Like any instrument, the guitar has been on its own evolutionary journey for centuries. The sound holes on the guitars were originally round and stayed that way for a long time until Gibson started producing guitars with F-holes in the 1920s.1 The former is still the preferred choice amongst many beginners, simply because guitars with an F-hole are usually expensive and may not be a wise investment for beginners. Especially if you are not sure about your taste in music and are still exploring your style of playing.
On a round hole guitar, the sound hole is carved round in shape and positioned on top of the body right below the neck and behind the strings. A guitar with F-holes has cut-outs in the shape of an “f” on top of the body positioned on either side of the bridge.
The choice between an F-hole or a round hole guitar is not a matter of customization or style. Preference for this feature often relates to our taste in music. This is one of the main reasons why the F-hole guitar, despite not being a popular choice among artists, will still have a permanent spot in the world of music.2
The comparison between F-hole and round hole guitars will be a lasting one because both are here to stay as it is supposed to be an ideal shape for sound production on string instruments. A study by acoustic engineers from MIT revealed that an f-shaped hole increases the power of sound and enhances the tone a lot more than other types of sound holes.2 This is why the debate around one being better than the other is bound to change as people start to realize that the only reason to compare them is to decide which guitar suits their needs best.
Difference Between F-hole and Round Hole Guitars
Sound holes help in amplifying the sound produced by the guitar. The sound on guitars with F-holes is clearer. Notes sound slightly more separated and distinguished when compared to a round hole guitar. The position and shape of the sound hole seem to have a reducing effect on the resonance, which leads to a decreased overlap of notes, adding to the clarity of the sound. This shape also has a tendency to direct the sound in front of the guitar and away from it towards the listeners.
Whereas guitars with a round sound hole tend to have richer sound with more pronounced overtones and bass. Overtones are sounds that are a pitch higher than the lowest pitch and are also often referred to as partials. The sound from a round hole tends to resonate and surround the instrument, unlike the F-hole, which directs it away from the guitar.
A variety of instruments, such as archtops, resonators, acoustics, and semi-acoustics, are built with f-shaped sound holes. Jazz and blues guitarists prefer guitars with f-holes, particularly the archtop, for their clear and loud sound. Archtops, despite their mellow and smooth tone, produce a stable and strong sound that distinguishes them from the other instruments in the band. This quality is also known as cutting power. These instruments are also commonly known as jazz guitars.
Classical guitars, steel-string acoustics, and electro- acoustics are all guitars that feature round sound holes. These guitars are used to play many different styles of music, including jazz and blues. Due to their versatile and dynamic sound range, classical, bluegrass, pop, folk, country, and rock are a few other styles of music that can be added to the list.
Which One Should You Choose?
Most opinions on the two will reveal to you that round holes are a better choice compared to f-holes for a beginner, and this is true, to a certain degree. Knowing what type of music you like and having a clear idea about how much you are willing to invest in your first guitar may also be a good way to decide.
The fastest way to know which type you prefer would be to examine your taste in music, artists, and songs. If you’ve decided to learn how to play the guitar, you were probably inspired by some artist, genre, style, or song. Figure this out and find out what kind of guitar was used, and that may just be the type of guitar you would want to begin with.
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- F-Hole [Internet]. Sweetwater. 2022 [cited 7 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/f-hole/#:~:text=By%201958%2C%20Gibson%20began%20building,guitar%20to%20help%20eliminate%20feedback
- Why Do Some Electric Guitars Have Holes In? Here’s The Truth! [Internet]. Stamp Sound. [cited 18 March 2022]. Available from: https://stampsound.com/why-do-some-electric-guitars-have-holes-in/