Jazz Guitars & Normal Flattop Guitars: A Comparison

When you sit a jazz guitar next to a normal flattop guitar, there are obvious differences. You may not know what these differences mean for the guitar in terms of sound and other features. The different parts end up creating some different sounds and actions that help give its type its own category. Here are a few of the differences between jazz guitars and flattops.

Archtop and jazz guitar history …

The term “flattop” guitar was not around before the archtop. The invention of this instrument made the descriptor necessary. The reason an archtop guitar is so named is because the soundboard is more rounded than on its flattop counterpart. This combined with the hollow inside presents a different sound than a typical flattop guitar.

Archtop sound holes

Another way the sound of an archtop guitar differs from a flattop is through its sound holes. On a traditional guitar, such as a flattop acoustic, the sound hole is located in the center of the body underneath the strings. On an archtop, the “f-holes” are borrowed from the same holes found on violins. These f-holes are located on either side of the guitar’s body.

Jazz guitar strings

The guitar strings are also a little different than the strings you’ll find on a flattop. The strings on an archtop are usually longer and more thick, which adds to the unique sound an archtop provides. Archtops are capable of putting off a nice acoustic sound, but many models produced also have electrical pickups. These pickups are, more often than not, of the “humbucker” variety, which utilizes two reverse-polarity coils to reduce the interference and noise the archtop has when played as an electric.

These are some of the major differences between jazz guitars and the original flattop guitars that preceded them. By knowing why one has certain design features and the other takes a different approach, you can better determine which guitar is right for you, and start looking at different guitar manufacturers or jazz guitar luthiers to find the next guitar you want to add to your collection.

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