Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

F-Holes With-and-Without


Recommended Posts

The following description (given at the McCarthy Stringed Instruments webpage) of the reasoning behind the F holes to be quite informative:


“Experience with violin family instruments has taught me that F holes serve two general purposes. The first is to provide an opening to the interior volume. The second is to create a zone of flexibility in the top.

Any confined volume of air with an opening to the outside world is a Helmholtz resonator, and a guitar is no exception. The resonance of the guitar body can be tuned to a frequency that enhances the low end response of the instrument, much like a bass reflex speaker enclosure. Back when I was building dreadnoughts, I remember Hideo Kamimoto telling me that good resonant frequencies to shoot for are around G or Ab (3rd or 4th fret on the low E string). My ’36 Super 400 has relatively small F holes, and the resonant frequency of the body is around Ab. This is another factor that contributes to the deep and warm sound of that instrument. In later instruments, Gibson has made their F holes much larger, and raised resonant frequencies up to the Bb or C range. Some modern luthiers go even higher, with much bigger F holes, or additional side ports. This raises the resonant frequency of the body cavity and makes the instrument sound brighter. It also makes the instrument a bit less vulnerable to feedback when amplified. I keep my F holes on the small side, for a warm acoustic sound.


The F holes introduce a zone of flexibility that allows a top to easily vibrate in more complex patterns. A lot of string energy is focused by the bridge on driving the top in and out like a diaphragm (mono-polar movement). The F holes allow the top to also vibrate more easily from side to side, or end to end. The addition of these minute side to side (cross dipole) and end to end (long dipole) movements provides a more natural and balanced sound, whether up close or at a distance. The shape and proportion of the Skylark F holes relative to the rim, top arching and bridge is designed to optimize these cross and long dipole movements.


There is no binding on the F holes, to avoid muting the vibration of the top in this critical area.”


Here is the link to the webpage: http://www.mccarthystringedinstruments.com/page7/styled-2/page13/page13.html


Could people chime in and use the above arguments to elucidate and explain the differences in tone they hear between Gibson ES models with and without the F holes?


In particular, I am curious to learn about this in the context of the ES-335 and ES-355 (with F holes) versus the Lucille (without F holes).


Best Regards


TAOI / Miguel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Considering that both guitars have a center block and laminated tops, the presence or absence of f-holes doesn't make that much difference. I played ES-355s for years, but when I switched to a BB Custom (now called the Lucille) the actual impact at gigs was minimal; the variation I heard wasn't as much as the variation between two different semis of the same model. The BB did have less of a tendency to feed back at high levels and the 355s probably have a little more mid-range squawk, but both models can be fine guitars.


Danny W.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Check out an old 17" Guild George Barnes Acousti-Lectric................I've got a '63 Acousti-lectric where the pickups are suspended on a longitudinal wooden bar which runs just under the top...........the pickups are suspended on this bar all without any F-holes! Very unique and cool sound.........jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...