Maduro all wood box, top(thick), or bottom (thin) for sound board? Effect of short vs long scale length on tone

next Project is a 4 string cbg with short,(23 inch,) scale.  Coudn't find a dove-tail sides box, so using a maduro.  I play and like small,3/4 guitars so I thought a 23 inch  scale made sense.  I read somewhere that shorter scale can have a bad effect  on tone. I thought someone might know what I can expect.  The Maduro box top is pretty thick, while the bottom is thin.  I thought it might due to try inverting the box to use the thinner bottom for the sound board, maybr adding a little inner bracing under the bridge.  mY THINKING IS TO TRY AND GET AS MUCH VIBRATION GOING AS i CAN  WITH SUCH A SMALL BOX.  i THOUGHT MAYBE SOUND HOLES AT THE SIDES INSTEAD OF  THE TOP, LIKE SOME EXOTIC GUITARS I;VE SEEN, MIGHT SERVE TO CREATE A BETTER MEDIUM FOR VIBRATIONS.  aNY THOUGHTS ANYBODY.  IF THIS IS THE WRONG WAY OR PLACE TO POSE SUCH QUESTIONS, SORRY.  JUST JOINED AND DON'T UNDERSTAND CORRECT PROCEDURE

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As with any acoustic instrument the wood matters 100%. Using the thin side for the sound board makes perfect sense. But the idea that a inch off a neck would effect tone is nonsense. This would mean that all mandolins and ukuleles would sound bad.  

I've read so much stuff on-line, hard to tell whats real.  I know my 3/4 Little martin doesn't sound like my Gs Mini,  but I like playing it,(trump hands).  The 3 string I'm making into a 4 string is, I think, 25.? scale and it feels like I'm playing a broom, so 23 makes sense to me.  Also, i'm not using a resonator, so the bridge can be closer to the tailpiece, while maintaining the scale length.  It makes sense to say anyway.  I see cig. boxes used that have dove tailed sides, but I can't find one.  I go to Lynchburg and Danville Va. but I never think of looking in cigar shops there.  I subscribe to Acoustic guitar mag. which I think is great, but their struggeling,  dimimishing advert.  I keep trying to tell them include articles about the cbg craze.  They don't even respond.  CBGs are beneath them and they would rather fail.  Too bad.  Really.  Thanks for the conversation    Gordon

Yes ,I agree with Cause, short scale doesn’t mean bad tone.  Shane Speal’s preferred cbg scale is 23” which by the way is an old harmony tenor scale length that sounds great! With cbg’s we don’t necessarily follow the rules, so anything is possible? The more you build ,the more you’ll find out what works & doesn’t. Cheers

If you can't find a box. Make one. It doesn't have to be a real cigar box. It should be something your happy with. 

I've read some really crazy stupid stuff (using a better word that it deserves ) on line. One guy was talking about how paint ruins the sustain on an electric guitar. Plenty of people using underhanded gimmicks to prove tone wood or fretboard wood makes a big difference in electric guitars. I did find someone who used good equipment to prove there is a difference between rosewood and maple fretboards. The initial attack of each note on a maple fretboard is sharper than on rosewood. Giving more separation or perceived clarity between each note. The over all sustain and tone are virtually the same. Would you hear the difference in a performance or recording? Nope. You have to take what you read and hear on line with a grain of salt. 

In terms of Scale length, unless you're using an already fretted neck, its dealers choice really, its a matter of personal preference and your comfort with the instrument. I've got 30 inch scale 3 string baritones and I'm working on a 18 inch scale 4 stringer in spring. If that doesn't convince ya, look at the old Fender Duo Sonic with the 22 inch scale, that worked nicely, 23 inch or shorter shouldn't be a problem.

The only thing that will affect a short scale guitar would be the strings. Be sure to get the correct size strings.

My first guitar, I went with the notion that strings are strings and hooked up some long scale Ernie Ball strings on an 19 inch scale electric guitar I built for my father. It looked good, sounded good. But once you begin to tune and play it, the string action will be too wobbly or too tight. Even the slightest movement of the tuners was over-tuning it.

Anyway, I bought some short scale strings from and the fit and tuning was night and day.

Ever since that build, I have been keeping aware of the scales I choose to build.  I also have a 2x4 block of wood, in which I test the strings with a bridge and tail before cutting anything. Helps me from making out of tune guitars.

Hi Gordon, I have tried to answer your question a number of times and then deleted them. Its a big subject.

Let me say firstly that my suggestions, ideas, observations or comments are based around the building of full acoustic instruments, guitars mostly, cos' that's what I do. What I also do is to carry those techniques  over to my cbg builds in an effort to get better a sounding CBG. 

I do keep in mind that although both styles of guitars are basically box's full of air that help produce sound, however due to the limitations, randomness of size, materials and the "no rules" approach of many builders, the utilisation of the ideas and the same techniques may not be as beneficial on a CBG with out  some experimentation.   

