What Is A Flat-Top Guitar?

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What is a flat-top guitar? Simple! It is a guitar with a flat top. Most acoustics are flat top guitars. They are also called Western Steel String guitars. Moreover, they are designed to play both lead and backing parts.

History of flat top guitars

The first flat-top guitar was made in the United States by Christian Frederick Martin. Christian was a luthier (someone who makes stringed instruments) from Germany. And this creation occurred in the 1830s.

He created the guitar body with X-bracing so that the guitar could handle extra pressure from the strings. He used the steel strings, which started the use of picks. This also led to the addition of pickguards to guitar tops.

Flat-top acoustics changed the acoustics game in structure, mechanism, and tone.

Structure of a flat-top guitar

The tone of flat top guitars is crisp because of the structure of the guitar.

  • As you already know, the top is flat. The thickness of the top determines the tone of the guitar. And the top is usually thin.
  • Flattops have spruce soundboards. (Spruce is a wood used as the top of a guitar because it is lightweight, stiff, and produces a nice tone).
  • Also, the guitar has a structure where the steel strings are pressed against the neck, while the body moves them in the opposite direction. This setup also produces a brighter tone.
  • Furthermore, the body of a flat-top guitar is its amplifying sound chamber.
  • And inside the guitar are bracings. Bracings are small pieces of wood inside the guitar that help it handle pressure from the strings.

Differences between flat top and arch top guitars

Arch Top guitars are different from flat top guitars in build, tone, and genre. While the flat-top guitar is versatile, jazz is the primary genre for playing archtops.

When you compare a flattop to an archtop, here are the differences you see:

  1. They have different tops: Obviously, the flat top is flat, and the archtop has a high top with curved edges.
  2. Sound holes: While flat top guitars have a round soundhole, archtops have a-holes (mainly found in electric models).
  3. Different tones: Flattops produce a crisp and bright tone. On the other hand, archtops produce sounds with less sustain and crispness.
  4. Volume: While the archtops are louder and lively, using similar effort will produce a quieter sound in flat tops. Archtops can project sounds without amplification.
  5. Sound: Archtops projects sound in front of the player. Meanwhile, flattops project sounds that envelope the player.

Should I get a flat-top guitar?

Yes! Since flattops are more common, you can easily make a choice. It is the most common type of acoustic guitar. Besides, you can play flat tops with different genres. If you get a flat-top guitar,  replace the steel strings with nylon strings. Steel strings can hurt your fingers. Get more tips on what you should know before choosing a guitar.

Tips for getting a flat-top guitar

So you think the flat top guitar is the best option for you? Great, I am excited for you!

Before you walk into the guitar store and shop online, take notes of the following tips to get the best type for yourself.

Pro-Tip: Buy your guitar physically. This way, you can examine the guitar body. You can also check the sound to know which is best for you.

Now the tips:

1.Guitar Body: Flat top guitars come in different sizes and shapes. This is to accommodate both adults and children. It is very important that you look out for the best guitar shape. You do not want to strain, stretch or feel uncomfortable while playing.

2. Guitar Structure: This will determine how comfortable you will be while playing. You should check for the string type and compatibility between your hands and the guitar. This choice is yours alone.

3. Guitar wood: Never settle for cheap! Ensure you get a guitar built with quality wood. Some great options are mahogany, spruce, rosewood and maple. However, your choice should depend on the sound and lifespan.

What is a flat-top guitar: summary

You have now reached the end of this read on “What is a Flat-top guitar?” Here are a few flashbacks on the flat top guitar:

  • Christian Frederick Martin, a German Luthier, designed the first flat-top guitar in the 1830s.
  • Flat tops have a flat top and a soundhole.
  • Flattops are also called Western steel-string guitars.
  • Archtop guitars have carved tops and can project without modulation.
  • You can play flat top guitars for lead and backing parts.

Now you know what is a flat top guitar! Check our article on folk guitar.

Jim Henneberry

Jim Henneberry

I love playing my guitar, and my kids got hooked along with me.
This is a family thing now - why don't you join the family fun? :)