Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Archtop vs Flatop 'Playability' or 'Action' Expectations ??


Recommended Posts

I'm a jazz player, and have been playing Gibson archtops since day one - the sixties. I currently own an L-4, and L-7, and use flatwound 12 / 52's. My luthier has perfectly dialed in that setup, and I am really spoiled. ( ' Set in my ways ' ?? ) I have never owned a flattop, and am considering one now, maybe a Nick Lucas model Gibson reissue.

So, my question now is, assuming this same really good luthier, and these same strings, what change, if any would I feel in the setup, or string 'action' ?? Do flatops inherently dictate a style of play, as I always thought they did ? Is there a design difference between the two guitar types that lends one to better action than the other, again, like I always thought ?

 

Thanks in advance - really curious and appreciate any and all replies.

 

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you played and loved L5's..as Im not familiar with the two you have, I'd suggest a really good Maple J200.

Straighten that neck...get rid of the hump...and try some Tomastik Infeld Spectrum .012-.054. Very Warm & jazzy..

The strings are very soft & kind of quiet...(which may translate to too mushy & invisable) but its a good close variation to Pure Nickel/L5CES.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you played and loved L5's..as Im not familiar with the two you have, I'd suggest a really good Maple J200.

Straighten that neck...get rid of the hump...and try some Tomastik Infeld Spectrum .012-.054. Very Warm & jazzy..

The strings are very soft & kind of quiet...(which may translate to too mushy & invisable) but its a good close variation to Pure Nickel/L5CES.

 

I'll agree with the J200 recommendation. I've had a couple of 17" archtops, the J200 has sort of the same shape, the narrow waist etc, so a lot of similarities there.

 

As for neck playability, I don't really see much difference between the flattop and the archtop when same strings, same/similar setup.

 

You might get some perception of playability differences because of the sonic differences - the quick decay/strong fundamentals of an archtop might leave a dedicated flattopper sort of flailing around if he is trying to coax out the warm resonance of a typical flattop. Similarly, the punchiness you can get on a maple archtop is can be harder to achieve on a flattop.

 

So, again, if you are really used to one or the other, at first it may seem like playability issues, but it isn't. Same strings at same tension on same scale lengths gives pretty much the same experience, assuming the rest of the setup is similar & fretboard width, etc, is as well.

 

One reason I like the J200 is that it can sound more archtoppy than a typical mahogany/rosewood dreadnaught, especially comping on closed form chords.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is the rap I got - it is about touch. I have never been able to make peace with f-hole archtops. A friend of mine who has played archtops for decades told me the problem was that I approached the thing like it was a flattop meaning I played it too aggressively. His opinion was the archtop really responds better to a lighter touch.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is the rap I got - it is about touch. I have never been able to make peace with f-hole archtops. A friend of mine who has played archtops for decades told me the problem was that I approached the thing like it was a flattop meaning I played it too aggressively. His opinion was the archtop really responds better to a lighter touch.

 

I had to go back to a friend's Martin I played in the '60's. I decided then it'd be great do those James Taylor block chords, but suffered if you played any single note runs. So I went the archtop route. I figured there had to be a reason guys like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Johnny Smith etc etc used the ones they did.

 

I also remembered players adding those archtop pickguards to flatops. There are vintage 1930's L-1's that I've seen set up like that.

 

As far as size - -I'd like to stay at 16 in. max.

 

Thx

Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny that a few mention J200s....

 

While I don't own one, I have played a friend's which after a couple of tunes, I thought: "English Acoustic Rock/Folk-Rock".

 

I played one TV in a shop and thought: "Blues/Rags".

 

But another one at a Gibson dealer was a Standard Natural Finish and I really thought: "Jazz/Freddie Green type chords.....Jazz Lead"

 

I bought the Blues King L-00 that day......hardly one thing in common with the J200 Standard (the one I played in the shop).

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny that a few mention J200s....

 

BluesKing777.

 

The J-200 and the 17" archtops like the later L-5 and L-7 have virtually identical body plans (they fit in the same case), although the rims of the archtop are shallower. That lost body volume is partially made up by the arched top and back. Tonally, the J-200 and the large archtop L's are chalk and cheese, and they definitely play differently from each other, although I can't quite pin down how to describe that. In my case, the frets of the L-7 are of the old-fashioned tall narrow type, which isn't a great fit for my playing style.

 

I bought my 1947 L-7 for both Americana and jazz, but am finding that I like a flat top better for Americana. And I have yet to find time to learn how to play jazz.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is the rap I got - it is about touch. I have never been able to make peace with f-hole archtops. A friend of mine who has played archtops for decades told me the problem was that I approached the thing like it was a flattop meaning I played it too aggressively. His opinion was the archtop really responds better to a lighter touch.

 

When I was shopping for the L5,all used ones, there was not one that I didn't like the feel of, which made me wonder.

 

The first time I really heard the term "light touch" was at the Martin factory.

After they made the D42 Custom Shop guitar..I went up there for a set up and was told this guy is who sets up Eric Claptons guitar.

So they said play...a few seconds of that and at the same time both said "light touch".

Well that was new..!

He straightened the neck and lowered nut & saddle in one shot...

Played it and I was like,how did you do that? Its perfect.

 

Too bad OP wants max a 16". The J200 was a direct off shoot of an L5.

A set of Nickle strings on it probably will ring some historic bells for him.

Here is a picture of a J200 that is sort of like the missing link,but in this case it was never made,between the L5 & Roy Whitney's orig J200.

This man ordered this and an L5 I read.GibsonJ200Custom_zps5ae8c609.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...