Types of Guitars


Click Here for Adult Guitar LessonsGuitars basically fall into two broad categories; acoustic and electric. Each of these types of guitars has derivatives which depend on the shape of the guitar, the types of strings used and purpose. This article takes a broad look at both electric and acoustic guitars and their derivatives.


Acoustic guitars


Acoustic guitars use their own sound box to project the sound to the audience. They are generally hollow and made of thin wood although resin and even carbon fibre bodies are sometimes used. Traditionally these guitars would only serve a small audience although they can be ‘miked-up’ for playing at larger venues. We will now take a brief look at some acoustic guitar derivatives.


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The Classical Guitar


Sometimes called the ‘Spanish’ guitar, this is the most common type of instrument used in learning to play the guitar in times gone by although contemporary tutors may offer tuition on the electric guitar even for the novice. On a classical guitar sound is generated from the nylon strings resonating over the sound box giving a soft, warm sound. As their name suggests Classical guitars are used for playing classical music but are also the instrument of choice for traditional flamenco and folk music. The traditional classical guitar has 6 strings. Occasionally steel strings are used and catgut strings were used before nylon strings were the norm. In fact, catgut strings are still used in many professional circles. (Catgut is made from the intestines of animals, usually goat or sheep but not cat, as the name might suggest)


The 12-string guitar


As its name suggests this type of guitar has twice the number of strings as the classical guitar and they are arranged in pairs. Each string has a partner string of the same note but tuned an octave apart. This gives a much richer sound to the original classical guitar.


The Steel guitar


This type of guitar is not in fact made of steel as its name might suggest. The ‘steel’ is actually a slide held in the fretting hand and moved up and down the strings as the guitar is played. The other big difference between the steel guitar and the traditional classical guitar is that can be played resting on the musicians lap. The steel guitar is often used to generate a Hawaiian or Polynesian type sound, but is also popular in country music.



The Resonator guitar


These guitars have metal resonators which not only increase the volume compared to a traditional acoustic guitar but also generate a melancholy sound and so are sometimes used in country music or even bluegrass



Electric guitars 


This type of guitar is the mainstay of modern music and require electric amplifiers which takes the signals form ‘pickups’ on the body and magnifies these to    drive loudspeakers in order for their sound to be heard. Consequently electric guitars have only been around since the late ‘fifties. Very often control knobs will be present on the body to control volume and tone and it’s quite common for the sound to be transmitted to “effect” pedals before going to the amplifier in order to generate an even broader library of sound. The 6-string ‘axe’ is the most common type of electric guitar. 


The Bass Guitar 


Although bass guitars are usually electric, there are acoustic variants. The most common string format is the 4-string guitar but again, there is a 6-string variant used by some bass players. The strings of a bass guitar are very thick making tuning more difficult. The sound of a bass guitar is both deep and rhythmic and is almost exclusively used to provide body to the music. 


The Archtop guitar 


This type of guitar is most commonly a hybrid. Although it has electrical pick ups which feed and amplifier in the same way as a normal electric guitar, it often also has its own sound box like an acoustic guitar. Archtop guitars are very popular with blues and jazz musicians. 

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