Many luthiers turn to DT classical guitars. It is true that there is some proximity in the construction of traditional guitars and that of doubletops. And indeed, one can think that to produce a doubletop and enjoy an extra volume, you just have to replace the traditional top with a sandwich top using Nomex and that the trick is done ! Of course that is not so simple, among the DT we receive 3 out of 4 go back to their designers, either by default of power, or by lack of tone quality of the guitar.
We have received quite a few solicitations from luthiers who have presented their guitars and here are some of our reflections:
- A not so easy exercise!
Looking at the doubletop guitars we have received, it is clear that this is often only a half-success. If the volume is there at best, there is an absence of sound color because the projection dynamics take over the length of the notes. In the worst case, we hear a big start/projection (like a boom!) of notes and then a rather dry sound with a short sustain.The sound color is often quite neutral without work on the tone. A beautiful sound color for us means for us, depending to the choice of the luthier, roundness and warmth, thickness of notes or crystal-clear trebles conversely with a long sustain and a beautiful separation of the voices.
- The note duration problem
Sound duration is the sensitive point of doubletop especially when they are very light and therefore offer little mass/inertia to stabilize the resonances of the top.The note duration is indeed our selection criterion to select a DT. All notes, and that means all notes – played separately by choking other strings – must have at least one white note duration ( you should count 1 2). If the guitar presents even one short note , we will return the guitar to the luthier. To overcome this problem of sustainability inequality and short notes, each of our luthiers has its secrets. Martin Blackwell uses what he calls the “Bouchet” bar in his top as a bar to extend and level notes.
- The weight of the top and guitar as a determining factor
By comparing these new TDs with those of our recognized luthiers, the first observation is that tables and guitars as a whole are often too heavy.Tables such as those of Gernot Wagner and Matthias Dammann do not exceed 2.5 mm in thickness by consisting of the two layers of cedar and the Nomex or Balsam and the weight of their guitar in total must remain below 1.6 kg. It is necessary to find the right thickness of each table and of the Nomex to also guarantee the solidity of the guitar.Because the luthier can has to use very little material that requires real know-how and several years of experience. Knowing that this of course remains an empirical observation because we also count among our DT those of Charalampos Koumridis which are 2.2 kg.
- The nature of the bracing is to be reinvented
Because we are lucky enough to receive many double-tables, we have found that the bracing is quite different from the one of traditional guitard.Some master luthier positions their bracing crosswise, others use carbon to further lighten their top. Functionally it assures a completely different role than on a traditional guitar because it is the Nomex that ensures in principle the stability of the table and not the bracing that becomes an element to adjust the sound color.
- Quality is key
The quality of the woods becomes paramount, the back and joint bars, the handle and the key, everything counts including the cutting of the woods and the drying times. We visited the workshop of Gernot Wagner who showed us how the quality of the woods affected the sound and length of sound.
In conclusion, it takes several years of experimentation and a string commitment to the DT concept for the luthiers to find their ways (and its voice elsewhere).
We can only advise you to compare the doubletops that you will find with other DT, otherwise you risk seeing your musical appetite fade once you pass the grip of your instrument and the additional volume. Volume alone is not enough!
As far as we are concerned, of the small fifteen double-tables that we have received and tested to date, we have limited our choice to a few good DT that offer above all beautiful sound colors and of course an acceptable power: this said we look forward to a double table of a French luthier Jean-Noel Lebreton which promises to be promising.
Everything remains to be learned, and on the time scale DT is still very young building concept compared to the tradition of lutherie ‘Bouchet’ or Torres for instance. And this idea fills us with enthusiasm bodes well for good discoveries to come.
Here is the list of DT that have passed through our showroom with the links so you can listen to them: