Offset soundholes, soundports, or no front-facing soundholes at all? If you’ve been following the modern boutique guitar world for a while, it might not be shocking to see these radical innovations anymore. Yet, they’re still not common. The small crowd of luthiers who opt for alternate soundhole/soundport design is clearly a progressive ‘what if?’ question-asking crowd. Dig through the websites of McPherson, Batson, Wilborn or others, and you’ll see elegantly laid out explanations of their features based on acoustic science. But of all those luthiers, the one who seems most focused on using that science to create a player-centric immersive experience is New York-based luthier Eric Weigeshoff of Skytop Guitars.
Science of the soundhole-free design
It’s easy to see why, once humans had a better understanding of acoustics, luthiers started rethinking the soundhole. The body of the guitar vibrates and amplifies a strum, and a soundhole is necessary to project that sound outward. But by placing it smack in the middle of the top, the vibration of the wood is interrupted. As fellow no top soundhole-luthier Cory Batson puts it, “I’d never cut a hole in my drum heads!”
There was also, of course, the desire by many players to better hear themselves, which led to the side soundport. But many players and listeners found that the addition of a soundport on an otherwise traditional guitar didn’t just boost the audibility for the player—the overall volume of the guitar increased, too. It’s similar to the way a liquid pours out of a closed container faster when there’s an additional hole that allows air in to fill the space the liquid leaves behind.