Guitar Bracing: Why You Should Care
When you look inside an acoustic guitar, you will strips of wood on its top and back. These wooden struts - usually made from spruce - are what’s called the guitar bracing. This bracing plays a major role in keeping the guitar sturdy and shaping its sound. Without internal reinforcement, a steel-string acoustic guitar can collapse under the pressure exerted by the tension on the strings.
Different guitars have different bracing patterns. The Fender CD-140SCE dreadnought, for example, features a scalloped bracing that gives the guitar a well-balanced tone with lots of projection.
Aside from making the guitar sturdy, bracing also needs to allow the top of the guitar to vibrate enough while minimizing any distortion. The right bracing will make a simple-looking guitar sound great, while poor bracing on an impressive-looking guitar can make it sound bad.
Here’s a closer look at guitar bracing and how it affects the performance of a guitar.
One of the most common bracing patterns used on acoustic guitars is that of an X. The development of this X pattern has been attributed to Martin way back in the mid-1840s. The pattern is made up of two struts that intersect just below the soundhole and and 2-3 transverse braces or tone bars, which are placed behind the guitar’s bridge. The tone bars assist in carrying the vibration from the X-brace to the lower part of the top of the guitar.
X-bracing enhances the stability of the guitar from the upper bout all the way down the lower bout while producing a balanced voice with a tighter and focused mid-range tone..Different guitar manufacturers have developed their own versions of the standard X-bracing pattern to come up with the best sound and sturdiest guitars possible. Taylor, for instance, has what it calls Performance Bracing and CV Bracing.
Ladder bracing is commonly used to reinforce the back of the guitar. Many old guitars also have this type of bracing on the top. This bracing pattern usually features a single thin and wide brace that runs along the joint of the back of the guitar and 3-4 braces that cross it, resembling the look of rungs on a ladder.
Scalloped bracing is a variation of the standard X-brace. Scalloped braces have a carved or scooped-out center and resemble the look of a suspension bridge. Because there is less wood used, the weight of the brace is also reduced. This gives luthiers control over where the brace is stiff and where it has more flexibility to allow the guitar to vibrate more and maximize tone transfer.
A scalloped bracing pattern makes guitars more responsive with a greater bass tone. They also tend to have more volume than guitars without scalloping on the braces. Scalloped braces are now used for most acoustic guitars regardless of the actual pattern of the brace.
Tapered bracing is another variation of the X-bracing pattern. The bracing is tapered in such a way that the height of the brace is tallest at the center of the X. This gradually decreases as you go toward the sides of the guitar. Tapered bracing also results in a balanced tone.
Those are the basics of guitar bracing and some of the different bracing patterns used on an acoustic guitar. Take time to explore how these sound on various acoustic guitars to find out which pattern works best for you.