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Thread: flat top vs arch top

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    What are some of the differences
    # between the flat top and archtop
    # mandolins?? I know the arch tops
    # cost much more... but in bluegrass
    # bands you generally see flat top guitars
    # not archtops...There's a mandolin builder
    # out of Seattle making a "selmer" style
    # flat top... he also makes archtops as
    # well #(Boots mandolins)...he was featured
    # in MANDOLIN MAGAZINE, summer 2002

  2. #2
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.


    What do you want for your sound or what do you want to play?
    BG as the new hot thing Samick [Korea](under numerous other names too) Does F and A #machine carved style
    Trinity college [PRC] is a modestly priced #instrument for Celiic folk style.
    carved top and high neck angle and tall bridge result often in a louder instrument (tone subtiltys and Quality is what caring luthiers produce)

    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  3. #3
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    OK, I'll take a whack at it. Flat top mandolins can often be perceived as loud, easpecially by the player. They are plenty loud enough to play with a guitarist. But the arch helps focus the sound better, giving it more projection, more of the ability to cut through a mix of instruments. This is even more pronounced in arch top mandolins with F holes, which have more of a percussive POP to them than oval holes.

    Arch top guitars were developed mostly as jazz instruments, in the days before amplification was common and you would just plug in your guitar. They were primarily rhythm instruments. The arched top and F holes allowed their chords to be heard through the din. Remember, the mandolin in bluegrass needs to be heard on the 2 and 4 beats. It is used as a rhythm instrument, sort of the snare drum of a bluegrass band. If you want a warm, folky sound, a flat top mandolin is just fine. If you want your G chord to be heard over a banjo, guitar and fiddle, you need an arched top.

    Arch top mandos cost most much more because they are much more labor intensive than flat tops.

    If anyone has a better explanation, I'm ready to hear it!

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Shelby, Montana


    Good job Eric I think you nailed it!

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