The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Allan

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Allan » Tue May 13, 2008 9:29 pm

Thanks to Derry for the firsthand observations on the Rubios, it answers my question as to whether or not the doubleback is louder and apparently it is--at least for Rubio guitars.

Also thanks to Senunkan for the link to Patrick's website on the floating doubleback guitar. This luthier claims outright this design provides increased projection, warmth and sustain. I would love to hear the sound sample, but the mp3 link isn't working for me.

Allan

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Michael.N.
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Michael.N. » Wed May 14, 2008 7:10 am

That is certainly a double top or a double back and not a lamination. Not to cause trouble but it does strike me as being a little problematic if the outer back develops a crack. I can see how it is possible to glue the crack but how on earth do you cleat it ?
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avoz

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by avoz » Wed May 14, 2008 9:31 am

senunkan wrote:I think the Conteras double back is an addtional sound board just before the back piece.
It is not referring to a laminated back.
Our delcamp luthier Patrick Mailloux (patmguitars) has a description on his website.
I am a mere player with a strong interest in lutherie, but I wonder if the additional soundboard (different thickness and strutting etc.) will affect the basic resonant frequency, or add another to the main chamber? Reference has been made to subjective opinions regarding loudness and projection etc resulting from various designs/tonewoods and I wonder if it will ever be possible to evaluate sufficient numbers of different guitars in the SAME acoustic setting, played by the same guitarist providing measurements of decibel output and so on. It might be possible to set up 'comparative' testing at a guitar congress or on the premises of a dealer with a large stock but though a very large quantity of say, lattice-top and 'standard' guitars could never be brought together it could be that the dB output of different designs could be measured and some myths debunked.

Patrick Mailloux

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Patrick Mailloux » Wed May 14, 2008 12:38 pm

Hey Guys

About what I call the double floating back: this is just an application of what others have been doing for centuries, with my own personal slant. it is almost the same as the Ramirez "de Camara" model, except I use Western Red Cedar for the double back instead of Rosewood. The main reason being that I try to impart some of the Cedar warmth to the Spruce top sound and that, I my opinion, is what it works best for. There is also the element of sustain (it produces a sort of reverb effect, which some people like, others not so much). As for projection, they do project very well, but that is always cause for interpretation as it is hard to prove. The only measure of success of course is that the owners of the double back guitars I have made are very happy with them. As with every design, it is a matter of personal taste.

Michael N. said:
Not to cause trouble but it does strike me as being a little problematic if the outer back develops a crack. I can see how it is possible to glue the crack but how on earth do you cleat it ?
Good point. That is somewhat of a challenge as a crack requiring cleats means I have to remove the back. I haven't had the problem on any of those guitars yet but it is an eventuality. I understand this may turn off a few people. I wouldn't recommend using this design with Brazilian or Madagascar Rosewood, Ziricote or any other of the more fragile woods, especially if the client lives in a Northern cold and dry climate.

Allan said:
I would love to hear the sound sample, but the mp3 link isn't working for me.
My website host is causing me problems which I just can't manage to fix. I have a lot on my plate at the moment but I will re-design my web site and change host by the end of this year. Sorry about the inconvenience. If you just email me your address I can send you the sample if you like.

I would say that as a whole, this design produces an instrument which is a pretty good choice for those who want a combination of the Spruce and Cedar sound caracteristics. If I detect this type of ambiguity when talking to a client, then I propose to go with that. If the client is set on either Cedar or Spruce, then I don't feel the need to explore this. For the last 2 and a half year, they represent about 25% of my sales. I must say however that I have had well over a dozen requests by other luthiers for detailed explanations on this design. I always try to explain it the best I can.

