Banner Adverts

Welcome to our Community!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Who's Online (0)

Related Discussions

Today's Birthdays

jaredjames uoltercarlos

Bracing question (4 vs 5)

JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
in Welcome Posts: 384
Hi all,

I've got a question about bracing I'm sure a few of you are much more qualified/experienced to answer than me. I wanted to know what concrete differences to tone/feel a four brace Selmer-type guitar will have as opposed to a more normal 4-brace.

I'm just interested in what you might call "straight Selmer" designs here, whatever that may mean. It seems that people put these guitars in a special place, maybe because Django reputedly played one, and because they are relatively rare, but I'd like to know what actual concrete difference it makes.

Can anyone help? I guess there are other design implications, but if you had two otherwise identical guitars - to the extent that that is possible - one with five and one with four braces, could you say what the tonal differences would be?




  • Do you mean Maccaferri Selmer or post Maccaferri Selmer
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 384
    I guess I mean as a general design principle. There are a few people making these 4 brace ones now, like the JWC 501 replica, and some Baraults, and I want to know why you'd pick one or the other.
  • AppelAppel ✭✭✭
    edited December 2015 Posts: 78
    Jon. You are obviously suffering from Selmer Maccaferri madness. I completely understand. You probably know all about #503. Do you have Charle's book, The Story of Selmer Maccaferri Guitars? I know, I know, it's in the mail, you haven't had a chance to study it yet. In the meantime, let me tell you that when you get your copy, you can turn directly to page 163 and read that "... it is possible to find on certain guitars, manufactured until as late as 1940, 14 fret necks, a small soundhole, but no fifth transverse brace for the top." There is no - I'm sorry to disappoint you; I'm only trying to save you some time, as you flip breathlessly through that fine tome, learning many wonderful things but never finding any - mention of the effect of that omitted fifth brace on the tone. How could that observation not be in this book??? I mean what the he/ But then ... calm, calm down a minute - how could that observation be in the book? To speak definitively about the 5 vs 4 thing, you'd have to build the guitar completely with four braces, play it, make careful recordings, ask the opinions of the experts, on and on; then take it apart - and it's not just the number of braces that differ; there's a plate, that's different, too - and then build it again, this time with the five braces and whatever would need to be different with the plate, and then go through it again. With about a thousand guitars. Before you'd know the difference.

    That said, there is a well-respected luthier in Finland who builds a fine Selmer-style guitar, and offers either the five-brace, and purportedly brighter, Model Jazz or the differently braced, with a mellower top end and more bass response, Model 503, after the famous one. Check it out (link to AJL's webpage describing the differences between these two guitars.)

    Good luck, you have my complete sympathy - my empathy, in fact; if ever there was an opportunity to clearly identify the difference between these two qualities, this particular form of madness is that point - and I hope against hope that you and I will both be ok in the end. In the fullness of time.

    ... Seems to me that Mr. Horowitz had a useful comment to make, on the subject, when I posed the question to him about a year ago ... but I'm not putting words in anyone's mouth, not on a subject like this. Nosiree.

    altonJonBucoCraig Bumgarner
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,039 opposed to a more normal 4-brace

    you meant 5 right?

    well the advantage of the 4 braces is you get a beautiful corrugated top
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 384
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 384
    @Appel thanks for that. I guess still the only way to actually know what a guitar is really like is to go play the thing. One thing the internet and books can't achieve. It is very frustrating, yes :) Especially when you live as far away from the good stockpiles of these guitars as I do. Thanks for the link to the AJL guitars. Will check it out.
  • Bob Holo has spent a lot of time studying and methodically working through a number of concepts on Selmer style guitars. Hopefully he can jump in here.

    Unfortunately, as Appel has so correctly pointed out, as Lutherie is really an art, albeit with a very high level of craftmanship associated, there will not be a definitive answer. Each of the components that go into it, top wood, braces, back and sides, the different characteristics of each piece of wood require slightly different treatment to maximize their output.

    There is a fellow in the states whose name I can't recall, who has made a career out of reshaping the braces on Martin guitars to optimize the sound.

    Guitars with a sound box will obviously behave differently than those without.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 794
    At the risk of over generalizing, the fewer the braces, the less complex the sound. Braces divide up up the top into sections. Besides vibrating overall, each of the section vibrate too, but at different, higher frequencies. Each of these adds color to the sound but as the energy input is finite, these take away from the overall vibration.

    Many Castelluccias were built with only three braces, that is two below the sound hole, and no little braces under the bridge feet or alongside the neck and sound hole. These guitars are very fundamental sounding. Some Dimauros and any number of gypsy mystery guitars were like this, three braces, fundamental sound, very loud. These guitars are very popular among some players.

    As braces are added, the top plate gets divided up more and each of these little areas add to the sound. By the time you get to the five brace Selmer of the mid 40s, it is quite different. These guitars are really 5 ladder brace, plus 4 longitudinal braces. Quite a bit more division of the toppling for a more complex sound which many like.

    Which is better? Truth is, isn't that simple, lots of other factors and the builder is certainly one of them. As is the player. That said, each bracing pattern will have it's own tonal character so it comes down once again to playing them to see what you like. The four brace (+4 longitudinal) Selmar 503 pattern is a hard one to beat. But so is 5 as long as it is not overbuilt. On the other hand, I'm continually amazed at the genius of Joseph DiMauro's Heart Hole design with three braces.
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    edited December 2015 Posts: 476
    Your description is nice and appeals directly to common sense.
    Seems like the Selmac is its own category of design. Not because of the ladder bracing but just because all the factors contribute to a unique sound. Even the massed produced Ciganos have a fundamentally Selmac sound. I think the nearest cousin (sound wise) is the ladder braced guitars made in the millions in America 1920-1960. Lots of fundamental in the notes and if nicely made do much the same trick with single note lines.
    Selmac for me is a special outlier of the huge if almost extinct ladder braced family. Harmony made 1-200,000 stringed instruments/year for decades. Maybe half of these were ladder braced guitars, another 1/3 or so longitudinal braced archtops, the rest something other than guitars.
    I've got a basement 1/2 full of these industrial wonders. The best (cheap or "premium") make a good bargain basement guitar ala Selmac, but not as refined or as potent, but a lot closer than X braced to Selmac.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • daffyduckdaffyduck ✭✭
    Posts: 17
    4or 5 ? Ha ..My Henri Miller has 3 braces..Plays like a snare drum...Projects like a not worried
Sign In or Register to comment.
Home  |  Forum  |  Blog  |  Contact  |  206-528-9873
The Premier Gypsy Jazz Marketplace
© 2020, all rights reserved worldwide.
Software: Kryptronic eCommerce, Copyright 1999-2020 Kryptronic, Inc. Exec Time: 0.041672 Seconds Memory Usage: 3.444717 Megabytes