Q. I’m not certain about tonewoods? What is the right tonewood for me?
A. As for tonewoods, it seems every guitar player is looking for that perfect tone. The search almost always begins with tonewood combinations, which makes sense given that traditional methods of guitar construction are a sort of ‘control’. Naturally, if all other things are ‘equal’ the tonewoods would make up most of the tonal difference from guitar to guitar. In Batson Guitars, however, the construction method is so different that the woods actually respond on a different level. By freeing up the top we are drawing much more out of the guitar than ever before. Each guitar is vastly improved and much more consistent. We’re achieving Tone, String to string Clarity, Balance, Projection/Volume & Sustain more by the way we build the guitar than by the tonewoods we choose.
Tonewoods certainly play a very important part in the tone of the instrument but it is very important to note that what you might generally expect from a tonewood changes with a Batson. For example, while Cedar will often give you a warmer tone than Spruce, sacrificing volume and clarity (as traditionally might be the case) is not required and over-driving a cedar-topped Batson is not a problem.
So, simply put, we’re redefining the ‘tonewood experience’. You just might like more woods than you think.
Now, having ‘qualified’ my next statement with a diatribe… I guess I should answer your question. There are a great number of tonewoods that (with our methods) will serve you well. My honest recommendation, which might strike you as unorthodox (perhaps fitting), is that you tell us what woods you tend to like for both their tonal (and aesthetic) beauty and then tell us the things that you tend to find annoying about those same woods. From there, we’ll be able to tell you if the Batson method of construction will deliver you from the annoying aspects.
Q. Handmade? Can you define that?
A. We are often asked if our guitars are truly handmade; if we use power tools and big automatic machinery processes, etc.
Here’s the deal. First of all, you need to know that Batson Guitars are made in the Batson Guitar Shop in Nashville, TN, from start to finish. In terms of construction, like most guitar makers, Cory and Grant employ the use of power tools, CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machines, and other techniques and tools that make the product more precise. Our design process always starts by hand by the hand-shaping of our parts until they are exactly right. Once the sample or prototype is made (by hand), our CNC machine ‘probes’ these part for repeatability. So, component parts like bridges, fretboards, Tailpieces, etc. are cut out using a CNC router that keeps consistency between instruments more precise than is humanly possible thus resulting in a better playing, feeling, and sounding instrument.
For the vast majority of the construction, however, critical tactile and artful processes that require an experienced hand and an educated ear to perform are dispatched by Cory and Grant. This entails wood bending for guitar sides, assembly of the sound box, bracing and voicing of the soundboard, fretting, binding and purfling, shaping of the custom-shaped necks, and countless other forms of “critical attention to detail” that form a synergistic balance between old and new construction techniques. Both by the touch and feel of our hands and by the precision of a quality machinery, we strive to turn out instruments that surpass the consistency of mass-produced guitars. Being able to respond to and control the individual nature of each instrument is the real key element. That’s where the line is drawn.
So, do we use power tools? Yes. It allows us to stay precise when it really matters. Do we make these things by hand? Absolutely. Machines can’t hear, see and feel… nor can they be super happy with the creation they’ve labored over.
Q. Why is the soundhole located where it is?
A. Our top priority in regards to soundhole placement was simply locating it somewhere (anywhere) other than the soundboard. The function of the soundhole is to provide for air movement on both sides of the soundboard. Naturally, sound escapes through this hole, so what better place for it than close to the ears of the player?
Q. What is the thought behind the size of the soundhole?
A. We sized our soundhole based on the area (square inches) of a traditional soundhole.
Q. I have noticed that your tailpiece is “fixed” to the body, unlike traditional tailpieces. Is there a reason for this?
A. Yes. A fixed tailpiece provides more rigidity. This is important for things such as sustain, power, volume, tone, etc. By keeping the tailpiece rigid we are able to direct all of the string vibration into the soundboard by limiting looseness, which would absorb vibration rather than reflect it.
Q. I am wondering about your lattice bracing. I have seen and read about other luthiers’ methods for lattice bracing on classical guitars and I have seen some even use carbon fiber and struts inside the guitar for reinforcement. I don’t fully understand the functions of these. Can you expound on your Lattice Bracing and why it’s different from others’?