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Michael.N.
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Michael.N. » Wed May 14, 2008 1:04 pm

Unfortunately I don't think it is a simple matter or at least measuring the loudness of different guitars is a lot more difficult than one would imagine. I'm no expert so perhaps some of the more scientifically aware may like to add their expertise.
I do know a certain amount about Hi-Fi and how standard tests have been developed for loudspeaker measurements. The loudspeakers efficiency (essentially how loud it is) is expressed in db's with an input of 1 Watt with a microphone placed 1 metre from the driver. A speaker with 96 db's efficiency is considerably louder than one with a measured efficiency of 89 db's. All well and good. Of course they can control the exact amount of power or energy input at precisely 1 Watt. They feed a simple sine wave through the speakers at a given frequency, it's not complex harmonics as in a guitar note. The measured output or efficiency also changes dependent on what frequency they push through the speakers. At 10Khz the level may be 95 db's, at 1Khz it may suffer a drop of 2 db's or so. At much lower frequencies the drop can be tremendous. That is commonly known as the frequency response i.e. different volume levels dependent on the frequency of the note.
It may well be possible to rig up some type of Harpsichord mechanism for plucking the string at a given and repeatable 'weight'. Perhaps not a simple matter but at least that would go some way to eliminating the variable 'attack' of the player. Whether you can truly measure the loudness of different guitars with different tonalities and complex harmonics is a question
for someone more knowledgeable on acoustics than yours truly. I would like to know why certain instruments such as the triangle can be heard above a whole symphony orchestra. I suspect it has a whole lot to do with that particular instruments harmonic make up.
Historicalguitars.

Dan Kellaway

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Dan Kellaway » Wed May 14, 2008 1:55 pm

I don't know about the suspended backs but I have done quite a bit with laminated backs. I started using Brazilian rosewood on the outside and spruce on the inside. This was very sweet, loud and had good projection. It was basically what LaCote and so many others had already done. I was using three cross braces. I then started using cedar on the inside which added a certain warmth which was quite attractive.
But I was looking for an improvement and this came when I added a layer of Rosewood on the inside, making three laminations.
I describe the effect as producing a more mature sound, more rounded and less nasal. There was no obvious gain in volume.
I then developed methods to press the backs into a violin style of contour. This was immediately better again, producing a similar tone with a noticable volume increase. But I have since added three heavy cross braces to the moulded back, which radically increases stiffness and reinforces the shape to maintain it's most desirable contours. This is by far the best style I have made, producing exceptional volume, tone and clarity.
I disagree with the idea that the back is unimportant, as supposedly discovered by Torres with his legendary paper mache back and sides. Along the same lines I'd rather hear a solid back and sided steel string any day compared to an 'Ice Bucket Backed Ovation'. However I am also inclined to believe that laminating and moulding steel string backs in different ways could develop that instrument a long way in the same way as classical guitars have had boundaries pushed and improved and evolved since we have been experimenting over the last 30 years.

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Waddy Thomson
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Waddy Thomson » Wed May 14, 2008 2:34 pm

I don't think you can compare steel strings to classicals in construction techniques of the back. The difference in the way the guitar is played or held while playing is too different. When most people play a steel string the back is held against the body. When most classical players play a classical, the back is held off of the body. The steel string back is damped the classical back is not, and is free to vibrate. However, the back only provides some enhancement if used well. I think generally that Torres' experiment was a great success, and the guitar had great, not just good tone and projection.
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Marcus Dominelli
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Marcus Dominelli » Wed May 14, 2008 3:19 pm

What you came across was a luthier who was actually honest in his assessment of what laminated sides or back will do for the sound of the guitar.
What he wrote made perfect sense to me, but writing in this wishy washy kind of may is generally not a good marketing practice.

Of course any musician wants to be sure that spending an extra 2k on a particular feature is going to guarantee an improvement. I wish it worked this way, but it does not. For example, double tops are supposed to be louder than a regular solid top. Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not. C'est la vie.

I do find it refreshing when I read what I percieve to be honest, unbiased lutherie. It's a nice antidote to all the B.S. that we get bombarded with in the world of guitar marketing via magazines, the internet, or elsewhere.

Truth is after all a moving target; we cannot always hit it square on. Welcome to the real world!

