Customer Testimonials

Archtop Guitar Information

There are many factors which influence how a guitar plays. Although most guitar manufacturers recommend that their guitars be set to standard settings, this incorrectly implies that all musicians are the same. The key to achieving the perfect set up is understanding your musical style and the set up which best suits that.

String Gauge

The string gauge is generally regarded as the outer diameter of the string, universally measured in thousandths of an inch, for example .013 or .056. So in simple terms the string gauge can be viewed as the thickness of the string. The thicker the string at a given pitch the greater the tension will be.


String Gauge

General Description

Suitable Styles

.011 - .047 (wound G)


Electric guitar feel, but there is not sufficient tension to get a traditional archtop sound

.012 - .050

Medium Light

The most commonly used set

.013 - .053


There is sufficient tension to work the acoustic body resonances. This has a suitable resistance and tension for a jazz player.

.014 - .055


There is sufficient tension to work the acoustic body resonances. This has a suitable resistance and tension for a jazz player.

Jazz guitarists playing Archtops will often opt for a thicker gauge string to alter the behaviour of a particular string that is not responding in a balanced way in comparison to the other strings. It is common for players to use thicker 1 st and 2 nd strings due to the extra tension resulting in a less erratic response.

String Materials

The material of the string has a significant contribution to tone and response. Stainless steel for a brighter tone or nickel plated for a warmer more mellow tone.

Taper Wound strings are constructed like piano bass strings. This allows the low notes (particularly the low E string) to vibrate more freely producing more upper partials and brightness. They can also be useful for basses where the winding of the string is too long and sits off the saddle that can result in false intonation.

Ground Wound the surface of the string is ground to a flat surface the sound is in between a round wound and flat wound string.

Flat Wound (Ribbon Wound) are w ound with a ribbon (instead of round wire). The sound is very even and flat in response, very mellow, with short articulate notes. These can be suitable for jazz bass players.

Nylon Flat wound are strings that sound closer to a double bass.

Silk and Steel Wound (Thomastik Plectrum)  are made with a silk and thin steel core with a bronze winding and a polished G string, An acoustic set sounding between a nylon and steel string.

Elixir Teflon Coated a standard acoustic roundwound wound with Teflon wire to eliminate sweat and grime getting between the windings. They also have a mellower sound last longer they are a popular choice.

Please note the previous is just a guide to string gauges and is not absolute. The most effective way for you to determine what guage is most suitable for you is to experiment with different gauges. And use the one that you feel best suits your style of playing.

Other consideratios for archtop strings.

Due to the unique constriction of archtop guitars , standard string guage and tension guides may be deceptive. The neck angle and bridge height, soundboard construction and stiffness, headstock angle, string length, width of the soundboard and tuning of soundbox, all have an affect on how the guitar plays and feels.

Tuning of open strings (see tuning section for more info)  -guitars are generally tuned to concert pitch with the A note above middle C vibrating at 440 cycles per second as our standard.


String Pitch(low to High)


Concert Pitch A 440


Standard Choice for most

It should be noted that concert pitch tuning does not have to be strictly adhered, as a creative musician the only limit is your imagination. For example to get greater tuning accuracy some players tune their guitars to perfect 4ths.

Scale length

Scale length of the guitar is the length of the vibrating string from nut to saddle, or twice the distance from the nut to the 12 th fret. Assuming all else is equal (pitch and gauge of the strings) the longer the scale length the greater the tension will be in the strings.


Scale Length(inches)

Scale Length(mm)

Gibson Byrland



Gibson ES - 175,



Gretsch 6120

24 ½


Gretsch White Falcon

25 ½


As you can see there are many different scale lengths on many different types of guitars. There is no better scale length just different. The general consensus is shorter scale guitars respond more rapidly to the touch and enables the hands to span greater distances over the fretboard. This can be advantageous when having the play chord changes at a rapid at a tempo that involves wide fret spans. In addition if you are soloing and using wide intervals it can make playing easier. Longer scale guitars due to the greater string tension are louder and more powerful. There is better individual note separation and greater definition that will allow for a heaver pick attack. Please be aware that scale length is one of only many factors that affect how the guitar will sound and play. Wood type, construction, bridge type, pickups, string guage, how the guitar is set up, etc all affect the sound and play.

Fret wire choices 

  • Soft,
  • Medium
  • Hard
Size & Profile
  • Small,
  • Medium
  • Jumbo
Material Choice
  • Nickel Silver Alloy (Nickel, Zinc and Copper)
  • Brass
  • Warwick Bell Brass alloy
  • Stainless Steel


Fret wire





The biggest




Slightly narrower than 6000




Narrow and tall.




A jumbo wide normal height




Standard Gibson




Standard Fender




Shorter in Height



Warwick(Medium) Bell Brass Alloy 2.4 0.9
Warwick(Jumbo) Bell Brass Alloy 2.9 0.9
Stainless Steel (Medium) Long Wearing, very hard, bright sounding 2.03 1.09
Stainless Steel (Jumbo) Long Wearing, very hard, bright sounding 2.8 1.45


As illustrated in the above table there are many choices of fretwire size available. There are numerous reasons for choosing different fretwire sizes such as, playing style, maintaining vintage authenticity, different material hardness and improving performance. A wide fretwire (2.4mm wide and above) makes it comfortable to move along the whole fingerboard Because of the Gibson Company contribution to archtop guitar design most manufacturers and makers use parameters established by Gibson.

There are many reasons for choosing different fretwire sizes like, maintaining vintage authenticity, different material hardness and improving performance. For example 6000 and 6100 are the biggest fretwires you can get. Due the height of these wires there is minimal contact between the fingers and the fretboard wood . This enables you to have greater control over the string, which facilitates easier techniques such as tapping, hammer ons, pull offs, sweeping, vibrato and bending. However, for players that are not accustomed to this it can feel foreign, as there is minimal contact between the fingers and the fingerboard.

