Why are the holes shaped like that?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Gufenov, Jul 1, 2003.

  1. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    So far, I've just been reading and not posting, but I need some help from some of the experts out there. I almost have the "little woman" talked into an URB investment. It'll probably be an Engelhardt EM-1, but I'm going for the ES-1 upgrade with a couple of flowers and a little sweet talking. So far, I've fended off most of her questions (If the Chinese make such good food, how come their basses aren't good, too?)but I need your help with this one. WHY ARE THE "F" HOLES SHAPED THAT WAY? :confused:

    I can make a couple of guesses:
    >The shape maximizes sound output by increasing the amount of "edge" around the hole,
    >The shape relieves stress in the top to keep it from cracking, or even make something else up
    >It stands for "funkicato - Italian for funky?",
    but I fear that while I'm at work she'll check out the postings from all you experts and the "gig" will be up. I'll be stuck with my JimLaabs acoustic bass guitar forever! Please help me join the club and get an URB. :p
  2. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    Guess I stumped the panel...:rolleyes:
  3. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    Give it time. Unlike on the BG side of the forum, these aren't nearly as busy. Just letting you know :) I don't know why they are shaped that way and am interested but not overly into why. That's all and one of the resident equipment people will be around sometime. Have Fun and relax. :cool:
  4. I doubt if you can find anyone here who can give you a definitive answer the "Why" question. I can tell you that the use of "ff" holes predates the invention of the violin in 1500s. Some modern makers have made instruments with different shaped sound holes and apparently they have not suffered acoustically as long as the total surface area remained about the same as traditional "ff' holes. In instrument making, it is the beauty of the "ff" holes and the scroll that distinguish the master makers from the ordinary craftsman. To the untrained eye, all "ff" holes look about the same, but in truth, there are a large number of styles in common use today. Most date back to the violin making giants of 300 to 500 year ago.
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Actually, it's all a 500-year-old joke. You see, the soundhole is an "F". The underside of the bridge forms a "U". The center bout of the instument is a "C". And the strings crossing the bridge, when compared to the imaginary line extending from the plane of the neck/fingerboard joint, form a "K". So there you have it. Gasparo and Antonio would sit in the piazza drinking grappa and laughing their heads off everytime someone would pull out one of these whacky instruments...little did the poor musician know!
  6. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    It was only recently that we were taking about frontier strip clubs in bass bungholes. If memory serves me there's more than a few divergences such as these posted on TB. Mebbe we can make a collection and get Chris to lock a thread when he gets back.
  7. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
  8. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Here's one with C-holes:

  10. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
  11. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    When I first started double bass in orchestra class, my friend Christian (a drummer, no less), started at the same time as me. Neither of us knew anything about double bass, but we both wanted to learn.

    So one day in class, we asked the teacher, "Why are the holes on all basses, violins, violas, and cellos shaped like the letter 'f'?"

    His response, which made Christian and I laugh our asses off for a good 10 minutes (totally disrupting class), was, "It's not the shape of the hole, its the location that matters."

    Needless to say, we both can be very immature at times.

  12. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    Thank you to everyone who took the time and tried to satisfy my curiosity. arnoldschnitzer - as much as I want to believe your carefully researched and skillfully delivered story, I was afraid my wife would be a little skeptical. JMX - you went the extra distance to provide links and photos; I am humbly grateful. Tomorrow morning I mail my order form (and check) to Mr. Gollihur for my new ES-1, which will be delivered complete with traditional "f" holes. Profile update soon to follow!:D
  13. I'm glad you got your bass okayed, but I'm surprised nobody made the really logical argument... The ES-1 has an ebony fingerboard, and ebony is much more durable than rosewood.

    If you keep the bass long-term, the rosewood could need dressing enough extra times to cost the entire difference in price between the EM-1 and the ES-1 just in Luthier Labor.

    Also, a board can only be dressed so many times before it becomes too thin and needs a $500 replacement!

    When THAT is put into the equation, you've not only broken even on the extra cost, you have SAVED long-term money by getting the extra durability of ebony! :D

    You don't really have to mention that you need to keep the bass for the rest of your life to realize those savings, but aside from that little detail, it's pure truthful fact. :rolleyes:
    Actually, I believe that the F-shape DOES affect the sound.

    People have tried all different shapes, from diamonds to BATS (the flying kind) on a bass I once saw in a photo.

    Regal made a bass in the 1930's that was shaped exactly like 6-foot-tall guitar, complete with a round soundhole in the middle.

    I talked to someone who played one, and he said it was quiet, couldn't be heard through a couple of acoustic guitars.

    You can figure that about 90% of the builders through the last several hundred years put F-holes in a certain shape and location because "We've Always DONE it this way".

    If there weren't a good reason for them to be that way, though, then SOMEONE in that other 10% would have started a revolution in design, and we'd see whatever his "better idea" was, on almost all basses after that point in time.

    It might be interesting for you to contact http://www.michaelkellyguitars.com

    They used to make a mandolin model called the "Dragonfly" with F-holes that were diamond-shaped.

    After a relatively short period, I think about 1 year, It was replaced by the "Firefly", which has regular F-holes, like the other mandolins they make.

    It's pretty much un-changed from the Dragonfly, other than that.

    You might ask them why they abandonded the "Dragonfly-style" F-holes.
  14. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I almost expected to start up the Engelhardt vs. Christopher vs. Shen, etc. etc. argument again! As a matter of fact, the ebony is a big part of the reason I chose the ES-1. We live in a tiny town in Central Wisconsin, - four churches, six taverns, and no luthiers. I thought the ebony would be worth the extra $, not only for durability, but also resale or trade-in value down the road.

    I sent an email to Michael Kelly Guitars. We'll see if they respond. That Teal Blue Firefly model is a beaut, but neither my budget or my marriage can afford it so soon after buying the ES-1. Of course, once I explain how much money I've saved by going with the ebony...
  15. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I received a reply from Tracey at Michael Kelly Guitars.

    "We did offer a mandolin with what we called an
    s-hole. It was a little smaller than a typical f-hole. We did extensive testing on this and found that the sound hole size did alter the sound
    slightly, but not tremendously on a mandolin. It seems the smaller hole boosts the bass response and a larger hole increased volume. This is our
    own unscientific findings."

    "We changed the soundhole this year only
    because we like our custom model looking different each year. In fact that model still has an undersized hole because we did like the tonal performance."

    I'm not touching the "s-hole" line. Others, better than I, are free to go for it.
  16. They have the Legacy, with a standard mandolin F-hole, shaped very similarly to a bass F-hole.

    Then they have the Firefly's "S-Hole", but the Dragonfly had the holes shaped like the picture below. The Firefly and Dragonfly also had their "S-holes" farther apart than normal. In the attached picture, notice that the holes are not only shaped different, but the "standard" holes are farther in from the edges, closer together.

    Primarily, the "S-hole" doesn't have the large round openings at the ends, like a standard F-hole does.
  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I think they went with the f hole because both p-pole and a-hole induced far too many snickers from pre-pubescent boys.

    I do find them visually preferable to the sound hole of my guitar, which I will hence forth call the o-hole.

  18. mleicht

    mleicht Guest

    Apr 4, 2012
    I've heard that the Church of St. Domenico was across from Andrea Amati's workshop, in Cremona. He'd stare out the window, thinking, and one day got inspired by the curves on the facade. If you google images of the church, you'll see that those curves are indeed very similar to those on the violin. Gotta love architecture :)
  19. Do DB threads need to remain dormant longer than BG to be considered *zombie*?
  20. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Most of the curves that have inspired me have not usually been anywhere near a church.