Dominelli Guitars

jrannik

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by jrannik » Wed May 14, 2008 3:57 pm

Marcus Dominelli wrote:What you came across was a luthier who was actually honest in his assessment of what laminated sides or back will do for the sound of the guitar.
What he wrote made perfect sense to me, but writing in this wishy washy kind of may is generally not a good marketing practice.

Of course any musician wants to be sure that spending an extra 2k on a particular feature is going to guarantee an improvement. I wish it worked this way, but it does not. For example, double tops are supposed to be louder than a regular solid top. Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not. C'est la vie.

I do find it refreshing when I read what I percieve to be honest, unbiased lutherie. It's a nice antidote to all the B.S. that we get bombarded with in the world of guitar marketing via magazines, the internet, or elsewhere.

Truth is after all a moving target; we cannot always hit it square on. Welcome to the real world!

Dominelli Guitars
I quite agree with you, I also found it refreshing. But on the other hand. . . I hope it works for him and he is able to sell these guitars, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Marcus Dominelli
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Marcus Dominelli » Wed May 14, 2008 6:48 pm

You're probably right about that. Wishy washy marketing mixed with inconsistent results are a bad combo if selling guitars is the goal.
MD

Dan Kellaway

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Dan Kellaway » Thu May 15, 2008 12:03 am

Firstly Waddy, you don't understand what I said about steel stringed guitars. I was merely saying that they could be developed if someone took the sort of time with them that we classical luthiers have done .

I am glad that you guys find honesty refreshing. I guess that's because it's more normal to speak crap for most people. If it's a bad marketing exercise to describe evolution truthfully then it must be better to stay traditional and never admit to improvements, because someone who can't think very well might construe that the early ones are no good. I suppose if most people talk crap then most people believe crap so being all in the same boat can be a blessing for marketing.

Personally if I had to do that I'd rather drive a dump truck.

Where's the wishy washy bit? Help me here, I just can't see it.

Finally I post here to give people help with processes and ideas . Is that good marketing? I don't think so. It's giving away years of experience for free to all who come here, including luthiers who are my opposition. I have always loved our luthier community in Australia because people openly share many of their most treasured discoveries. I was approaching this forum in the same way but I often see a lot of rhetorical crap coming from a lot of people. To be accused of bad marketing in this instance says one big thing to me. Those who are into 'Good Marketing' have vested interests in keeping information close to their chest and not saying too much to reveal their experimentation or indeed their best results. So I hope being reserved and traditional gets you lots of orders guys and make sure not to ever be refreshingly honest because it doesn't pay.
Is that wishy washy enough for you Marcus?

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Waddy Thomson
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Waddy Thomson » Thu May 15, 2008 12:47 am

Then, Nevermind! :D
Waddy

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Michael.N.
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Michael.N. » Thu May 15, 2008 9:41 am

stickeyhickey1 wrote:As a college student, i get to play my friends guitars. Two of my friends have australian double back/arched back guitars. One has a smallman and the other a sheridan. These things are LOUD, but in a very good way. I prefer the sound greatly to normal guitars. It has a lot more depth, warmth and punch, a powerful sound but with great softness - basically its where the guitar needs to be heading in its quest to be a more serious concert instrument. Also, as these guitars are so much louder, it means you can pluck softer - hence making a nicer tone.
Fine. That's just your opinion. I know PLENTY of people who actually hate the sound of a Smallman, so it's all a question of preference as opposed to absolutes. It simply isn't something you can prove scientifically. Williams went with it, Bream didn't. A loud guitar by itself is pretty meaningless. It's meaningless because I could rig up a Strat and a few hundred Watts of Marshall amplification and no laminated, lattice or double top/back is going to beat it.
As for your quote 'It has a lot more depth, warmth and punch, a powerful sound but with great softness - basically its where the guitar needs to be heading in its quest to be a more serious concert instrument.' Firstly I don't know many people who would describe such guitars as having 'great softness'. There are many people who describe them in terms that directly contradict that statement. A more serious concert instrument? Guitarists have been searching for this holy grail for a hundred years at the very least. It's practically an obsession and the theory that by producing a very loud guitar is somehow going to transform the fortunes of the instrument is deluded. Essentially the Guitar is what it is. You can tinker around the edges but if you change the very nature of the sound you may as well play the Piano. It's a true concert instrument. It is loud, has depth, is powerful and is capable of great dynamics; from the very soft to the very loud.
Historicalguitars.

