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  • Can the TurboTail Impact Guitar Building? 

    4 min read

    Can the TurboTail Impact Guitar Building? 

    Typically, acoustic guitars are built with the strings anchored at the bridge. This forces the soundboard to perform two roles: providing a critical structural anchor and, obviously, amplifying and tempering the vibrations of the played strings (making it sound like a guitar). 

    Commercial Guitars Are Overbuilt

    Guitar soundboards are built to withstand the huge tension force (140-190 lbs) of the guitar strings. That’s enough tension to lift a grown man off the ground! Currently, there are no steel string acoustic guitars built that have soundboards delicate enough to benefit from the installation of the TurboTail. They are all overbuilt in order to resist the damaging effects of high-tension steel strings. This means that if you were to install a TurboTail on a muted, dull, or too-quiet steel string acoustic in hopes that you can transform your “swaybacked pack mule into a thoroughbred racehorse, you are out of luck. If your guitar sounds bad because it is “really sturdy," you might consider using it as a footrest, or if it is attractive, just hang it on the wall as art. Grossly overbuilt guitars have been successfully converted into coffee tables as well. 

    Plus, guitar manufacturers have to allow a “safety factor” so that none of their guitars needs to be returned due to the deformation of the soundboard. Returns are expensive for guitar companies. In addition to the obvious cost of having to accept the returned guitar and ship a replacement, the company also risks damage to its reputation whenever there is a return due to poor quality. Too many returned guitars can ruin a guitar company.

    So, it is easier, safer, and more economical for big guitar companies to continue to sell guitars that are “sturdier” than necessary.    

    Lightly Built Classical Guitars

    The only truly lightly built acoustic guitar type currently manufactured is the classical guitar. It is very delicate, sensitive, and nuanced. Until now, however, classical guitars could only be played with nylon strings. This was a shame since classical guitar builds are so amazing. In fact, when we take our classical builds, set up with steel strings and the TurboTail to luthier guitar shows, they are by far the lightest builds at the show. Even steel string guitars costing $30,000 are built heavier than budget-priced classical builds. Generally, the best custom steel string guitars of the same size weigh between 8 ounces and 1 pound more than our test classical guitars. This is a really big deal. Especially since some of that extra weight is in the soundboard.

    Custom-Built Guitars

    Custom guitar builders work hard to reduce the mass of the soundboard by thinning the soundboard itself, as well as by meticulously shaving the braces until they believe that the risk of removing more material is too high to continue shaving. Some builders refer to this as shaving braces to the very point of collapse. One degree of brace reduction too far will cause the soundboard to begin to deflect beyond what is acceptable. Such a guitar may have a wonderful tone, with plenty of volume, but it will not last long. On the other hand, if the builder errs on the side of caution and leaves too much material on the braces and soundboard, the guitar will not reach its potential. It will be relatively quiet and subdued.

    "Free The Soundboard" - with The TurboTail

    The TurboTail can be used most effectively by guitar builders and manufacturers. Those who can appreciate the improved efficiency that the TurboTail offers and who have the skills to take advantage of these benefits to improve their own guitars.

    With TurboTail, every guitar builder can approach soundboard construction as a purely sonic issue. The builder is no longer required to design the soundboard to handle structural loads first, and only then design for the desired tone or “voice”.

    Tone bars only?

    Using the TurboTail means that instead of installing “top bracing” to handle structural loads before installing “tone bars” to optimize tone, the installation of top bracing can be skipped altogether.

    Tone bars are all that is required, no bracing is needed. Tone bars, as their name implies, are used to fine-tune the guitar's sound. The key benefit of the TurboTail is that luthiers are free to create a guitar in whichever way he or she desires, without the need to compensate for structural load as an over-riding concern. Builders can produce a better instrument when they focus on the tone of the guitar instead of the structure.  

    Guitar Design Dreams Come True

    For custom builders, this means having the option to take their guitars to a level of delicacy and nuance that they have never dreamed of before. No longer will custom builders be restricted to lightening their guitars just to “the edge of disaster.” With the TurboTail, builders will be able to take their soundboard bracing to that edge and beyond. They will be able to experiment with ultra-sensitive braces and soundboards. They might even be able to test theories of new, outrageously delicate soundboard bracing patterns that they have only dreamed about before.

    There is little doubt that a luthier guitar builds will take a huge leap forward once they have figured out how to combine this new approach with the knowledge and experience that they have gained over years of practice. For guitar manufacturers, these same possibilities are available. 

    Immediate Classical Guitar Improvement

    Here at Turbo Guitar, we continue to conduct sound comparison tests of classical guitars with steel strings equipped with the new TurboTail against popular models by Martin, Taylor, Seagull, and other major brands. Invariably, our test guitarists and audiences prefer the volume, bass response, note separation, and overall tone of budget classical guitars to that of guitars by the major brands costing much more.

    Tip for Guitar Manufacturers

    This leads us to conclude that a quick fix for major brands that produce so-so guitars would simply be to offer their current classical guitar models with necks, bridges, and overall cosmetics that are more familiar to steel string players. The classical guitars of major guitar manufacturers almost always have a bigger, richer sound when set up with steel strings, than the same company’s steel string guitars have. Using this as a first step, the major guitar makers should have no problem taking their guitars to a higher level immediately. 

    Watch videos of the TurboTail in action, click here.

    To purchase a TurboTail, click here

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