Why is My Soundboard Rippled?

The lightweight construction and thin woods used on Cordoba Guitars significantly contribute to the rich sound for which these instruments are revered. Keep in mind that these materials are quite delicate and can exhibit behaviors guitars with thicker woods and/or which are more heavily built do not. A question that we commonly hear is, “I am seeing suspicious ‘rippling’ or waviness behind the bridge of my guitar– is this a defect?”

This is actually normal behavior, and it’s called “telegraphing”.

Telegraphing is simply a term that describes the visibility of the soundboard’s inner fan struts from the outside of the guitar. It is caused by several factors related to the construction process of the guitar.  A significant contributor of this phenomenon is the use of a relatively thin top, which is deliberately designed and built for maximum resonance, response, and energy transfer from the strings. Although the top is braced to a final dome shape across the entire soundboard for strength (in order to resist the natural torque applied to the bridge under string tension), a certain amount of movement of the soundboard wood will occur when the strings are at tension, especially between the braces. This results in the slightly wavy appearance of the top behind the bridge between the inner fan struts, not unlike the fabric of an airborne kite forming around its frame.

Another contributing factor of telegraphing comes from the construction methods of the soundboard itself. The soundboards of Cordoba Guitars are braced face down; the struts are clamped downward onto the top against a domed mold that will give the soundboard its final shape. This downward force creates an extremely durable marriage of the struts to the soundboard, but can also reveal the location of the strut from the outside of the soundboard, formed by clamping pressure against the strut.

Telegraphing is a normal and common characteristic of lightly built nylon string guitars, especially when compared to steel string guitars built with different construction methods as well as thicker woods. You’ll even notice brace telegraphing on some of the most iconic and well-respected nylon string guitars in existence, which can easily demand a price from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases. You have nothing to worry about – just be sure to follow our suggestions for properly humidifying and maintaining your Cordoba, and there is no reason it won’t last for generations!