Armrests for Classical Guitar

YouTube HD Video Link

Bradford’s guitar from the video: My new 2018 Small Scale Douglass Scott Guitar

Armrests: Love them. The idea seemed undesirable to me at first because the armrest further extends the guitar outward away from the shoulder(only millimetres though) which is an ergonomic problem for some people (short people like me?) so at first I didn’t want one. However, after having armrests on my last two guitars I found it more comfortable on my arm. The smoother edge is also better for moving the forearm up or down the instrument without as much friction when making right hand adjustments. The idea of the arm muting the soundboard does make sense, although I do wonder if it’s significant enough to be noticed.

Here’s a few words about armrests I found across the web :

“Some guitar makers, like Greg Smallman propose an armrest integrated to the guitar. An armrest provides three primary benefits: it lessens damping of the top caused by the right forearm; it is potentially more comfortable for the player; and it absorbs the wear to the finish that would otherwise happen on the top, the binding, and the side. These benefits are of particular importance for ultra-thin-topped instruments, such as Smallman’s, but will subtly improve any guitar, including double-tops. The Rasgueo-Rest armrest additionally helps large and tall players avoid hunching-over the Guitar, since the Guitar’s surface area is in effect, “expanded” using the arm-rest, giving the arm-height support needed for good playing posture.” – via wikipedia

“An elevated style armrest has three advantages. First, it helps keep the right arm from muting soundboard vibrations. Second, it protects the French polish from slowly getting worn away by the right arm. And thirdly, it is a smooth, comfortable place to rest the arm.Some of my clients have asked about the “Bevel Style” armrest, you often see on steel-string guitars. There are a couple of reasons why I do not use it on my guitars. It solves the problem of comfort, but it does not address the other two issues – preventing soundboard damping by the right arm, or protecting the finish. For these reasons, I use the elevated style armest. I’ve been making them out of African blackwood, cocobolo, walnut, ebony, maple, and other woods, depending on the look I’m after, and the binding I use. So you can see from the pictures how the armrest allows the arm to sit above the soundboard, without dampening the soundboard. ” Quote and Photo via dominelliguitars.com

Armrest

Dominelli Armrest

“They’re mainly for comfort, but some makers claim that there is some advantage to keeping the player’s arm off the soundboard. I don’t really think it makes much difference in this respect – I find on my guitars I have to very deliberately press my arm into the top to hear any change – playing normally there’s no difference.” – Luthier, James Lister via delcamp

“I have mixed feelings about them, I’ve run into some resistance when it comes to older more traditional guitarists, the younger players seem to like them more than traditional guys. As far as the volume goes, I’ve read by some that they boost the volume by 20%. I don’t know how that figure was arrived at, I will say however, it does increase the volume, but mostly in the bass, because your arm without the arm rest, tends to dampen the bass side of the guitar, this may or not be desirable for some. If your guitar has tight basses an arm rest might help, if there too open it might not.” – Luthier, Michael Thames via classicalguitarforum.com

What has your experience with armrests been? Leave a comment below.

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13 Comments

  1. I didn’t know they had them connected to the body. I’d thought that they sold them separately and had considered this as an option for my current guitar.

    Useful for beginners?

  2. Not many choices out there as far as retrofitting one on an existing guitar, but I’ve been using an “Ebony Junior” from John Pierce since last year. It fits perfectly on a standard classical, but may be on the short side if your arm has to move a lot from the rest position. I don’t know if the sound is much improved, but it is more comfortable to the arm and it does protect the binding/top against perspiration on those hot summer days. This one is unfinished ebony, so I clean it and oil it the same way as the guitar fingerboard.

  3. An arm rest is essential. It stops injury and rsi in your right arm. A sharp edge will dig into your arm of you have the correct playing angle for your left arm via either a support or foot stool. The only way to avoid this problem is to position your elbow over the sharp angle. This destroys your right hand position and dampens the sound of the guitar front and kills the sound. An arm rest is absolutey essential.

  4. I use an Andreas Abel Armrest, sold by Strings by Mail: https://www.stringsbymail.com/andreas-abel-armrest-armauflage-for-classical-or-acoustic-guitar-11771.html

    It also elevates the wrist a little so you can get over the top of the strings better. Just a personal preference, but I would choose this detachable armrest over fixed armrests, which appear not to give that extra elevation I so want. Thanks for the video, Bradford.

    John (near Sydney, Australia)

  5. Douglas Scott on

    I had been using the Andreas Abel Armrest for the past 5 years and I love its functionality, quality and versatility. The only US retailer is Strings by Mail although Amazon sells it at a higher price through SBM. It’s not inexpensive @ $75, although I purchased mine 5 years ago @ $59, but it’s worth it. It appears bulky but it’s not, from the audience it’s transparent and appears to like a John Pearse or similar. It’s extremely comfortable and versatile as I utilize on my steel string Martin Custom and Guild D55 and on my Cervantes Hauser Millenia. It doesn’t harm the finishes and I purchased mine with the extra long screw for use on my dreadnaughts. Superb quality and design. I highly recommend its use and I have tried many!
    https://www.stringsbymail.com/andreas-abel-armrest-armauflage-for-classical-or-acoustic-guitar-11771.html

    • I think another advantage of the Abel Armrest, is that it prevents the forearm from deadening the soundboard, thus enabling the guitar to sound at its best.

  6. I’ve been using Abel Armrests for two of my classical guitars for years now and love them. They’re easy on/off, once on they stay put, and they’re very well designed and made of high quality materials.

  7. Terry Theriault on

    I purchased an arm rest on Amazon for about $10. I made a few MINOR adjustments to the back of the arm rest so that it fit the curve of my guitar exactly and attached it with double sided poster tape. It works very well and I am quit happy with it and it looks good.

  8. I love armrests also, but being left-handed, very difficult to find one specifically made for leftys, and unfortunately the only option is after-market. I do own 2 luthier-built guitars, but neither are custom made, and no luthier will ever build a guitar and put an armrest for a lefty. I’m using the Abel since it works OK for left-handed, but it’s shaped and built for right-handers. Many after-market armrests, but again they are mostly shaped for right-hand.

    I’d be interested to hear about any experiences out there re armrests for left-handers?

    And I do use the Abel armrest AND a guitar support (Sageworks), even for performances – admittedly to Bradford’s point, while I wouldn’t call it “silly”, the guitar does look a little funky with all the attachments. But I definitely play better, so I’ll sacrifice the odd look for better playability.

    Thanks for the post on this topic Bradford and good comments all.

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