Lattice bracingAfter getting many inquires from players asking about lattice bracing, I decided to post this page on the subject. I realized that many players are not up to date on the recent developments in this area. Here goes....
When the term “lattice-bracing” comes up, many classical guitarists immediately think of Greg Smallman, and the type of guitar he prototyped about 40 years ago. His guitar design was revolutionary at that time, and it has proven itself over the decades, as many leading players (like John Williams) chose to perform on his guitars. Several luthiers followed in Smallman’s footsteps, thus leading to the “Australian School” of classical guitar making.
Without getting too much into the technical details, the Aussie lattice concept is fairly simple:
The guitar soundboard is extremely thin (1.5mm or less) and supported with a light, rigid, carbon fibre lattice structure. The back and sides must be thick, laminated structures, to inhibit vibrational loss into those areas. The neck must be very rigid to ensure that the energy of the strings is not wasted as neck vibration, and instead goes to the soundboard, producing (if done correctly) more volume. Soundports are often used with this system so that the player can hear the instrument better, especially in ensemble situations, as this type of design tends to project the sound away from the player.
Although the Smallman type of lattice braced guitar can be very loud, many players have criticized it for its tonal quality, often being described as “tinny” or metallic sounding, or perhaps “nasal,” or “banjoey” in quality. The more recent incarnations by Greg Smallman are much better sounding than his earlier guitars, and the last one I recently heard in concert had an excellent sound quality.
However good lattice braced guitars may sound, the majority of classical guitarists still prefer the tonal quality of the traditional fan braced guitar. Still, the Smallman lattice excels for its ease of playability, dynamic range, and big voice for the concert hall.
Dominelli “Hybrid” Lattice
This desire to get more volume out of the classical guitar, yet maintain as much of the traditional tone quality as possible, has led to refinements in the lattice bracing concept by myself and other luthiers. I prefer to call this new type of bracing “hybrid lattice” bracing because it incorporates a lattice bracing design within the context of a traditionally made guitar.
In many respects, the hybrid lattice, in the hands of an experienced luthier, has the best of both worlds - traditional tonal quality combined with more volume and ease of playability.
The Dominelli hybrid lattice bracing system is all wood, and uses no carbon fibre in the soundboard. The exclusion of carbon fibre in the design is not for reasons of economy; it is well known now that carbon fibre (although extremely stiff, light and stable) is detrimental to tone quality. Carbon fiber works fine as a structural agent, but where sound is concerned, wood bracing (spruce or cedar) is a superior material.
The lattice structure is glued into place with hide glue, not epoxy. Hide glue has proven itself as the best adhesive for musical instruments for centuries. Hide glue is also the best adhesive from the perspective of repairability, should the guitar ever get accidentally damaged, or need restorative work.
Soundports, graphite reinforced neck, armrest, and laminated sides are features that I often incorporate with the Dominelli hybrid lattice, and with my traditional fan braced guitars, depending on the needs of the player.