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The First Cutaway Guitar

Updated on February 28, 2016
Guitar showing a cutaway
Guitar showing a cutaway

Want to play those high notes on a guitar? No problem. Just buy one with a cutaway. However, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time these standard features were new and innovative. And like all innovations, someone somewhere had to first have the idea.

That someone was George Laurian, chief engineer to the Kalamazoo based Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Company, who in 1908 designed the Gibson Style O archtop guitar. This groundbreaking instrument sported many innovative features, including the first commercially available cutaway.

Whether this was intentional, however, is open to question. Some believe that the guitar’s flat, perpendicular cutaway is in fact an artistic continuation of the instrument’s outline. The mandolin like scroll on the guitar’s upper bass bout runs down to a flat edge, adjoining the neck at the fifteenth fret. This then continues flat on the opposite upper treble bout, finishing with a small stylistic peak, a feature which can still be seen on Gibson’s more recent SG models.

Whatever the intention, this original design allowed players to reach the higher frets, and with the endorsement of such guitarists as blues man Big Bill Broonzy the cutaway was born.

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