A. We build, almost exclusively, with Lattice Bracing now and the key element to understand that differentiates a Batson guitar from others is that we do not have to deal with the soundhole location and full string-load that traditionally compromise the stiffness and structural stability of the soundboard.
Traditional lattice bracing is only utilized in the lower bout of the guitar, due to the soundhole location. Our lattice bracing covers the entire top, which enables us to draw out tone generation over the entire soundboard, not just the lower bout.
We have seen designs where carbon fiber and “struts” were involved in the bracing. This would only add stiffness. In traditional guitar construction, stiffness needs to be built back into the guitar because stiffness has been removed from the soundboard due to the soundhole location.
Our goal with the soundhole location and our lattice bracing (in addition to the cantilevered fretboard and bridge/tailpiece design) is to find a balance between the stiffness, weight, dynamic load, etc… in order to create optimum sound performance / tone generation from the soundboard.
In a nutshell, there are many theories and methods for drawing out better performance from the traditionally constructed guitar, and some luthiers do it better than others, but all of these still have to work around the traditional “problems” of the soundboard design. And many of the theories and methods are directly related to these “problems” themselves. By eliminating these “problems” from our design we have gained much more freedom in what we can experiment with and the resulting sound is a beautiful thing.
Q. What is the best way to record a Batson? How many microphones should be used and in what locations?
A. According to several Nashville session players and producers, traditional mic’ing works very well. In our experiece, placing a couple of tube mics end to end, directly in front of the guitar, having them meet at the 14th fret captures the guitar’s tone very well.
Q. What’s up with the No.5? What are the main differences that allow you to build that guitar for so much less?
A. Essentially, while the No.5 is handmade, it is not custom. The options are very limited and the materials used, while very good quality, are not as expensive or as premium as what is used in our Custom Shop. The No.5 is also being built by Batson Guitar apprentices, while the Batson Brothers focus on the Custom orders. The biggest difference, however, is that The Custom Shop offers almost unlimited options and communication with the client on what can be done on the guitar, while the No.5 is an inventoried (off the shelf) product.
Bottom line, the innovations, craftsmanship and performance will be the same, but the custom dream guitar with aesthetic wow-factor and the client’s personal touches, the No.5 will not have. So, if you’re looking for your personal touch (inlays, etc), a specific aesthetic in the woods or the comfort or practical benefits of ‘Tilted Frets’, the Bevel, etc, you’ll need to go custom. But if you’re simply looking for a work-horse guitar with superb performance and with all the innovative features of a Batson, without the Custom Price, then the No.5 is certainly for you.
Q. Can I customize the No.5 with wood binding, add a bevel, upgrade the case, etc?
A. Simply put, no. We certainly wish we were able to offer some of the more expensive features of the Custom Shop in our No.5 Series, however, to bring this guitar to the market at the price point we were shooting for required us to make things more efficient in the design and build process. Taking out some of the more costly upgrade features was the only way to bring the price down. Essentially, while the No.5′s are handmade, they are not custom. The options are an integral part of bringing the No.5 in at this price.
Q. What is the turn-around time for your guitars and how long does it take to build?
A. For the Custom Shop, turnaround times vary, generally from 6 to 8 months, but can be longer or shorter. We cannot guarantee delivery dates, though we wish we could, and while we make a strong effort to under-promise and over-deliver, shtuff happens… Please know, when ordering a custom guitar, that we are as motivated to get your guitar to you, as you are to get it, but also know that our number one priority is making the guitar perfect and sometimes that may impact when you get your Batson.
For a No.5, its much shorter. We build the No.5 in small batches of 12 to 15 each month, and the goal is always to have it to you in a matter of 3 to 6 weeks. As the No.5 is new to our guitar family, however, this may evolve.
The best thing to do for both the Custom Shop and the No.5 is to send us an email inquiring what our current situation is, as it fluctuates throughout the year.
Q. Is it fair to compare Batson Guitars to more of an Archtop-style or “Hybrid” guitar?
A. Not really. The only true comparisons to an archtop that players have experienced, is the feel of the strings while in play. The added string length gives the player a more responsive feel, ie, Medium strings feel “lighter”. As for the tone, however, it is very much a “steel string” tone. See next question on the strings running through the bridge. It should clear it up a little.
Q. What is the purpose of running the strings through holes in the bridge? Why not just run them over the saddle as used on archtops, violins, etc?
A. The first few guitars we built with our new innovations did have the strings running over the saddle, as seen in archtops, violins, etc. Those guitars had much more of an archtop tone as well. We found that in order to produce a ‘true steel string sound’ there needs to be some tension on the soundboard from the strings. This helps drive the soundboard and provides a constant and consistent baseline from which the soundboard moves.
Q. What are the best tonewoods to use with your design? / What are your favorite tonewoods?
A. Well, the only real answer to this question is that there is no ‘best’, only ‘different’. Tone is such a matter of taste, as are aesthetics. Cory and I have very different opinions on our “favorites” and there is no right or wrong answer. Depending on the tone you want and the ‘look’ you’re after, there is certainly a combination that can be found for you. All you need to know is what you like… the rest is easy.
Q. What is different about the kerfing you use and how is it better?
A. There is much theory behind the rigidity of side and back structure. We accomplish this with a 2-part kerfing that provides rigidity to the sides in the same way plywood is rigid due to the laminations. The “box” (or back/sides) needs to be very rigid, as it is merely a ‘reflector’. The top is what needs to move. Everything else that moves only takes away from the top’s ability to generate and sustain tone. In addition to more rigidity, this kerfing also looks much better.
Q. Have you built Double-Top Guitars? Do you use Nomex core and, if so, Why? And do double-top guitars require any bracing?
A. We have built and continue to build with features such as the double-top and we have used a Nomex core in the past. The main purpose of using a Nomex core is to reduce the weight of the soundboard while maintaining stiffness.
Double-top acoustics do not necessarily need bracing, but that depends on the stiffness of the top woods used. The Batson design, especially, reduces the need for bracing on the double top. However, the Batson design, on it’s own, produces the tone that the traditional double-top acoustic tries to achieve, which is more power, volume, clarity, sustain, etc.
Q. As you move string tension from soundboard to end block by tailpiece, do you make the soundboard thinner than usual for more flexibility?
A. Top thickness has no real standard. We have experimented with different thicknesses but it has a direct correlation to the stiffness of each individual soundboard. The goal is a particular “stiffness” not “thickness”. That stiffness includes bracing. As we move string tension from the top we do have the ability to make the top thinner but tone is what we’re after and a top being too thick or too thin impacts the overall balance of tone. So, in the end, the thickness only comes into question as it relates to the stiffness we need to get the tone we want.
Q. Can you please explain more about stiffness? How does the stiffness affect tonal quality of the guitar? How would “too stiff” or “not stiff enough” affect the tone of the guitar?
A. Stiffness can best be described as ‘velocity of sound’. Velocity is a measurement of the rate and direction of motion, or the rate and direction of the change in the position, of an object. Very stiff equals high velocity. Not stiff, or ‘looseness’, equals low velocity. The physics of velocity, or stiffness, plays the most dynamic role in acoustic guitar construction. It effects overtones, volume, and dynamic response. I will use two examples of soundboards, and one example of a paired soundboard with side and back set to further illustrate how this works. Eastern red spruce, or Adirondack spruce, has the highest stiffness across and along the grain of all the top woods or, the highest velocity of sound. This means that it has the highest volume and also retains tonal clarity, or balance, at all dynamic levels – finger-picked or aggressively flat-picked. Although this stiffness can lend itself to sounding ‘thin’ when played with a light touch. On the opposite end of stiffness is Redwood. This could actually be argued between redwood or western red cedar but this would have to be a case by case, or board by board, determination. These soundboards have a much lower velocity of sound – least stiffness along and across the grain of all the top woods. This results in less powerful projection, more bottom-end, less clarity at the top-end, higher overtone capacity, and the clarity can become muddy with an aggressive playing style. The tonal characteristics described in these two examples are due to their stiffness – the velocity (acceleration, speed) with which the soundboard moves away from and towards its origin. Personally, because of my light playing style and preference of ‘warm’ tone, cedar and redwood tend to be my favorite soundboards. A redwood or cedar topped guitar, when coupled with a high velocity side and back set like a rosewood, produces a nice round, full, fat sound due to the strong mids and highs and broad range of complex overtones reinforced by the rosewood. The high velocity side and back set also provide more clarity, volume, and sustain. Understanding the role of stiffness, or velocity of sound, in guitar construction allows luthiers to pair species of wood in order to achieve a desired tone of the player.
