, more classic rock or country, or playing more finger style these things would probably be very helpful.  Playing more mellow stirring things and especially strumming and singing the tapered seems to support my vocals better.

      I also think the long scale with the scalloped bracing causes too much tension for strumming.  The tension effects the overtones and fundamental ratio and the quickness of the onset doesn’t let the attack be too woody.

      I think when Matt said compression, I agree.  The shorter scale and tapered bracing do give you more of a compressed sound like someone has a compressor set to slow and punchy.  For me that is really desirable for what I am usually playing.  I also noticed the tapered bracing and shorter scale result in a deeper feel.

      The H13 was unusual from the others falling in neither camp to me, but probably a little closer to scalloped.

      I think it might be interesting since I look for more depth, woodiness, and open feeling in my OM Grand to order a tapered braced, deep body, short scale  one with adirondack top.  I have compared the OM Grand to OOO a lot and I like the sweet clearness and open top end of the OOO better, just responds better to me but would definitely want some extra depth out of the OOO.  Not sure how tapered bracing would work on it.  I do like the voicing of it as it is if there was extra depth and punch available.  ** I’m fine with the volume difference in amplitude between the OM G and OOO, I just would like a deeper low end fundamental to accompany the sweetness on the OOO. . . kind of like how the firefly is very balanced although quiet.

      Also Matt, I agree with you the nodes are more specific.  I have advanced X on my OM Grand and it seems like there are only certain parts of the neck where it’s voice comes out.  What you’re saying is that it sounds like the voicing, EQ, and nodes are wider and more even on the tapered guitars

      I do hear more amplitude with the scalloped stuff , but it’s not usable amplitude for me because of it’s tension and voice shifting under strumming.  If I were often playing in a dense mix that would probably be of more assistance.

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