Acoustic Guitar Bracing
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These photos are from Martin Guitars. These are regular dreadnought tops just as they are used in making Martin instruments. The little "love handles" at the waist are for alignment during the manufacturing process, as are the two little holes at the top.


Here's the standard, non-scalloped bracing as used in a regular D-28 or D-18. These are samples from Martin guitars dealer. This bracing has remained essentially unchanged since its introduction in late 1944. At a slight angle, you can see the profile of the braces a little better. The older top is from a 1974.


Standard Bracing
Martin Guitar standard straight bracing
Standrad Bracing
Martin Guitar straight bracing pattern from an angle
Martin Standard Bracing
1974 Martin Guitar Standard Straight Bracing

The "scalloped" brace top is a reissue of the bracing style Martin used before the introduction of the heavier straight braces near the end of World War II. Viewed from an angle, the scalloped areas are clearly visible "below" the intersection of the two main cross braces. You can see the scallop pretty well on the actual 1943 Martin top. It is difficult to see the difference by simply looking into the soundhole.


Martin Scalloped Bracing
Martin Guitar scalloped bracing
Martin Scalloped Bracing
1943 Martin Guitar scalloped bracing

The lower priced "1-series" guitars, such as D-1 and DM, have a simpler "A-frame" bracing system, which is different in every respect except for the main truss, a "cross brace" that Martin developed before the Civil War.

Notice that there are fewer braces and the cross braces are tapered quite thin at the ends for good flexibility at the edges of the top. This lightweight bracing pattern gives the 1-series a terrific bass response, but because there are no diagonal braces, slightly less complexity of tone, especially in the treble range.

The upper part of the the A-frame part of the system keys into special slots in the neck block to give extra support and rigidity to the neck block. The idea is to increase stability of neck support. Sounds like a good idea. Let's give it a couple of generations to see how this works out!


Martin D1 Bracing
Martin Guitar D-1 series bracing
Martin A Frame
Martin Guitar A-Frame Bracing

The 16-series (D-16, D-16TR, etc.) uses a "hybrid" system which combines elements of both the A-frame and scalloped bracing styles.

There are fewer braces than the original scalloped system, but most of the original functional elements are still here. It could be that this system will afford the tonal complexity of the original with the added strength and stability of the A-frame design.

Martin's current production of the DXM, with top, back and sides of high pressure phenolic countertop material, proves the company is willing to experiment and take some risks. Maybe that means they are continuing to work on the bracing systems for their regular wood guitars, too.

Martin Hybrid Bracing
Martin Guitar Hybrid Bracing
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