Fingerboard Radius

This is the curve or camber of a fingerboard surface.

There are two fretboard surface options, cylindrical and conical. A cylindrical fretboard maintains the same radius over the entire fretboard surface. Where as a conical fingerboard's radius changes over the length of the fingerboard from a rounder surface to a flatter surface.


Radius Inches



Rounder radiuses (smaller diameter) have a very comfortable feel when playing chords as the "roundness" suits the natural tendencies for our hands to grip objects. But the drawbacks of a smaller radiuses occur with low action settings as strings when bent can "choke or fret out" causing the note to become inaudible. Flatter radiuses are not as ergonomic but don't have as many problems with notes choking or fretting out. One attractive solution to this problem is the compound radius. A compound radius is where the radius gradually increases over the length of the fretboard. Some common compound radiuses are 9 to12 inches, 10 to 16 inches or 14 to 20 inches for those who really like an extremely low action. This gives the rounder feel when playing chords especially in the open position and the first second and third postion, as well the ability to bend strings with lower action settings without the note choking or fretting out.



Action (String Clearance)

The action is a general term used to describe how the strings are distributed across the fingerboard. The higher the strings are from the frets, the more force is required to fret the string; conversely the lower the strings are from the frets the easier it is to fret the string. Different instruments and different playing styles will dictate different set-ups.

Action regulation is determined by how the string clearances are distributed at the nut, bridge, profile of bridge saddle and the amount of neck curvature.


String Clearance at 1 st String 12 th fret

String Clearance at 6 th string 12 th fret

Neck Relief

Very Low




















Neck Relief (deliberate neck curvature)

This is amount of concave bow in the neck (dipping in the middle) that can help create a relatively buzz free action. The amount of neck relief is determined by adjusting the truss rod tension.

Intonation (String length compensation)

When we depress a string to play a note we are stretching the note sharp. By altering the length of the string we can alter the pitch. Thus intonation is the state of the guitar so that it is in tune with itself as physically as possible, this is usually done by setting the strings length at the point at which the string crosses the bridge saddle. By using state of the art digital pitch reading technology we can make accurate diagnosis and apply corrections to the highest accuracy.

Flexibility of neck and soundboard

In general stiff vibrating surfaces produce more stable sounding musical notes. On the other extreme side the thinner vibrating components can be prone to movement and affected by temperature and humidity changes. Thin flexible instruments deflect produce notes that can tend to warble with unclear upper partials making it difficult to clearly distinguish and tune the strings to pitch. Quality instrument design balances stiffness to weight.


Borrow their design from the violin. The string is anchored at the butt of the guitar with a tailpiece usually made of metal on most Archtops but also of ebony and rosewood on custom hand made models. The bridge is held in place by the string tension. Occasionally some players will request to have the feet of the bridge pinned to the soundboard to reduce the risk of the bridge moving and affecting the intonation. For the archtop to sound and function properly the accuracy of angles is of great importance.

Electric Guitar Pickups

An electric guitar pickup is a coil of thin copper wire wound around magnetic pole pieces. The pickup is placed below the strings within the magnetic of the field pickup. The vibrating string disturbs the magnetic field of the pickup creating alternating current running through the coil. This electric current can then be amplified.

There are two commonly used types of pickups on electric guitars.

  1. Single Coil - is a coil of thin copper wire wound around magnetic pole pieces. Single coils are generally bright, snappy and clear sounding. In addition single coils are also receptive to picking up the vibration of electric transformers, fluorescent lights, computer monitors and other electro magnetic radiation resulting in a "Hum" sounding a note at 60Hz in between Ab and A. Single coil pickups are commonly found on Stratocaster and Telecaster type guitars. It should be noted that P90's are single coil pickups.
  2. Humbucker - in essence are two single coils wired together electrically in series out of phase and magnetically one coil is North and the other south. This results in a cancellation of most of the electromagnetic noise. In addition to cancelling the hum (hence the term Humbucking) these pickups have thicker sound than single coils. They are commonly found on Gibson style guitars. There are many ways to wire a humbucking pickup offering musicians many choices of sounds from one humbucker.

Modern Innovations

Musicians have always searched for variety in tone or improvements in fidelity of tone for acoustic instruments. Traditionally most archtop pickups are single coil or humbucking magnetic coil pickups. Recent products to be welcomed by musicians are piezo bridge pickups which help produce a brighter sound with a quicker attack.

The important change is that musicians are blending more than one signal source in order to obtain a richer palette of sounds. For most players to achieve a Hi Fidelity sound a condenser microphone is the appropriate choice. Another popular blending choice is to stick a bug to the underside of the soundboard.

Manufacturers have taken the original designs and made changes to suit the application of each musician.

Active pickups use onboard electronic circuitry to achieve in a signal without any of the electromagnetic background noise. They require the use of a volt battery onboard the guitar that is usually installed under the pickguard or in a specially installed battery compartment

Different Styles of Archtops

Contruction Type


Full Body Carved Archtops

Gibson L5, Carson Crickmore, Gilchrist, D'Angelico, D'Aquisto, Bendetto, Guild

Full Body Plywood pressed Archtops  

Gibson ES - 175, Gretsch 6120, Falcon, Cort Larry Coryell, Washburn J10

Crossbreed Archtops  

Prs Hollow Mcarty

Thin Pressed Ply Hollow Archtops  

ES - 330, Fender Coronado ,

Thin Pressed Ply with solid centre core  

ES - 335, Ricknbacker 330

Don't hesitate to get in contact with us if you have any questions regarding your instrument.

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