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You'd be thinkin' 'bout that ham, wouldnt ya Jelly? - Alan Lomax spoken interjection into Jelly Roll Morton's rendition of Nearer My God to Thee, Library of Congress Sessions 1938

Author Topic: birch vs. spruce top  (Read 1107 times)

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Offline Cartouche

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birch vs. spruce top
« on: January 04, 2016, 05:34:30 AM »
Hi gang,

I'm trying out a Hauver Guitar. I expressed interest to Mike Hauver in his Blind Blake model, and he sent a Gambler for me to check out (same size/dimensions, etc.)

This one is all birch, it sounds great to me. Initially it was a big change from my Gibson J45, but I love the snappy bite it's giving me on stuff like Lipscomb's "Ella Speed" and Broonzy's "Guitar Shuffle". Also R. Wilkins, T. Johnson stuff sounds terrific.

I mentioned this to Mike and he said we could either go with this all-birch or another with birch back/sides and a spruce top for a little bit warmer tone but still have the punch of the birch. The spruce top option is intriguing, but I do like playing this one and don't want to get greedy. The other thing is that I don't know if my ears are developed enough to know the diff - I can tell between a red and white wine, but I couldn't tell the difference between a burgundy and a beaujolais*, I just know it tastes good.

I'm interested in folks' thoughts on birch vs. spruce tops. Is it something that would really be a noticeable difference to intermediate ears?

*(or bolted meal, whichever you prefer)

Thanks,
Marc

Offline nobocaster

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Re: birch vs. spruce top
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2016, 08:51:01 AM »
  I haven't played any new birch topped guitars, but have played on quite a few old Regal, Stella, and Harmonys.  They are great if you like that sound.. generally super punchy and dry. 

  A spruce top would be warmer, with more overtones.  Spruce would also offer more dynamic playing range..  what I mean by that is you can get a good sound playing softly or with a heavy hand, where birch responds better when you really lean into it, but not so much with a subtle touch.  If it's a small ladder braced guitar, you'll still have the snappy punch with spruce, but it will be different from birch.  These are big generalizations and a lot of other factors go into the sound of a guitar besides wood selection.

  I think most people could tell the difference between the two if they were played one right next to the other, but of course it's for each individual to decide which they prefer.  If you like the sound you're getting now... go for it!

Offline GhostRider

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Re: birch vs. spruce top
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2016, 01:35:23 PM »
Howdy:

I had a all birch guitar, a Clifford, which sounded really great, so much so that I looked briefly into having a local luthier make me an all birch guitar. For playing CB I like a guitar which is not to "lush" sounding and Clifford was perfect

I have never played and all birch modern, well made guitar, but I'd love to do so. And bitch will be cheaper. Go for it.

Alex

Offline onewent

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Re: birch vs. spruce top
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2016, 09:04:46 AM »
I've not played a new-made all birch concert-size guitar, but like nobo, above, I've played zillions of vintage examples.  His comments are what I experience, too, in the difference between the two woods.  I can add that the birch tops have a bit narrower sound band than spruce, and also tend so sound a bit more echo-y or 'hollow' to my ear, especially when coupled with a tail piece, but I'm assuming you're looking at a pin bridge.  I like the tone of an all birch body.

Both types would work for you application, though.  Tom

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: birch vs. spruce top
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2016, 04:07:25 PM »
Try a Maple/spruce top combo for punch and short decay. Or an all mahogany like the medium sized Harmony they used to make. Best sounding of all the Harmonys imho. A Martin ooo-17 also all mahogany might suit you too. I'm not wild about Birch for a Top wood.

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Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: birch vs. spruce top
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2016, 06:26:23 AM »
I've always been curious about what all an all-birch guitar with an x-braced top would sound like. Hard to find an example that isn't ladder braced.

Offline Cartouche

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Re: birch vs. spruce top
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2016, 02:41:20 PM »
Thanks for all the replies, guys. I decided to keep this Gambler, just couldn't bring myself to send it back!

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