A cutaway is the scooped indentation in a guitar’s upper bout adjacent to the neck which allows for easier access to the upper frets. Cutaways appear on both acoustic and electric guitars.
Virtually all solid body electric guitars have at least one cutaway, or have a body shape, such as the Gibson Flying V, which does not obstruct access to the upper fretboard area. For many players, cutaways are appreciated as much for their aesthetic appeal as for their function.
There are two main types of cutaways: Venetian and Florentine. A Venetian cutaway is round and smooth. A Florentine cutaway is sharp and pointy. Of the two styles, the Venetian cutaway is more common, probably because the Florentine cutaway is more complex and labor-intensive than the Venetian.
Now, here’s something good. You don’t need to know anything about Italian history or geography because the terms Venetian and Florentine appear to have been coined by U.S. guitar makers in the first half of the 20th century. They do not reflect any historic instrument-making practices of either Venice or Florence.
Instruments with only a lower cutaway, whether Venetian or Florentine are known as single cutaway. Here’s a picture of a Hollow Body Gibson L5 with a Venetian cutaway.
Here’s a picture of a Hollow Body Gibson ES-175 with a Florentine cutaway.
Many instruments have an upper cutaway and a lower cutaway usually about the same size, guitars with both are called double cutaway. Double cutaways allow the thumb as well as the fingers to move past the neck-body join. Double cutaway are mainly seen on electric guitars, as the reduction in body size resulting from a double cutaway would be detrimental to the sound quality of an acoustic guitar.
Here’s a picture of a Hollow Body Gibson ES-335 with double Venetian cutaways.
Here’s a picture of a Hollow Body Gibson Barney Kessel with double Florentine cutaways.
In some Gibson guitars, models with two cutaways are abbreviated with a DC after the name, such as in the Les Paul Standard DC. Since more single cut versions of these guitars are produced than the double cutaway versions, if the model name of these guitars is not followed by DC, the assumed reference is to the single cutaway models.
Here’s a picture of a Solid Body Gibson Les Paul Standard DC with double Venetian cutaways.
Here’s a picture of a Solid Body Gibson Les Paul SG Custom with double Florentine cutaways.
Let’s end this blog with something different. Here’s a picture of a scarce and rare 1951 Solid Body Gibson Les Paul prototype with a single Florentine cutaway .
’til next time, have some Venetian and Florentine cutaway fun… I’ll be listening!