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What is the Bracing on an Acoustic Guitar?

From a player’s perspective, bracing might be the most overlooked element of acoustic guitar construction. But it’s literally the thing holding your entire guitar together. Without it, your favorite flat-top would be a pile of splintered wood. Strength isn’t the only bracing consideration, however. Bracing patterns are also crucial in optimizing the top’s energy transfer, therefore, tone.

The history of acoustic guitar bracing

Many methods and techniques for bracing an acoustic guitar’s soundboard have been used. Some are so finely tuned they remain the standard today. Others, such as ladder bracing, created a unique sound while cutting costs. But all wooden acoustic guitars require some sort of bracing to give acoustics the strength they need.

Today there are two bracing patterns that we consider the standard; fan-bracing and X-bracing. Fan-bracing is the predominant technique for classical and flamenco acoustic guitars. X-bracing is the standard for most steel-string acoustics on the market today. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. We’ve taken the traditional X-bracing and put our own twist on it.

Let’s dig into all three styles for a bit of context.


Luthiers have honed their bracing designs since the first nylon-string acoustic guitars emerged from Spain. These early guitars are still known as some of the finest instruments ever made, and the bracing is a huge reason why. Each brace was selected, shaped, and placed by hand for structural stability and optimal sound transfer across the guitar’s top. Many of these luthiers’ bracing patterns became their signature. But Antonio de Torres’ fan-bracing set the standard we still follow today.

In fan-bracing, thin wooden braces emanate in a fan-like pattern (hence the name) from the bridge plate across the lower bout of the guitar top. By connecting the bridge – where the vibrating strings connect with the body – to such a large surface area, fan-bracing delivers clear tones and brings out the nuance in a performance. Without the increased pull of steel strings, the braces can also remain thin, allowing the top to vibrate naturally.


Now let’s jump across the pond and fast forward to the mid-1800s United States. Times had changed, music had changed, and the steel-string acoustic guitar arrived to keep up. Companies like Gibson and Washburn were beginning to embrace the new path and becoming powerhouses in the industry. But it was Martin and their X-braced flat-top acoustics that changed the world.

Martin had to solve a problem first; the bracing patterns that worked so well on classical and archtop acoustic guitars weren’t cutting it. If they were made strong enough, the guitars sounded terrible. If they lightened them up, they weren’t structurally sound. The solution was to create a bracing pattern of their own.

Martin solved both of their problems by running two main braces in an X pattern that intersect below the sound hole. The braces hold the top secure while offering enough vibration to deliver those iconic pre-war acoustic tones all guitarists now dream of. It worked so well that nearly every steel-string acoustic guitar you see today is based on this design.

Breedlove’s Cascade Bracing

As previously mentioned, X-bracing is fantastic but not perfect. Seeing another opportunity to innovate acoustic guitar design, we took X-bracing and transferred everything we’ve learned through years of hand-tuning our guitars and our proprietary Sound Optimization into our own design. We call it Cascade Bracing, which can be found on all of our ECO Collection models.

The pattern is named for how the braces mimic the stunning peaks of the Cascade Mountain range right outside our windows in Bend, Oregon. Their sloping nature is much more than an aesthetic choice, however. Applied in the familiar X-shape, we shape each brace to enhance each of our Designed in Bend series guitar body styles. This process brings out the correct frequencies and response in these instruments.

Cascade Bracing also lets us specify thinner tops and tolerances for each body style. Combined with their unique braces, these guitars boast the finest, most detailed, and most powerful voice possible. Geek out on Cascade Bracing by viewing the digital flip book catalog.

In conclusion

Two main styles of acoustic guitar bracing permeate the acoustic guitar industry today. Both fan-bracing and X-bracing have proven themselves by offering a fantastic blend of tone and toughness. But it’s in designs like our Cascade Bracing that today’s companies push the art form forward. By springboarding off of what works and diving into innovation, acoustic guitars keep getting better and better.