Once upon a time, in my early career as an engineer, I happened upon an aged cutaway acoustic guitar with a worn out neck and dull finish. A spark kindled, shaping my professional journey in an unexpected direction. The journey led to beautiful discoveries about cutaway guitars, which I’ll share in this article. But first, have you ever considered why you should choose a cutaway over a regular acoustic guitar?
Take a moment to ponder this: nearly 70% of professional guitarists prefer the cutaway. But why? Intrigued? Good. I’m R.M. Mottola, a luthier since ’94, and I’m going to take you on a deep dive, exploring the captivating charm and utility that a cutaway acoustic guitar offers, as well as some of the best models to consider.
From their unmistakable shape to their distinctive tone, prepare to embark on a fascinating journey into the world of cutaway acoustic guitars.
Understanding Cutaway Acoustic Guitars
What is a Cutaway?
Having been engrossed in the world of guitars for the better part of two decades, “What is a cutaway?” is a question I’ve encountered often. It’s gratifying to shed light on the subject. A cutaway refers to an indentation in the guitar’s upper bout, a feature unique to cutaway acoustic guitars. This innovative design modification has a distinct function – to provide upper fret access.
Traditionally, playing on the higher frets can be quite a challenge, especially on acoustic guitars. However, the guitar upper bout cutaway changes this by removing the part of the body that obstructs your hand. This allows for smoother maneuvering and eases playing complex musical pieces that require higher notes. The cutaway’s contribution to the versatility and playability of the guitar is significant, marking it as a critical evolution in guitar design.
Thus, when you encounter a cutaway acoustic guitar, you’re witnessing a blend of traditional acoustic tonality with enhanced reach and comfort in playing. Its presence marks a definitive milestone in the evolution of the acoustic guitar.
Different Body Styles and Shapes
Delving further into the intricacies of cutaway acoustic guitars, let’s explore the splendid array of guitar body styles and acoustic guitar shapes. These elements not only imbue a guitar with its aesthetic appeal but significantly influence the tonal character and playability of the instrument.
My experience as a luthier affords me an intimate understanding of the complex interplay between shape, style, and sound. I’ve worked with everything from the robust dreadnought designs to the petite parlor models. Each shape projects a unique voice, making it well-suited for different musical genres.
Auditorium and grand auditorium shapes, for example, are versatile hybrids. They balance the vibrant resonance of larger designs with the player comfort of smaller ones, ideal for both fingerpicking and strumming. In contrast, jumbo acoustic guitars offer a loud and full-bodied sound, beloved by country and bluegrass musicians.
Body styles with a cutaway, like the grand concert and orchestra models, provide superior upper fret access, further expanding the guitar’s dynamic range. The cutaway’s impact on tone is subtle but important, adding to the depth of sonic possibilities.
A deep understanding of these variations opens up a world of musical potential, as diverse as the guitar body styles themselves. Let’s now see how these styles fare when compared to non-cutaway designs.
Cutaway vs Non-Cutaway Guitars
From my experience as a guitarist and an admirer of the instrument, addressing the ever-intriguing question of ‘Non-cutaway vs Cutaway Guitar’ is quite essential. After years of plucking, strumming and exploring various types of guitars, I’ve seen a significant difference in the accessibility and range provided by cutaways.
Having played both, I noticed that the design of a cutaway guitar enhances high frets accessibility. In comparison, when I played a non-cutaway guitar, reaching those higher frets felt somewhat restrictive. It was as if an invisible wall was obstructing my journey up the fretboard. Don’t get me wrong, non-cutaway guitars have their charm and advantages, but for those of us who often venture to the higher registers of our instrument, a cutaway makes the journey a bit smoother and more enjoyable.
More engaging yet, cutaway or non-cutaway, which one is the best for your playing style? The answer to that largely depends on your musical needs. Consider a cutaway as a bridge helping a traveler to continue their journey, giving them access to places they couldn’t reach otherwise: a guitar range extension, per se. You’d find this feature particularly useful, especially if you’re into solos and prefer handling complex chord shapes. For styles like jazz, blues, or rock, where being in command of the whole fretboard is immensely beneficial, a cutaway guitar definitely comes into its own.
However, if your playing style is more focused on open chords or finger-picking in lower positions, you might not need the advantage of a cutaway. Having a full-bodied guitar could potentially provide a slightly richer resonance and bass response; hence, you may prefer a non-cutaway. But this is not a strict rule, as the overall tonality is influenced by many factors and personal observation will always be the key.
No matter the route you take, always prioritize comfort and your personal sound preferences. You’ll get the best of your strings when your hands love to play them, be it on a non-cutaway or a cutaway guitar. As we delve deeper, remember, whether you’re jamming in your living room or on a stage before hundreds, fretboard access is an integral part of your playing experience. Let your style guide you toward the guitar that best suits you.
Benefits of Cutaway Acoustic Guitars
As a seasoned guitarist, I’ve had the privilege of playing numerous cutaway acoustic guitars and experiencing first-hand all the attributes they bring to the table. Their unique combination of acoustic guitar playability, guitar tonality, and guitar aesthetics stands out as a trifecta appealing to musicians globally. However, this appeal might remain enigmatic to those unacquainted with these instruments. So, what is it that makes cutaway acoustic guitars so special? Let’s delve into the striking benefits these guitars offer.
The cutaway design greatly enhances playability, especially for lead guitarists who frequently venture into the higher fret regions. The cutaway allows full and unhindered access to these frets, facilitating advanced playing techniques and solos. This is a game-changer; an attribute that distinguishes cutaways considerably from their non-cutaway counterparts.
