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Flame tops Yay or Nay ?


Just what the title says. For some reason in the past few years I have really grown to think flame tops are just gaudy and ugly. I had a prs custom 22 in vintage yellow for 12 years and it really fell out of favor. Beautiful guitar don't get me wrong. But there is just something about them I can't get down with anymore. I guess I'm just into more classic looking instruments that will age nicely and relic over time. I'm not looking to offend anyone. Just figured I wanted to get a peaceful consensus.

Rex Anderson

I like much more utilitarian looking instruments rather than pieces of art. I have a Grosh '59 Spec that has a gorgeous flamed maple top. Wish it wasn't so pretty 'cause I love the way it plays and sounds. I feel self conscious when people see it and comment on how it looks rather than how it sounds (my playing and tone aside).

Makes it looks like it cost a lot of money and that is not my goal when playing it, or any guitar for that matter.

I would never buy a relic'ed guitar however. I'll let time and the natural wear look happen by playing them.
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I like them but if a plain top version is available, I will take it over the curly one.
Not sure why...I think it's because the flame top has almost become a cliche there are so many around.

I do like the subtle flame accent on my tele, though.
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Well, unless you're buying a "Grandfather Clock" - "beautiful maple tops" have ZERO impact upon anything... As far as I can deduce, they just serve to add the manufacturer's MSRP of that instrument...

Did really think that anybody ever said to Peter Green, Gary Moore, Mike Bloomfield, Billy Gibbons, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page, Slash, Vivian Campbell, John Sykes, etc., etc. - "Man, the highly figured maple top on your LP sure makes that guitar a keeper..."



Silver Supporting Member
Aesthetically, I love the looks of them.
Practically...well, not so much.

I'd love to own a '59, I really would. But every time I shop, even used, I feel excluded by the pricing. And not just by Gibson's usual/annual/predictable "price increase."

And I could probably "afford" one, but find myself with the lingering question, just because I can, should I?
I have a Guild Manhattan jazz guitar with laminated top (Oh, god, oh no!!!) that's just as beautiful as the best "AAAA" bookmatched maple top.
I guess that's what always saves me.

That, and the poor man's R7 I have, which just kills.


Depends on the top....vintage looking tops I like, over the top figuring nope.


I'm a big fan of curly maple, though I'd take a nice clean looking plain top over an unremarkable/ugly/grainy* figured top.

*grainy :



Senior Member
Just what the title says. For some reason in the past few years I have really grown to think flame tops are just gaudy and ugly.
I'm not looking to offend anyone. Just figured I wanted to get a peaceful consensus.
[rant]Someone explained to me the other day that this particular generation seems to rely far more on peer approval than any other in recent history for its decisions and choices. Far more "top three in the poll" and far less "rugged individualism."

Look, this is a fashion choice.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Paisley prints are out of fashion.
Bell bottoms, bushy hair/burns and granny classes are out of fashion.
Bright, flashy stripey superstrats are out of fashion.
Hippy sandwich guitars are out of fashion.
Interesting electronics options and active electronics are out of fashion.
Flame tops were in fashion, now they're out (in your world)?

Great. You don't like them.

What's the point of a "consensus?"

Honestly, I'm sort of tired of eighteen levels of faded CSB finish and routine brown guitars and none-more-black guitars. I don't care much about strats in '57 Chivvy colors. I don't want a relic'd guitar. I don't spend a lot of time poking around in control cavities to make sure that I have Pee In Oil capacitors or cloth covered wires, nor am I buried in my amp to make sure that my tubes are NOS Murgatroids. All of those are fashion choices, and in the long run, they only matter for a short run and only to those heavily invested in fashion. I tend not to be in fashion, in part because what's in fashion now is what's laughed at tomorrow. Big hair, shoulder pads, disco collars, tons of gold chains, tie-dye shirts.

Fashion: A popular trend, esp. in styles of dress, ornament, or behavior.

And if flame tops ain't "ornament," what is?[/rant]

Hey, has the nurse been through with my meds yet? I was in the john.


I like flame tops when they are good, but I am very picky about them. I don't like about 99% of the flame tops that I see. If the flame doesn't match up and it looks mismatched down the middle that is a deal-breaker for me. I also don't like skinny little tiger stripes all over the top. I don't own this guitar anymore, but I think it had one of the most 3-D beautiful flame tops I have ever seen:



I prefer subtle flame, the kind that comes and goes as light hits it different ways.....my new LP trad plus is perfect looking to me....don't care for the over the top R9 or PRS stuff....


Seems like a lot of people agree nay to flame tops. Dspellman you didn't need to post if you didn't get the "point " of my consensus! Jesus I wrote a peaceful consensus and didn't want to offend anyone seems like your Hines hairs are wound a bit tight. Anywho. Definitely think flames are gaudy no matter what way you cut it, just not my taste. Something classic about grainy, or solid finishes that will wear well. Love to see what they will look like in 40-50 yrs.


I like a top that looks fairly plain from head on, with some slight flame from an angle, just to give the top some 3-dimensional depth. Almost like a hologram that changes as you shift perspectives.

Also, maybe it is complete luck but all of the best sounding guitars I have ever played tended to be the plain top ones. Go figure (pun intended).


negative on the flame top. i've actually passed on some good guitars because of flame top. same with birdseye maple necks.

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