The Secret to Guitar Making

There seems to be this quest for new guitar makers where they are trying to learn the big secret to guitar making. They search for specific tones to tune their soundboards to, and spend hours and hours researching the secret finish or bracing pattern that will make their instruments sound amazing. If they could just figure out that one magic bullet, their guitars would be excellent every time. This is not productive, and here is why.

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The Sad Truth About Guitar Making

the secret to guitar makingThe sad truth is that there really is no gigantic secret to making an excellent guitar. If that were the case, the one person who knew it would be making guitars that are leaps and bounds better than anyone else.

Since there is no single place for the best guitars in the world, it can be safe to assume that the secret to guitar making is not something really big. In fact, it is the very opposite.

The secret to guitar making is that every small action counts towards the bigger picture. The guitar is largely a sum of all the steps taken to make it. The better each step is performed, the better the overall sound of the guitar will be.

A guitar is made with several parts, and several processes all leading to the finished product. The better each one is made, the better the guitar will be. From the body wood, to the joinery, to the type of electronics, a guitar is really more than just one big thing.

Getting the Basics Done Correctly

the secret to guitar makingFor acoustic guitars, getting the body sealed well in the gluing phase will have a much stronger effect than whether or not to trim another 1/8″ off the lower face braces. Making a quality body directs the build far more than small changes to the braces. However, the placement and the integrity of the braces contribute their own flavor to the sound.

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Making a neck with good joinery and strong woods has more of an effect than getting the angle just right, or making elaborate inlays for the fret markers. It is the main parts of the build that really dictate how well a guitar will sound, and they all play a role.

There is no big secret to guitar making. It is more about getting all the steps as right as possible before moving on to the next.

the secret to guitar makingIf I really knew the one gigantic thing that would guarantee I had the best sounding guitars in the world, I would have sold the knowledge years ago and be sleeping on a gigantic pile of money right now.

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The truth is that nobody else knows either, otherwise they would be doing the same thing.

This is the main reason I stress to everyone who reads my book that they can build a guitar. It is more about getting all the elements as correct as possible than it is to get one secret figured out. The better you build the individual pieces, and the better you assemble them, the better your guitars will be.

It’s not a big secret, but apparently it’s still somewhat of a secret, because there are still people that do not believe it. Don’t waste time looking for a magic bullet, just keep making guitars and they will keep getting better and better.

If you have any questions about The Secret to Guitar Making, please leave a comment, and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please Subscribe so you don’t miss anything. Happy building.

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4 thoughts on “The Secret to Guitar Making”

  1. Hello, I began making acoustic guitars a few years ago, after retiring as an engineer. The one aspect that seems to me is the idea of the truss rod. It seems bulky and heavy and as an engineer, it seems to me a strong neck of lamination’s of opposite grain woods with a T beam of carbon fiber epoxied in, should prevent warping and twisting. What is your opinion on this?

  2. Thank you for the comment Paul. There are plenty of guitar makers who use alternative methods for keeping their necks straight. Lamination and carbon fiber are used quite a bit, and some people even use hollow metal tubing. The latter is not going to save on weight, but it’s still an alternative to the truss rod. The nice thing about having a rod is having the ability to make adjustments. If the neck is too stiff, you can relieve it. It the neck is too weak, you can straighten it. This is of course with a rod that allows you to torque it in both directions.

    Most classical guitars do not have a truss rod at all, but this is mainly because the nylon strings do not pull with as much force as steel strings. This has been the design for a long time and it has not changed much.

    If you build a laminated neck, and use carbon fiber to reinforce it, I am sure you can make a strong neck that will last a long time. The only thing that worries me a little bit is if you end up needing to make any adjustments to the relief. With a rod, adjustments are as simple as the turn of a wrench.
    Please let me know if you have any more questions and I will be glad to help. Enjoy your new hobby, you are going to love it. Happy building.

  3. Doesn’t the use of carbon fiber rods actually “fight” against the truss rod and cause it to have to overwork in making adjustments. The truss rod is supposed to keep the neck straight while allowing adjustments. The carbon rods keep the neck stiffer and cause the truss rod to have to work harder to overcome the non-adjustable carbon rods.

  4. Thank you Bob. When you add carbon fiber rods to the neck, you do create a stiffer neck, and it does have an effect on the truss rod, but in a slightly different way.

    Since the carbon fiber holds the neck in the same shape, it moves out of shape far less under string tension. This means you need less from your truss rod.

    The deflection is less under string tension, so you need to correct less with your rod. I’m sure it needs to pull harder to fight the carbon fiber, but it has to cover less distance with that pull. Happy building.

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