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Laminated or solid wood back and sides

daffyduckdaffyduck ✭✭
in FAQ Posts: 17
I am in the throes of getting a new guitar made for me and I'm wondering what are the merits of solid wood back and sides { heavier i believe} as oppossed to laminated wood back and sides. What sound qualities come from laminated that cannot be achieved by solid besides the weight issue which of course must cause some tonal difference. Any one with any experience of this issue? Thanks Peter
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  • dongiedongdongiedong Rennes, FRNew Patenotte 250 (~50's), Mazaud "Paname"
    Posts: 13
    Very few manouche guitars have solid wood back and sides, laminated woods contribute to the typical manouche sound... At least that's the theory.
    Event in the 40's there have been some massive Selmer (here in mahogany)

    I have tried one, can't remember the name of the luthier, I think it was Florian Jegu. Great luthier, but I found the guitar less neutral and its projection was not that great too.

    But that was the only manouche guitar with solid back&sides I've tried, so that's not much...
  • dongiedongdongiedong Rennes, FRNew Patenotte 250 (~50's), Mazaud "Paname"
    Posts: 13
    Funny about those luthiers you talk about - selmer copies ? In France ??

    Anyway, yes I find too that laminates guitars are easier to get a good vibrant tone, and that they are more "expressive" - sry about the approximative english... -, this only applies for gipsy jazz imho
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,138
    I would not want a solid wood gypsy guitar, this is good for a big sustain like you might want on a classical guitar but it's really not suiting Django music where you want a crisp and dry punch. The best sounding gypsy guitars I've played when the notes seem to explode out of the thing are laminate back and sides and thin construction - usually very light guitars
    Andrew Ulledongiedong
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 128
    I have one of each and I like both. I like the solid back and sides one better for tone and the laminated one for power.

    The one other wrinkle I'd add is that I think a guitar with solid back and sides is gonna move more with weather and humidity changes. I'd feel more comfortable trusting my laminate gypsy guitar not to crack in the dry winters here in DC.

    Just get one of each. =)
    Buco
  • jerojero Michiana✭✭✭✭ J.P. Favino, Godefroy Maruejouls
    edited September 2016 Posts: 51
    At the risk of being entirely unhelpful, I think it entirely depends on the guitar and the luthier. I've played solid wood gypsy guitars that had a drier, crispier punch than most laminates. I've also played laminates that had abundant sustain and overtones. What one luthier can coax with laminates another can do with solid wood. What kind of sound do you prefer?

    Unfortunately, the gypsy jazz community can occasionally suffer from vogues. Around 10 years ago, everyone seemed to be endorsing super high action and heavy picks. Nowadays, low action and dunlops are all the rage. This isn't to disparage the community at all -- I think it's mostly a result of how relatively rare these guitars are outside of France. There are very few places where you can personally try out a number of really good gypsy guitars in the way you can flattops. And in the absence of this, forums have a lot of power.

    In any case, Daffyduck, it seems like you're working with a luthier -- what does he or she advise?

    PS. On the subject of lightness, I think there are a few luthiers who are prizing it over stability. Alas, I've had a number of friends who bought an extremely light guitar that, while it sounded fabulous when new, quickly developed structural problems. I think Denis Chang has had a similar experience that he mentioned in another discussion recently.
    BucoBob Holot-bird
  • daffyduckdaffyduck ✭✭
    edited September 2016 Posts: 17
    Thanks for your thoughts.. I do work close with my luthier , Peter Daffy from Camperdown ,Victoria here in Australia who served a long apprenticeship with Steven Gilchrist of Gilchist mandolin fame, also from Camperdown. To quote gilchrist " you wouldnt want your stradivarious to be made of laminate ..." He argues not much difference tonally but laminates definitely stronger. I own one already by him. Its slighly heavier than most laminates i've played Solid woods ..Pliage. Engelmann top .Loud ,full of good tones..And what really works for it is that it PROJECTS, not that that's coming from the back and sides necessarily. You can hear it through a noisy room where other guitars may appear loud but actually dont travel far with their sound. Also here in Australia no one trustworthy machines the wood for laminate anymore. I'm more than happy with solids but I am curious as to the "science" of laminates. But yes I should have one of each Ha . BTW I'm only getting a new one to have a slightly narrower fret board and to let my other one rest awhile.
    .


  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 794
    Like Jero says! It is in the hands of the builder. No one single element is what makes an instrument exceptional.
    daffyduck
  • From what I have learned, the sides could be almost anything and work as long as they are not sound absorbent foam or such

    The back of the guitar has a big influence on the sound. Having said that, as has been stated above, its not the individual components, its how they are all put together. All good luthiers make really good guitars, every once and a while, one will come together in an amazing way. Those magic guitars are still part artisanal skill, part art and part black magic.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 794
    I agree about the sides except to say that rigidity is important as is a certain amount of mass. Mass helps set up a platform for the top (and the back) to counterpoise off of.

    Back characteristics matter, particularly in focusing the sound, but my opinion is it is more about stiffness and mass than a particular kind of material.
    daffyduck
  • ronzo4600ronzo4600 PNWNew Eimer's, Hahl, Holo and Busato
    Posts: 24
    Jazzaferri wrote: »
    From what I have learned, the sides could be almost anything and work as long as they are not sound absorbent foam or such

    The back of the guitar has a big influence on the sound. Having said that, as has been stated above, its not the individual components, its how they are all put together. All good luthiers make really good guitars, every once and a while, one will come together in an amazing way. Those magic guitars are still part artisanal skill, part art and part black magic.

    You nailed it right on the head! Skill, art and a whole lot of black magic!

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