What the heck is a double top?

The term ďdouble topĒ has been thrown around for a few years now. In its current form, itís relatively new technology. However, classical builders have been using the original form of the double top for decades. This wonderful development originated from German Luthiers Gernot Wagner and Mattias Dammann. Though my methods of building a double top have evolved greatly from their original concepts, I give full credit to them for coming up with the idea.

The concept of a double-topped guitar is pretty simple: Sandwich a thin layer of aerospace honeycomb material between two very thin tops (or skins as we call them in our shop). In practice, it's a bit more complex, however. This is done in a vacuum process, which creates a very stiff and stable soundboard. The main advantage to this structure is that the top can be built very lightly braced and still remain structurally sound. A lighter top allows more energy from the strings to turn into sound. The final result, in its very simplistic form, is a louder guitar.

In the hands of a knowledgeable and experienced builder, that volume is carried throughout all of the strings, giving the guitar a rich, loud and even tone.

Currently, Iím in the middle of a very interesting experiment. I sent a double-topped guitar out on the road to be tested, played, reviewed and recorded by some of the finest guitarists around. The goal is to produce a CD of diverse players, playing very different music all on one guitar. I had no idea what kind of response I would get because the sound of a double top is unique compared to a standard ďoff the shelfĒ guitar. In my mind, it was a great guitar. However these musicians are playing some of the finest guitars on the planet. Itís a little intimidating to say the least.

So far, the results have been overwhelming.

Following are a few of the high-praise reviews this guitar has seen:


I canít say enough good things about that guitar; really, really impressive. It really plays like a dream, one of the nicest necks Iíve played, and the sound is distinctive and superb. This is an amazing leap forward. Iím sure you know I have some top-notch guitars, and this one stands as at least an equal to any of them. In fact, I didnít touch any of them the whole time the guitar was here.

Doug Young,
Mountain View, Calif.

 [This guitar has] tons of dynamic range, with a pure, responsive tone from quietest to loudest playing ... Strong, smooth tone from the trebles, and a fairly balanced bass response, with the bass being focused (as it should be) rather than flabby ...

Larry Pattis,
Creswell, Ore.

 This is one of the most beautiful guitars I have seen ... This guitar has a very smooth tone with nice fat and warm trebles all the way up the neck. The high E string is nearly as full sounding as the B string next to it and the G string next to that ... Interestingly, even with the cedar top, one can really play loudly with a lot of energy without the tone going south at all.

Derek Coombs,
San Luis Obispo, Calif.






    Visit www.roadtripguitar.com for more reviews, photos and sound files of this double-topped road trip guitar.    
© 2009 - 2011 Paul Woolson. Member of the Guild of American Lutherie and the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans