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Exploring Varetaje in Classical Guitars: Design and Sound


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Classical Guitar Bracing: A Journey Through Its Acoustic Secrets

Since the mid-1950s, luthiers worldwide have been experimenting with different varetaje designs in classical guitars. 

Before this era, guitar models had followed a fairly uniform pattern since Antonio de Torres established a basic design with specific varetaje, considered "traditional." However, with the rise of classical guitar and its virtuoso performers in the 1950s, there emerged a need to enhance the guitar's sound in terms of volume, projection, and presence in large auditoriums.

"Guitar by Antonio de Torres with tornavoz, Seville 1864. See the varetaje system and the three bars on the back. Some of the struts have been replaced and the red ones on the top have been reinforced with wooden slats. Property F. Godia Sales. Barcelona. Photograph by J. Massó".


The most revolutionary change in guitar varetaje design was the introduction of the "bajopuente" by Robert Bouchet around 1956. This innovative concept involved adding a transverse rod under the bridge, spanning the width of the guitar and connecting the fan-shaped varetas. This change had a significant impact on the guitar's vibration and sound, balancing longitudinal and transverse oscillations of the soundboard, improving tonal quality, and enhancing the instrument's projection.

Understanding Varetaje

Varetaje refers to the set of wooden bars placed inside the soundboard of a classical guitar to reinforce and shape its sound. It influences vibration, resonance, and timbre, making its design and arrangement crucial.

"19th century French guitars. Details of the top bracing. The one in the centre is a Lacote built in 1852. The illustrations are taken from the article "Aspekten van de gitaarboun
The illustrations are taken from the article "Aspekten van de gitaarboun" by Jürgen Winter and "Els Jageneau" in Vo/ksmuziekatelier Jaarboek IV, Belgium 1986".


Materials, Profiles, and Length of Varetas

Modern guitar varetaje can be made from various materials, with wood being the most common. Woods like spruce, Canadian cedar, or mahogany are used, each with unique density, weight, and resistance characteristics affecting the soundboard's mobility.

Vareta profiles vary by builder and can influence the resulting sound. The height of the varetas is more critical than their width in terms of strength. Tuning the varetas is essential, affecting the tonal response of the soundboard.

The length of the varetas also plays a crucial role in guitar sound production. Longer varetas produce lower frequencies, while shorter ones generate higher frequencies. Classical guitar varetaje is primarily of two types:

  • Fan Bracing: The most common type, with three rods curving from the center to the edges in a fan shape.

  • Parallel Bracing: Less common, with two rods extending from the center to the edges in a parallel arrangement.

Fan bracing is more prevalent in classical guitars, providing greater strength and rigidity to the soundboard, allowing for freer vibration, resulting in a more resonant and sustained sound.


Parallel bracing, while less common, can produce a brighter sound with more attack.

Factors to consider when designing classical guitar varetaje include:

  • Soundboard Wood: The type of wood used significantly impacts the guitar's sound. Denser woods like spruce produce a more resonant and sustained sound, while lighter woods like cypress yield a brighter, more articulate sound.

  • Guitar Size: The size of the guitar also affects the sound. Larger guitars have a larger soundboard, producing a more resonant sound, while smaller guitars yield a brighter sound.

  • Type of Varetaje: The type of varetaje used impacts the sound. Fan bracing produces a more resonant and sustained sound, while parallel bracing creates a brighter sound with more attack.

  • Varetaje Arrangement: The arrangement of varetaje affects how the soundboard vibrates.

Classical guitar varetaje has undergone significant evolution over the years, from its origins to recent innovations. This seemingly simple component plays an essential role in shaping the guitar's sound and remains an area of exploration for builders worldwide.



Frequently Asked Questions


What role do varetas play in the vibration of the soundboard?

Varetas in a guitar play a fundamental role in the vibration of the soundboard. They strategically control and direct the vibrations generated by the strings, acting as structural reinforcements influencing the distribution of vibrations. Their arrangement and design impact how the soundboard responds to sound frequencies, contributing to the guitar's timbre and projection.

What woods are commonly used in classical guitar varetaje?

High-quality woods are commonly used in classical guitar varetaje. Spruce, in its various forms like German spruce, Engelmann spruce, and Sitka spruce, is a popular choice due to its suitable density, weight, and resistance for varetas. Besides spruce, other woods used include Canadian cedar and mahogany. Wood choice can influence the guitar's tonal and resonance characteristics.

How do vareta profiles influence the guitar's sound?

Vareta profiles significantly impact the guitar's sound. The shape, height, width, and profile of the varetas can affect how the soundboard vibrates and responds to sound frequencies. For instance, taller varetas tend to produce lower frequencies, while shorter ones contribute to higher frequencies. Builders adjust these profiles to achieve the desired tonal quality and balance in the guitar's frequency response.

Why is tuning varetas important in guitar construction?

Tuning varetas in guitar construction is essential for achieving high-quality sound and a balanced tonal response. Each vareta has a specific function in distributing vibrations on the soundboard, and tuning involves adjusting its height and profile to influence the sound frequencies produced by the guitar. Precisely tuning the varetas allows the luthier to achieve optimal sound, improve projection, and ensure the guitar delivers exceptional tonal performance.

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