Q. On Laminated Back and Sides: I heard that a laminated back/side uses 3 layers of wood but a middle piece is often a cheaper one, for example a laminated rosewood back/side consist of 2 pieces of rosewood for skins and a piece of cheaper wood like mahogany in the middle. Is there any difference in tonal quality between a solid back/side set and a laminated one? If so, how would they differ from one another and what would the laminated set sound like (in my case, would it sound like more rosewood or more mahogany)?
A. Laminations can be done in different ways, with different quantities of layers and different types of wood. We have never laminated sides, to this point, but have laminated a back or two. We use the same species of woods, sometimes with a figured wood on outsides and a quarter-sawn layer in the middle for added integrity. As for tone, you need to remember that its about density and stiffness. Different back and side tonewoods are ‘reflectors’, so imagine bouncing a ping-pong ball (the soundwave) against a mattress and then against a piece of glass. The density and stiffness of each will cause that ball (soundwave) to be reflected in a different way. When it comes to laminated woods, its very difficult to compare them to their non-laminated counterparts, because both the stiffness and density have changed entirely. Having not experimented with this particular arrangement in question, I would have to only guess. My guess, however, would be that it would produce a ‘reflected’ sound more in the range of the ‘denser and stiffer’ woods (rosewood, in this case). I feel that it is important to note that we do not laminate unless it is requested by the client.
For more information on stiffness, please refer to the Q/A above regarding “Stiffness”
Q. What are the payment options and how does purchasing a Custom Guitar work?
A. For our Custom Guitars, a deposit of 1/3 is required to place your order. Another 1/3 is due when work begins on your instrument. The final 1/3 is due when the instrument is completed but prior to shipping.
* Note: 25% of all Custom Orders is non-refundable if the order is cancelled before receipt of instrument.
** Shipping charges are not included in the Guitar Quote Total Price. The shipping charge for instruments shipped within the continental US is $200, which covers the cost of overnight shipping, handling, packing materials, and insurance. Instruments will not be shipped when overnight low temperature for either the sending or receiving city will be below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Something else to note is that our standard shipping days are Monday through Wednesday, as it often takes 2 days to get an instrument to its final destination, and we don’t want any Batson Guitars hiding out in warehouses or FedEx trucks over the weekend.
Any instruments delivered within the state of Tennessee or picked up at Batson Guitar Co. are subject to Tennessee’s current sales tax rate, which is not included in the Guitar Quote Total Price.
Q. How can I try one?
A. Currently our dealers are limited due to our limited production (see the Q/A below). Because of this, we’ve developed a demo program. Please see our “Dealers & Demos” page.
Q. Why don’t you have more dealers?
A. Truthfully, we want more dealers but we’ve been so busy with building custom orders for our clients that we have not had enough time to build many for dealers. We do have a list of new dealers we are building for and are always open to suggested locations. As we grow and are able to increase our production we will definitely be adding more. Feel free to let us know the shops in which you’d like to see us.
Q. What is your Return Policy?
A. If you’ve never laid your hands on a Batson, and if you’re like me, you might be a little nervous about sinking money into a guitar that you’ve experienced first hand. We understand this completely. You have 7 days, from the day you receive your Batson, to evaluate the instrument. If you’re not in love, send it back… no questions asked… Well, OK, maybe we’ll ask you what you didn’t love, but we promise we won’t hassle you about it. Provided the instrument is returned in good condition, a 75% (minus shipping charges) will be issued back to you.
*Guitars with custom inlay or design options will not be refunded.
Q. Do Batson Guitars come with a Warranty?
A. Yes. Batson Guitars are constructed using precisely selected materials to meet the highest standard of quality and workmanship. All Batson Guitars carry a limited warranty against defects in workmanship to the original purchaser. This warranty shall not apply to damage of woods or finish due to the natural properties of wood, temperature changes, carelessness or accident. It is the option of Batson Guitars to repair or replace any Batson Guitar (or guitar part), which is found (by Cory Batson) to be defective. It is the responsibility of the owner of a Batson Guitar to abide by the Care Instructions set forth in the “Caring For Your Batson” brochure provided with each guitar.