Most people know of the various guitar types, including acoustic, semi-acoustic, and electric guitars. However, casual players and beginner guitar players usually don’t know about the different guitar designs, such as the arch top and flat top guitars. So, what is a flat-top guitar?
A flat-top guitar is designed with a flat top and bottom, unlike arch-top guitars with arched tops and backs. For the most part, flat top guitars refer to the standard acoustic guitars you see around. They are also called steel-string guitars.
Read this article to find out more information about flat-top guitars.
Primary Features of a Flat Top Guitar
There is not much difference between the features of a flat-top guitar and any other guitar. Usually, a flat-top guitar’s main difference and defining feature is its flat top. Here are a few primary features of a flat-top guitar:
- Sound hole: Flat-top guitars are generally acoustic. Therefore, you should expect flat-top guitars to have a sound hole or sound chamber beneath the strings. This helps with the guitar’s projection and acoustics.
- Type of strings: Flat-top guitars often have steel strings. A few flat-top guitars also use nylon guitar strings. However, steel strings complement the guitar’s body best, producing a crip sound.
- Spruce top: Spruce is crisp with good mids and highs and thus is most often used to make acoustic guitar tops. Expect a flat and solid spruce top.
Other parts of the guitar, such as the neck, back, and sides, are usually made from mahogany because of its deep, rich, and resonant tone. These parts can also be made from maple.
Common Materials Preferred for Flat Top Guitars
Flat-top guitars are made using different types of wood. Using wood of different quality enables manufacturers to make multiple types of flat-top guitars that produce different tones and durability.
Guitar manufacturers usually prefer making flat-tops from spruce because it is crisp with good mids and highs. This significantly contributes to the production of a mellower acoustic sound. Manufacturers typically use either Stika spruce or Engelmann spruce. However, Stika spruce is more commonly used because it is more abundant and provides a greater and balanced volume.
Another common material for making flat-top guitars is mahogany because it has great resonance levels for an acoustic guitar. It is often used to make the flat-top guitar’s other parts, such as the neck and sides.
Guitar manufacturers also prefer using rosewood to make flat-top guitars. It is warm and sweet with mellow mids and lows, making it perfect for use in constructing the guitar’s bridge, fingerboards, back, and sides.
Want to hear what each of them sounds like?
Here’s a great video I found on YouTube of a guy playing both, a flat-top guitar and an arched top guitar. check it out!
How To Choose the Right Flat Top Guitar
Knowing the difference between arch-top and flat-top guitar designs is only the first step, particularly when purchasing an acoustic guitar. You must always familiarize yourself with the different types of flat-top guitars in the market.
It lets you know what to look for when choosing a flat-top guitar. However, remember that ultimately, the correctness of your choice depends on personal preferences and the guitar’s feel in your hands.
Here are a few things you should consider before choosing one flat-top guitar over another:
Size and Shape
The first thing you should consider is whether or not the flat-top guitar is of the right size and shape. This is crucial because manufacturers make guitars of different shapes and sizes for kids, adults, and left-handed people.
Therefore, you must ensure your flat-top guitar has the correct size and shape to avoid issues with your playing. For instance, if you are a left-handed adult, ensure the guitar aligns with your preferences and allows you to play with no problems.
Type of Strings
Another important factor to consider is the type of strings on the flat-top guitar. While some players prefer nylon strings, using them on acoustic guitars has multiple downsides, including tuning, neck tension, and restringing issues.
Therefore, confirm that the flat-top guitar you want to purchase has the correct strings for your liking. Do not compromise on the strings, unless you aren’t planning to use the guitar regularly.
Next, ensure you check the flat-top guitar’s wood type. Flat-top guitars are usually made from wood of different quality, including mahogany, spruce, and cedar.
The wood used can affect the quality of sound your guitar produces and its durability. For example, flat-top guitars made from exotic wood usually sound better and last longer. Therefore, always inspect the wood type and quality before proceeding with the transaction.
Difference Between Flat Top and Arch Top Guitars
The difference between arch-top and flat-top guitars is pretty apparent. They are discussed below:
Top and Bottom Designs
You can tell simply by observing them that arch-top guitars have arched tops and backs compared to flat-top guitars.
The difference is not only aesthetic since it also affects how the guitar sounds. Therefore, arch-top and flat-top guitars usually sound different.
The physics of sound and vibrations in curved spaces causes arch-top guitars to project more sound in front of the guitar player, while flat-tops produce sound enveloping the player.
Suitability for Acoustic Performances
Flat-top designs are also more ideal for acoustic sounds than arch-top designs. Therefore, almost all standard acoustic guitars you see use a flat-top design. On the other hand, the arch-top design is just as important and effective for electric guitars.
Position of the Strings
Another difference between arch-top guitars and flat-top guitars is the positioning of the strings. In flat-top guitars, the strings cause the body and neck to pull against each other, thus exerting a lot of tension which sometimes can cause the guitar to give away.
Arch-top guitars have their strings pushing down on the body-top, which exerts less tension on the guitar.
Flat-top guitars also produce a crispier and shimmering sound compared to arch-top guitars’ smoother and duller sound. Additionally, arch-tops usually outperform flat-tops in volume.
However, you may not hear the difference from your perspective as the guitar player. To you, the volume may seem the same.
3 Suggestions for Beginner Flat Top Guitars!
There are multiple types of flat-top guitars designed for various occasions in the market. Knowing the common types helps prepare you if you want to buy a new flat-top guitar.
Here are a few common types of flat-top guitars that I recommend you should consider:
- The first common flat-top guitar you should consider is the Gretsch Guitars 6 String Acoustic Guitar (available on Amazon.com). This guitar is ideal for beginners and casual guitar players interested in playing guitar as a hobby. It has a walnut fingerboard with Pearloid dot inlays for ease when moving from fret to fret.
- The second flat-top guitar you should try is Moukey 41 in Acoustic Guitar (available on Amazon.com). This guitar’s flat-top design is optimized for entry-level players; thus, it is ideal for children and amateur players. Moreover, the package includes essential accessories like tuners, nylon strings, and straps. Thus, you stand to save some money.
- The other flat-top guitar you should consider is the WINZZ Hand Rubbed Cutaway Acoustic Guitar (available on Amazon.com). Its design is compact so that it is easy to carry around. It also guarantees a balanced sound, important for acoustic performances and live sessions. Lastly, the guitar comes with numerous accessories, including a padded gig bag to keep your guitar safe and a digital tuner to keep it in top shape.
Consider these common options alongside others when looking for a quality new flat-top guitar type.
Flat-top guitars have flat tops and backs compared to arch-tops with arched tops and backs like their names suggest. Usually, manufacturers prefer using flat-tops for the standard acoustic guitar, while arch-tops are best suited for electric guitars.
Therefore, whenever you see a standard acoustic guitar, it is probably a flat-top. Try different flat-top guitars to find which suits you best for a memorable playing experience.