avoz

Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by avoz » Thu May 15, 2008 10:50 am

Michael.N. wrote:[ Guitarists have been searching for this holy grail for a hundred years at the very least. It's practically an obsession and the theory that by producing a very loud guitar is somehow going to transform the fortunes of the instrument is deluded. Essentially the Guitar is what it is. You can tinker around the edges but if you change the very nature of the sound you may as well play the Piano. It's a true concert instrument. It is loud, has depth, is powerful and is capable of great dynamics; from the very soft to the very loud.
Michael.N, That statement (and the rest of your post) is a good, objective antidote to all the subjectivity and hype I have read on this topic. You mentioned Bream and Williams in passing and I recall hearing them both in concert (in duo and solo spots) in the large Glasgow Royal Concert Hall some years ago. John Williams played a Smallman and I could not discern any greater amplitude in his solo set (a Weiss lute suite) in comparison to Julian Bream's guitar (Romanillos or Aram, I can't remember) in a set of the more difficult etudes by Villa-Lobos. When people say guitar 'A' is louder than 'B' I wonder if they have both been heard in the same room/acoustic setting played by the same guitarist. Even a cursory look at the nature of classical guitars (similar size chamber/scale length/nylon strings) will perceive a limit to the amplitude it is capable of. It is obvious that a significantly greater volume can only be achieved by radical changes in design/structure and such changes affect the 'nature' of the timbre produced. It seems to me that a very thin soundboard atop thick/heavy back and sides will result in a sound typical of other instruments with that kind of construction, e.g. the Banjo - I hear a plangent quality in lattice-top guitars which I don't like, but accept that other players/listeners do, of course.
It is clear that significantly greater volume could be obtained from a guitar with wire strings and larger body (the London session player Freddie Philips saw this fifty years ago and had such an instrument made for his work with other instrumentalists) but this would be at the sacrifice of playability. I learned of such an instrument on the website http://www.schrammguitars.com/gran.html in which experiments were made with the G.R.A.N guitar (Guitar Russian Acoustically New) by adding sympathetic wire strings below the nylon array. One of the finest American guitarists, John Holmquist, apparently took it up so it cannot have been simply a new formulation of 'snake oil' advertising - does anyone know if anything came out of those experiments.

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Michael.N.
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Re: The Mystery of Doubleback Guitars

Post by Michael.N. » Thu May 15, 2008 11:06 am

Actually I think you have misunderstood some of my comments and taken them as a personal attack on yourself. It was not intended to be so. My comment on the electric guitar is not irrelevant at all, in fact the very point I am making is that just because we can go louder does not necessarily mean it is either better or makes for a superior tonality.
I also take your point on the number of concert guitarists using such instruments. Guitarists have always been a little 'paranoid' over the issue of volume. Whether or not that is well founded is another matter. You can almost fall into the cycle of saying the violin isn't loud enough or indeed the piano and those instruments need 'improving' because they aren't loud enough.

'No instrument makers of any instrument take that attitude'.
That is wrong as a fact. Lute makers virtually to a man try to replicate historical instruments as they were first conceived. The same can be said for makers of Harps. I think we all know what type of instruments violinists are using, a design that was developed in 17th century Cremona, altered slightly in the mid 19 th century and has remained the same ever since. There have been plenty of people throughout the intervening years that claimed to have designed and made a 'better instrument' though. Ultimately it all comes down to personal preference. You like such guitars, I like some of them and dislike others whereas some people hate them with a passion.
And do you seriously believe that people like me are stilting the development of the guitar? Thanks, I didn't know I had that much power.
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