If you’ve ever visited a music shop that carried a wide range of guitars and other instruments, you may have come across what’s referred to as an “archtop” guitar. As its name suggests, an archtop guitar is one with an arched, or curved, top, and it’s usually either acoustic or semi-acoustic (a semi-acoustic guitar is an electric guitar with a hollow body).
Most often though, the sound hole isn’t the large, round one that you commonly see on acoustic guitars. Often, there are two of them, called f-holes, after the shape they usually have which looks like a lowercase “f.” This has an effect on the sound of course too, so if you ever do come across an archtop guitar, you should try playing it to experience the sound for yourself.
What makes an archtop guitar different from a flat-top guitar?
Well, for one, the construction and design of an archtop has a major impact on its sound, so that’s the main difference. With a flat-top acoustic guitar, the strings are attached to the bridge, which itself is attached to the guitar’s body. A sound is then created from those strings vibrating.
But with an archtop guitar, the strings are attached to a separate tailpiece at the end of the guitar and then usually go over a floating bridge, which is a bridge that isn’t anchored to the guitar but held in place by the strings’ tension. With this different arrangement, you can bet there is a different sound coming out of that archtop guitar, especially combined with the differently-shaped f-holes.
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An archtop guitar is truly like a different kind of instrument, but to really get a sense for the difference in sound between an archtop and a flat-top guitar, you’ll have to pick one up and play it for yourself one day. They aren’t as common as they used to be, but they shouldn’t be too hard to find.
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