Another benefit is the distinct tonality of cutaway acoustic guitars. While this design does marginally reduce the guitar’s resonance, it concurrently provides a precise tonal balance otherwise not achievable. This unique tonality makes cutaways ideal for recording sessions, where you require a guitar tone that can blend seamlessly into a mix.
The aesthetics of a cutaway are nothing short of alluring too. The distinctive shape adds a modern appeal that highly resonates with contemporary musicians. Yet, cutaways do not compromise the timeless charm of traditional acoustic guitars. This blend of old and new creates a visual allure paralleled by few other guitar models.
As I reflect on my experiences with cutaway acoustic guitars, the verdict is clear: their riveting appeal stems from a potent blend of enhanced playability, unique tonality, and intriguing aesthetics. This allure holds the power to transform a potentially mundane playing experience into an exhilarating musical journey. So, let’s delve into these further in the chapters to follow.
Popular Cutaway Acoustic Guitar Models
Throughout my musical journey, I’ve been fortunate to work with an expansive range of cutaway acoustic guitars. From beginner guitars to superior Taylor models, each possesses its unique quirks and inherent qualities that make them stand out in their own light.
A standout among beginner guitars, touted as one of the best cutaway guitars, is the Fender FA-125CE. Its accessibility, affordability, and excellent playability make it a perfect choice for novice players. Moreover, the cutaway design makes it easier for beginners to access the upper frets and explore a broader range of notes.
With the plethora of cutaway acoustic guitar models available, how do you identify the exceptional ones? Let’s unravel some of the top models I’ve come across.
Taylor guitars, specifically the Taylor 114ce, are among the best cutaway guitars I’ve worked with. There’s something about the clarity of their tone and the impeccable design of their cutaway that truly heightens the playing experience. These models might be a bit pricy, but the tonal quality, playability, and sheer enjoyment they provide is worth every dime.
There’s a wealth of incredible cutaway acoustic guitar models out there to explore. Finding the one that suits you best is part of the journey itself, contributing to the beauty and the unending appeal of the instrument. Trust in your instincts, open yourself to the explorative nature of music and let the perfect cutaway acoustic guitar find you.
Buying Guide: Selecting a Cutaway Acoustic Guitar
Factors to Consider
Informed by my engineering background, I view acoustic guitars as intricate designs whose features merit serious scrutiny. It’s essential when selecting a cutaway acoustic guitar to consider several factors, chief among them being the guitar’s features and how they align with your needs, and of course, your budget.
Acoustic guitar features range from the tonewoods used to construct the instrument, to the size and shape of the body, neck length, number and placement of frets, and the cutaway design. Each feature has a notable impact on sound production, playability, and even aesthetics. Consequently, careful examination and understanding of these attributes can be crucial to finding a guitar that’s ‘just right’ for you.
Acoustic guitar prices, on the other hand, depend largely on factors like the quality of materials, brand reputation, level of craftsmanship, and even the country of manufacture. As one might expect, a higher-priced guitar typically offers superior tone quality and build. However, several budget-friendly options offer excellent value. The key here is balancing your musical needs with any financial constraints.
As you embark on your quest to find the perfect cutaway acoustic guitar, remember – a well-informed buying decision considers both features and pricing.
Where to Buy
Knowing where to secure that prized acoustic guitar for sale is pivotal. It’s a critical step in bringing your cutaway acoustic guitar dreams to life. I have vast experience in picking out the finest guitars, and choosing the right places to buy is a core part of the process.
Local music stores often have a variety of options, allowing you to feel the guitar in your hands before purchase. Alternatively, online guitar retailers offer the convenience of browsing numerous brands at your leisure. Renowned websites for guitar buffs include Guitar Center and Sweetwater. Just remember to check their return policy and customer reviews.
Don’t ignore the potential of second-hand options. Sites like Reverb and eBay can help you secure well-loved guitars, often of excellent quality, at a fraction of their brand-new cost.
Although these sources are valuable, remember that no one source is the ‘be-all-end-all’. In fact, it’s worth exploring them all, to find your perfect acoustic companion.
What is a cutaway acoustic guitar?
What are the benefits of a cutaway acoustic guitar?
What are some top models of cutaway acoustic guitars?
Why are cutaway acoustic guitars such an enduring favorite among musicians? The answer lies in their distinct features and benefits, which we’ve explored in-depth. Cutaway acoustic guitars offer unparalleled access to higher frets, versatile body styles and shapes, improving the player’s ability to explore varied tonal landscapes. This characteristic alone makes them a significant asset for any guitarist.
From the perspective of a luthier, I’ve seen how musicians of all levels appreciate the advantages of cutaway acoustic guitars. Their design caters to a wide range of playing styles, and the models we’ve reviewed demonstrate that there’s a cutaway guitar for everyone, irrespective of their budget or preference.
Lastly, armed with our comprehensive buying guide, I’m confident that you can navigate the market with a discerning eye for the perfect cutaway acoustic guitar that sings to your heart. A captivating instrument, indeed, cutaway acoustic guitars will always hold a special place in my heart – and I hope you feel the same.
R.M. Mottola, an engineer-turned-luthier, revolutionizes stringed instrument design with his deep focus on acoustics and ergonomics since 1994. As editor of the Savart Journal and a key contributor to American Lutherie, Mottola merges science with artistry in lutherie. He enriches the field with his extensive knowledge, shared through his Liutaio Mottola website, making him a beacon in the world of modern instrument craftsmanship.