Scalloped Bracing vs. Non-Scalloped? – Reader Q & A

A reader asks about scalloped bracing and the tonal differences compared to straight (non-scalloped)  bracing.

I always wonder about straight vs scalloped bracing over time/aging, especially on Martin dreadnoughts made of Indian rosewood and Sitka Spruce.

I read some people saying that over time straight braced guitars will open up and have bigger bass, and it’s just right, not too big, not too tight. (Thinking, for instance, of the D-28). Is this right? What about the scalloped bracing will turn over time? Thank you!

Silanto, in TBA

Spoon Replies:

All such guitars will open up. And the inherent tonal properties of each will increase as time goes by.

I have often been around a 2000 D-28 and a 1990s HD-28, and often in the same room at the same time. It makes for an obvious and enjoyable comparison.

The HD has a much more echoing cavern kind of tone under more precise spider web trebles and a bass E string that has a lot of thunk to it, which seems directly connected to the undertone.

The D-28 had string notes that are more solid and sit up on top of the undertone with a lot of clarity, like each note is a well-shaped log laid out on top of a thick slab with only the underside of each log resting upon that thick undertone cushion.  The undertone presence comes up to them, but does not swamp them. The trebles are thicker relative to the HD spider webs, and the bottom bass string stays very well defined, There is a discernible edge to bass end of the voice, and it does not thunk in the same fat unfocused way the HD does. The HD does not have an edge to the bass end of the voice, but is more diffuse with no clear horizon.

I used to like the straight braced sound, but found the scalloped bracing dread sound too reverby, with notes that did not stand out with the same strength and were embraced too much by the undertone. In fact, I was the original owner of the D-28 mentioned above.

I have come to love the scalloped dread sound a lot. But I really like it best as a solo instrument. I love how the straight braced D-28 has such a uncluttered clarity in ensemble playing, the individual notes are like little pen lights in all that sound of guitar, accordion, bouzouki, etc. The HD sounds more like each note has a warmer halo around it and meshes more into the mix and the low E sounds more bass player throbbing and not as cut and defined.

However, I like them both and love the fact they sound like siblings with different personalities, and they sound best of all when playing together.

Your results may vary.


7 thoughts on “Scalloped Bracing vs. Non-Scalloped? – Reader Q & A

  1. Pingback: Martin LX1 Reviews
  2. thank you for very detailed opinion and the motivation too!
    yeah i playing mostly on my living room, alone, or sometime wife chime in too! (what a joy~~!).

    I will try them all for sure, but the place I live in don’t have the luxury, no high end guitars on stock.
    For now, I’m open suggestion from the more experienced player.

    Ok, to put it simply= “take HD28v if can handle the neck, if not then HD28.”
    I assume HD28v have more ‘dread’ tone than HD28. (HD28v have similar bracing pattern with the authentic, except not scalloped as heavily as the authentic).

    How this HD28/HD28v compared to 1/4″ bracing like D35 and HD35 for my playing style?
    thank you!

    1. Some Authentic models have rear-shifted bracing, which gives a more focused bass similar to modern guitars.

      But yes the forward-shifted bracing of the HD-28V is more resonant in term of the echoy undertone, particularly from the bottom end. But it is not a vast difference from what you get with the HD-28.

      The D-35 to my ear does sound differently. The bass had a very round bottom string, but it is more the string note than the undertone that does this. And the trebles are much more precisely focused when it comes to the string notes, which can make the the high end sound “open” like there is a big garage under them. But it is a different kind of open from a vintage Martin, not as noticeable. In general it is more about the fundamental notes.

      The HD-35 however, has 1/4″ scalloped and that is THE echoiest, most intense undertone resonance of the lot.

      I just played a Custom Shop Jumbo today at Maury’s Music, it was basically ordered as an OM-28 in the Jumbo body size, but forward-shifted, scalloped 1/4″ bracing like the HD-35. Mammoth undertone.

      It may be time for you to seek out more videos of these guitars on Youtube and start closing your eyes and seeing what sounds most appealing. It is difficult to get direct comparisons, but over time you will start to hear characteristics coming through despite the various microphones and recording qualities.

      Good hunting!