This may be the reason Blue rat   used the word" nonsense" in his answer, maybe he has not experienced things the same way I have. But talking acoustic guitars.......yes, moving the neck shortening it or changing the scale length will/does have an effect on tone and volume.  The reason is a bit involved  but changing the scale is not the only thing one does. One also changes the bridge position and  bracing [in a full guitar], this will also change the tone.

In the same guitar say a Dreadnought with 14 frets to the body, using a 12 fret neck would change the tone to a more delicate. colourful and sweeter tone. In a cbg?? try it. I have.

Crap! the subject only just got started, but I'll leave it there.


Thanks so much for the info.  I've seen exotic guitars in shows,(articles in acoustic guitar mag,) that have sound holes on the side, and maybe one on the bottom.  I'll leave the sound board intact, mount the bridge wherever the 23 inch scale demands,  I'm not sure about pick-up type or location, in  the video on-line that is an advert for JN 4 stringers, the little tenor the guy with the flat cap plays sure sounds good cranked up.  Got a nice box, very solid with a thin bottom that should be ok for the sound board.  All I need is a neck and a 23 inch scale fret board and I'm off.  I wonder if anyone makes a fret board that is radiased, or.   maybe it doesn't matter with only 4 strings.  In the meantime, it;s back to wallpaper peeling.  Thanks

You're instincts are right about thin sound boards being desirable. After all, many makers use cardboard lids, like Hinkler's $30 kit, which gets surprisingly good sound. But, this makes for very delicate guitars. A thin lid, especially a pressboard one, won't hold up to punishment. Keep this in mind if the player is going to perform or even practice regularly. In many CBGs, the lid is glued to the straight-thru neck-piece, too. It must muffle the vibrations, but such guitars need strength from somewhere.

I also think there's only so much performance you can get from modifying any part as a soundboard. Soundholes can make an improvement, but returns rapidly diminish as you add innovative features, like soundholes in the sides. Not much better.  Are you using a piezo pickup so it can be amplified? It should be close to the bridge, and attach rod piezos directly under it. Electromagnetic pickups have entirely different considerations. One reason an acoustic magazine editor might turn their noses up at CBGs, is that a lot of CBGs are electric. If that's their first encounter with CBGs, they're going to misunderstand the range of CBGs and their possibilities.

Probably for a first CBG, you should keep your expectations for the first one low. Do you only want to build one, and hope it's good enough to play regularly? That may be a mistake You could make a fretless slide CBG first, Wait and tackle a fretboard on your second. Finally, I'm not sure what "radiased" means. was it a typo? Although, I don't really understand what "radiused" means either. lol

Hi Mr. D, Interesting reply.  About my effort to get Acoustic guitar involved with CBGs, I thought the same as you that the problem is the amp. factor.  But they not only have articles about acoustic-elec., but even reviews of amps.  I'm afraid they can't accept cbgs as  'REAL" GUITAR PLAYING.  I tried to make the analogy with them comparing cbgs to snowboards.  They were scorned for a long time.  They didn't hurt the ski industry, they just became another fun thing to do on snow.  I play acoustic 6 string and have 2 ( for me), nice guitars, but when I ran into a video on you tube of a  guy named Mark from the mothership, playing La Grange on a 3 string CBG, I was hooked; another fun thing to do with stringed instuments.  It's a great magazine for people at all levels, I'd hate to see it go down due to music snobery. Cut off your nose to spite your face.  Great to talk to you Christopher.   Hey, your Christopher and I'm Gordon, shouln't we be Mud dog and Swamp Fire or something like that?

;)   although sad about the magazine. :'(   My sister and her husband were snowboarders and moved to Colorado in early 2000s. They talked about it like that, so I know exactly what you mean. 

I'm just starting out, really; that's how I learned about piezo amplification. It was a surprise it worked so differently from my Les Paul. I'm too much theory and not enough practice, but I'm setting up a new workbench to maybe change that.

and Happy New Year! :D

I guess I,m just started out with these things too.  I bought one from a nice guy in Utah, but it was a  poorly built 3 string.  Don't like slide so I'm converting it to 4 strings to see if I like the Tenor tunings.  I like to play songs in D. small hands make barre chords a chore so tenor should be fun. I study videos of different builders to get ideas.  I plan to get a ready made scarf joint neck and a 23 inch scale fret board.  The 3 string I have is a 25 with a resonator, so I feel like I.m playond a full size broom,(all neck).  Without the resonator. I can locate the bridge toward the tail piece and make it more compact.  You can check out the one I have on-line, DOG DISH RESONATOR 3 string guitar, Charles McDowell.  When I decide things, Ill make drawings of inside bracing and anchor location.  I just drop-in to a local coffee and lunch place and play sometimes.  I can't wait to show up and take out a cbguitar, plug in let-er-rip.  The old ladys will pee their pants.  That's wrong isn't it?  How about you, what have    ( its 12, happy New Year!) got going, planning?   G


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