Guitar: Do Cutaways Affect the Sound?

I hate to break it to you, but guitar cutaways are not just an aesthetic feature.

Perhaps you already knew that.

But did you also know that cutaways might have an influence on the way a guitar sounds?

This is mostly true for acoustic instruments, though, but there’s an argument to be had also for electrics.

Guitar cutaways do have an impact on the sound, although it is minimal and mostly only noticeable in acoustic instruments. An acoustic without a cutaway might sound “fuller” in the lower end. For electrics, their effect is not noticeable and this is why there are that many double-cutaway ones.

In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about how cutaways work both in acoustics, semi-hollows, and solid body electric guitars, the different types of them there are, and how impactful they are on the tone of the instrument.

After leaving this page, you will know clearly if you should be worrying about the cutaway of your next guitar, and what are the pros and cons of it having one.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

What is the actual function of guitar cutaways?

The cutaway in a guitar has a purely practical function: It allows you to reach its higher frets easily and more comfortably.

Many builders also use them as an aesthetic feature, but they were there first for a reason.

There are many approaches to the shape and depth of a cutaway, and different manufacturers have their own notions of what is important.

The only thing that matter for us, players, is that they facilitate us reaching those crazy high notes up there.

How do cutaways affect the sound of a guitar?

Cutaways affect the sound of a guitar because their presence signifies a change in the overall instrument’s mass, weight distribution, and overall resonance, this is when compared with the same guitar but without a cutaway.

Although they have a functional purpose, their implementation has an inevitable effect on the way the guitar sounds.

And this effect is probably different from electric instruments to acoustic or semi-hollow ones, however, I’d argue it matters in all cases.

For knowing more about how the shape of the body of a guitar impacts its sound, I’d recommend you read the following article:

How much do cutaways affect the sound of a guitar?

The common consensus among experts is that the presence of a cutaway on a guitar does not really have a profound impact on how it sounds.

Cutaways might have a more noticeable effect on acoustic guitars where the change in the resonance chamber could be heard by the most privileged ears.

A guitar without such a feature might sound a bit “fuller”, especially in the lower register. 

The thing is, for this type of guitar, that the cutaway goes precisely in one of the least resonant spots of their body.

You can check this out by gently tapping different parts of them, and you will surely notice that the closer you get to the neck the stiffer and less harmonic the effect from your inputs become.

This is due to how acoustic guitars are built because cutaways are very close to where the neck block enters the body, and there the small pieces that support its structure get tighter.

For electric guitars, and particularly solid-body ones, things are even less decisive.

This is why you will find a lot of electrics with double cutaways because at this point the second cutaway plays more of an aesthetic role with no real impact on the sound.

Since there are no acoustics in play, the only effect of a cutaway is just taking some mass away from the body, and modifying a bit its center of gravity.

It’s very unlikely that you could hear a noticeable difference from a guitar with a cutaway to a unit of the same model without it.

If you hear anything it could be probably any of the other dozens of variables that can’t be controlled for in this experiment, even if you can make sure that both guitars were made with wood from the same tree.

Most common cutaway types and their effect on sound

There are 4 most common types of cutaways that can be found on most guitars.

There are no specific influences on tone from each one, and they are mostly different manufacturers’ takes on solving for the necessity of players to reach higher frets comfortably.

The Venetian cutaway

Venetian cutaways have a rounded bout

The Florentine cutaway

Florentine cutaways have a sharper bout

The Squared-off cutaway

Squared-off cutaways present a more open angle, that can be of almost 90 degrees with the neck.

The Double cutaway

Mostly seen only on electric guitars since they are just an aesthetic design feature because their effect on tone is minimal.

Should you pick a guitar based on its cutaway?

Yes, you should pick a guitar based on its cutaway or lack of it, but not because of how it could impact its sound.

I can assure you that there will be no noticeable difference from a guitar having a cutaway.

The only thing that should think about when deciding on a guitar, about its cutaway is if it’s practical, comfortable and if you will be needing it anytime soon.

If you don’t intend on playing high notes on that guitar, why would you need it?

There are a lot of great guitars that don’t have cutaways, and perhaps the same amount of them that do.

In the end, it’s just a matter of what the player needs both in terms of playability and looks.

Don’t forget about looks!