  3. Hi spoon!
    Thanks for answer my question!
    I respect the differences on them. That’s why i’m in such dilemma of choosing my 1st martin dread. The problem is i love them all, also with hd28v scalloped forward shifted also sounds so wonderful to me. Maybe one day i will have all of them, who knows!

    Just curious about different bracing on aging, as i heard straight bracing on aging sounds like cannon! Just have no experience on aging hd28 and hd28v, (i think they dont open up as much as straight braced one).

    Anyway, they all amazing, which one do you prefer if you can only get one of them? D28, hd28, hd28v?


    1. The extra whompy resonance of the forward-shifted bracing can be quite enjoyable. But it is harder to record or perform with through a mic or pickup without getting too much woofiness.

      While I cannot take the narrow V neck of the 28V, my main dreadnought is has the forwarded-shifted bracing. It was a 1966 D-28 that has been retopped with an Adirondack spruce top and pre-war style bracing, like they use on the Authentics, and it was in fact braced by a retired Martin employee.

      That would put the HD-28 sort of in the middle between that fullness and echo of the forward-shifted bracing, and the clear, more-fundamental sound of the D-28.

      I would have as hard at time as anyone playing all three over and over and picking only one to take home. So that is the best I can offer.

      Good hunting!

      1. Thank you!
        Yeah, too many good martin guitars to choose.
        Between the 28series (d28,hd28,hd28v,d28marquis), i also consider d35, and d18. Might end up having some of them someday, but choosing for my 1st martin for now, and i prefer a dread.

        I play only as hobby at home, not a performer, or in a band anymore. Play some blues, rock, with singing too (not a good singer though). Mostly strum and fingerpicking. Some suggest me d35, which is great too. but i also prefer 1 3/4 nut, which is more comfortable for fingerstyle. So it left me with d18 or d28marquis or custom shop. But im fast at adjust, so a couple mins of warming up i also can play fingerstyle on 1 11/16 nut, or any neck profile. So if i found the tone that suit my genre and playing style, then the nut and neck wont be much of problem too.

        Any suggestion?

        Thank you so much for this web, i learn so much here. Interesting reading! And i enjoy your review too!

        1. Well first of all, almost any guitar player is better than they think they are. So don’t sell yourself short. Even if you were performing at Carnegie Hall or the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame there would be some other players out there that made you think, “I wish I could do that!” And most people sing better than they realize too.

          But so long as you enjoy either, having the best guitar you can afford will only inspire you to make new music more often.

          My initial impulse is to say get the HD-28. You may always second guess not getting scalloped bracing if you get the Standard D-28. And the extra echoy resonance of scalloped bracing really does add a lot to the experience when you are playing home alone on the sofa and marveling at how huge a sonic space you are creating.

          My prejudice against the V neck on the HD-28V is about my own hands. Again, when it comes to playing solo, the extra bassy power from the forward-shifted bracing enhances the whole dread thing and makes it the dreadiest dread experience of the lot. So if you believe the V neck isn’t going to be a comfort issue for you, get the 28V.

          I agree that fingerstyle can feel more relaxing on a wider neck. But wider necks can be a handful in the upper frets. If you can suffer the slings and arrows of the 1-3/4″ modified V neck with 1930s heal on the Marquis, and 2-5/16″ string spacing, that is arguably the best guitar you have mentioned, but extravagantly so, given the extra cost. And some people do not like the drier sound of Adirondack spruce if they are used to Sitka.

          Of the others, only the D-18 has the 1-3/4″ width at nut. But Martin’s High Performance neck is really the 1-11/16″ neck that was cheated out a bit in the Cowboy Chords area. The string spacing is a mere 1/32″ wider than the old 1-11/16″ necks. Still, the Modified Low Oval Profile cups the hand a bit more than the Low Profile, so the combination does make the hand feel a bit less cramped when operating down by the nut.

          Frankly, when it comes to the picking hand, you can adjust for fingerstyle playing must by moving your hand closer to the bridge to compensate for narrow spacing, and compensate for wide spacing by moving closer to the fretboard.

          And you can use a capo to give yourself a wider width at nut, although you have to sing a half or whole step higher.

          But I think you would be very happy with the HD-28, which has been one of their best sellers since it first appeared. But then, the forward-shifted braces and V neck of the 28V… You see, we really could go over and over this.

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