Folk of the Wood /FAQs

Mandolin Tuning Keys Tuning Machines Tuning Proclems

Go Directly to: Website Map

Return to Main FAQs Page

Send your questions to: Mickey with Folk of the Wood
We buy, sell and trade used instruments...
Mandolin Tone Bars vs X Bracing

The following is protected under Copyright ©2002 Folk of the Wood, Inc. Please do not re-print without permission from the individuals whom we have quoted.

Subject: RE: recommends Weber Hyalite or Breedlove Quartz KF or OF
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 09:21:05 -0700

I really appreciate your expert advice!

What are the differences in bracing and do A and F styles have different
My musical style is folk, pop, Crosby, Still, and Nash, and wedding style.
Does my style warrant the A style over the F style or a certain kind of


For bracing, within the styles you're hoping to pursue with your new mandolin, I'd highly recommend the X bracing...tone bar bracing is found to be highly popular amongst Bluegrass players.

On all Breedloves: X Bracing is built into their oval hole models...and tone bar bracing for the F soundhole models...the body styles do not dictate the bracing. As far as determining whether you need an A style over a K or F style, wouldn't be necessarily as critical. Since you're looking for a versatile mandolin, you're on the right track with the Breedlove. You would love their KO for the styles of music listed above. If you're looking to intersperse some bluegrass, you could still get by well with a KF model.

Hope this helps, Mickey

Jim Hilburn Saturday, April 06, 2002 - 08:55 am
Subject: Purpose, Placement and Reasoning for both Tone Bars and X-Bracing
I posted this information once before (on the MandolinCafe) on this subject, but for anyone who cares, here goes. I'm basically repeating what I've learned from Bob Bennedetto in his videos. X-bracing is meant to be symmetric,and how open or closed the X is,along with their shape and size, defines how the top as a whole reacts. An open X leaves a large area behind the bridge un-supported and free to vibrate, giving you a good bass response. But this has to be balanced with how treble will be effected.Tone bars are meant to work on the side of the instrument where they are placed. On the bass side, the tone bar is usually nearer the F-hole, leaving more of that side un-supported to allow for lower tones, while the treble bar is nearer the center of its half of the top, to tighten up the highs. (Used by permission from Jim...Jim Hillburn happens to also be a luthier who has made his sure of F-Style Mandolins)

Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 10:50:20 -0700
Subject: Bruce D. Weber (Master Luthier of Weber Mandolins)

Hi Mickey,
Thanks for thinking of us for your "info report"- we do get so many questions on this. I will give you what Bruce wrote down, let me know if it is too wordy- or you have comments. Thanks Mickey- you're a inspiration for us through your energy and creativity! Mary Weber

Modified X-Brace: X-bracing gives you that great chop right out of the box with a crisp, clear tone and awesome projection. The initial break-in period is also less with x-bracing.

Tone Bars: Tone bars give you a wonderful bell-like sustain with a rich depth of tone that will mature with time and play into that wonderful wood sound we all love. Break-in is quite a bit longer on tone bar braced instruments.

Disclaimer: Changing sound hole shape and size, using F- holes, sound board species, rim/back/neck woods all effect the tone, volume and subtleties with either bracing pattern. It's all about finding the right recipe (i.e. bracing, wood selection, graduations and desire).

Luthiery is not rocket science! We're dealing with the ever changing properties of a once living substance that we resurrect to tantalize the ears and imaginations of our players.

Bruce D. Weber

Date: 3/12/02
Subject: Steve Anderson of Breedlove Mandolins

All Breedlove Models with an Oval Soundhole have X-Bracing. X-Brace Oval Hole mandolins tend to be a little more open, richer, and fuller. This tones down the natural tendency of an Oval Hole to be too bright...great for Celtic and Classical music....

Tone Bars: Tone Bars add a little more projection...a little more top end...a little more bite on the top end...great for a loud jamming situation and bluegrass settings.

Date: 3/12/02
Subject: Peter Langdell Master Luthier of Rigel Mandolins

Deeper and favors the bass frequencies...

