With the recent introduction of the all-myrtlewood Breedlove Concerto, the Oregon-based guitar company became the first large-scale US manufacturer to incorporate this intriguing tonewood in a production line of instruments. But the Concerto also is distinctive for another reason: Breedlove owner Tom Bedell and his team of guitar designers have created a new body shape—which tapers from an impressive five inches deep at the endpin to just under four inches at the joint of the hard-rock maple neck—that produces a big, beautiful sound when coupled with all of that cool, coastal myrtlewood and the company’s computer-aided sound profiling.
The result is impressive, given the complexity of the Concerto’s tone. “Two years ago, we began the journey of designing a new guitar body shape that would have a bigger sound than dreadnoughts and deliver a more complex, textured tone,” Bedell told AG recently. “The breakthrough came when we embraced the unique variability in every tonewood set, replacing cookie-cutter, standard wood dimensions with frequency-tuned tops and backs. “I still can’t get over how incredible these sound.”
This isn’t the first all-myrtlewood guitar from Breedlove, but it is the first all-myrtlewood production model in their line of 2017 Big Sound instruments, which use sound profiling to maximize the instruments’ tonal palette. According to the company’s literature, the goal of the technology is to advance the creation and projection of sound and complexity of tone by working with—instead of against—the variability in the woods from forests around the world. Since tonewoods can vary substantially among species, within trees of the same species, and within an individual tree, Breedlove reasoned that the woods harvested from each tree has, what it calls, a unique life-span experience—there is as much as a 30-percent variance in the density and frequency of tonewood cut to the same dimension within the same tree, the company’s literature notes. “Most guitar production companies ignore these complex inconsistencies,” Breedlove asserts on its website, “cutting their tops and backs to a uniform, pre-determined dimension. At Breedlove, we embraced a far more complicated process, setting a new standard aimed at getting the most music out of every instrument we build. We have learned to capitalize on variation, developing exclusive technology: Breedlove sound profiling.”
‘Tonally, if rosewood and maple were to have a baby, it would be Myrtlewood.’
—Devin Percell, Breedlove Global Sales Director
Here’s how it works: Breedlove builders activate the analysis by tapping a tonewood set, a common practice among luthiers. But at Breedlove, the resulting frequencies are captured in a computer program. Through this analysis, the company learns precisely the thinness to target for each soundboard to reach a designated frequency.
Ideally pairing the top with the back requires backs that have undergone sound profiling to a targeted weight to achieve that higher frequency. The ultimate goal, the company says, is a Fundamental Resonance Frequency that maximizes the instrument’s efficiency in producing pronounced sound and a more textured tone. “Amazingly, we have achieved both a bigger sound and projection,” the company’s literature concludes, “but also more beautiful-sounding, complex notes.”
Simply strumming an open-D chord produces a richly textured sound rife with warm overtones the likes of which I have not experienced in a production guitar. “Myrtlewood is a phenomenal tonewood to have at our disposal—because the wood is visually stunning and every piece is unique, the tone is a luthier’s dream,” Devin Percell, Breedlove Global Sales Director, has noted in a written statement.
“In short, tonally, if rosewood and maple were to have a baby, it would be Myrtlewood. You get all of the accentuated clarity in the high notes without the chime as well as the dynamic presence in the low end.”
The cost of the Breedlove Concerto, built in Bend, Oregon, is $2,199/street.
At a Glance: Breedlove Myrtlewood Concerto
Solid myrtlewood top, back, and sides; black binding; ebony bridge
Hard-rock maple; ebony fretboard; 1 ¾-inch nut width
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LR Baggs EAS VTC pickup; hardshell case; Handcrafted in Bend, Oregon; breedlovemusic.com
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.