Parrallel Tone Bars: Accntuates mid to high and especially the treble range...

Rigel uses the modified X and Parrallel combined...

Bass bar is positioned of that X-bracing the treble bar is positioned like the tone bar traditionally....the point of each brace actually meet at the front of the's not symmetrical like traditional tone bars...which adds an incredible balance between the top end and low end.

Date: 3/12/02
Subject: Peter Mix of (The Consummate Player) with Rigel Mandolins

It's the least important thing to me due to the fact I've played many with both bracings that are, to me, it's immaterial. If I'm playing a mandolin, I'm judging its tonal quality directly and not questioning its construction.

Parrallel Tone Bars: I've never analyzed it say whether tone bars are better than X-bracing...if I'm ordering an instrument, I let the builder determine what's best.

Rigel uses the modified X and Parrallel combined which Peter has coined as a "V-Bracing"...

V-Bracing: (V-Bracing is coined term to best describe Rigel's current bracing) With the original G-110, Peter Langdell introduced the bracing which captured the ultimate classic Rigel sound, and we feel we've arrived at exactly what we were looking for in tonal character.

Tonal characteristics that are so complex with a breadth and depth of voicing so much so it's hard to not love the way a Rigel sounds.

Date: 3/12/02
Subject: Rolfe Gerhardt (Master Luthier of Phoenix Mandolins)

My experience with X-bracing is that it limits the tonal range. I think it stiffens the top plate so it doesn't flex fully in the mid and high ranges. Maximum bass comes from the top moving as a unit, and the X brace does this very well. But there is a loss in other ranges. Experiments with different kinds of tone bars showed that the basic Gibson arrangement is about as good as it gets for the American mandolin. However, the tone can be improved by laminating the wood of the bars around a center sheet of graphite-epoxy, for further stiffness, and making the bars lighter and lower. The stiffness stays the same, but the mass is less. Experiments also showed that for a very light top made for extra lights strings, a totally different tone bar arrangement works better than traditional tone bars.
Rolfe Gerhardt
Phoenix Mandolins

Date: 3/19/02
Subject: Charlie Derrington (Production Manager of Gibson Musical Instruments)

Hi Mickey......

I may not be the person to ask. I have always preached on the folly of X-bracing.

The X brace in mandolins can best be described as "immediate gratification" with no future hope of tonal improvement. These instruments typically have more immediate bass response when new, but lack the signature mid-range tonal characteristics a mandolin should exhibit. X-bracing may also have more structural problems, in that, tops braced in this manner, are more likely to exhibit sinking from string pressure.

Tone bars will have the mid-range (if tuned properly) but will not sound as "bassy" out of the box. Tone-bar instruments will acquire the bass as break-in occurs... Whereas the X braced instruments will never acquire the mids. I also have seen many X-braced instruments turn "muddy" as the highs tend to be lost over time.

My opinions are based on my narrow vision that the Loar period instruments should be our model when building, as they are the only true example of what happens to a high quality mandolin over a very long period of time. Also, the Loar instruments are recognized as the only true tonal model, as Bill Monroe invented our music on these instruments.

Sorry for the soapbox speech, but these issues are very close to my heart.


Send your questions to: Mickey with Folk of the Wood

Folk of the Wood
Sierra Mall • 721 Mechem Unit 5 • PO Box 190
Ruidoso, NM 88355
505-257-2393 Toll Free Order Line ONLY: 888-209-8434

Folk of the Wood
Sierra Mall • 721 Mechem Unit 5 • PO Box 190
Ruidoso, NM 88355
Phone: 505-257-2393 Toll Free Order Line ONLY: 888-209-8434
Fax: 505-257-3090




Go Directly to: Website Map

Return to Main FAQs Page

About Us


FREE Lessons

Acoustic Answers

Catalog Request

Acoustic Sites

Order Form

 Copyright ®1998 Folk of the Wood All pictures and text are protected by copyright laws. If interested in using any images, text or information from this site please contact: We would be glad to assist you and grant you the permission based on no conflict of interest.