Guitars – An Introduction to the different types

Guitars are classified into four specialized varieties in spite of the different types that flood the market. Below is a quick introduction of these different types:

Round-hole Steel Strung Acoustic Guitars: 


This is by far the most popular type of acoustic guitars and can be played with fingers (finger style) or a pick (plectrum). Its distinct sound lends itself to a range of music styles including country and rock. The word round-hole refers to the large and hollow resonating chamber that amplifies the sound generated by the strings. Round-hole acoustic guitars are also labeled ‘flat tops’, a nod to its flat look. The size of the hollow chamber defines the tone – larger bodied ones impart a heavier tone while smaller ones boast a brighter tone.

The inability to amplify sound beyond what is achievable from the resonance chamber is the downside with round-hole acoustic guitars. Amplification can be achieved by placing a microphone in close proximity to the sound hole or with pickups (transducers that convert vibration to an electric signal which are amplified and fed to speakers). The former retains some of the qualities of acoustic sound although reproduction is suboptimal while the latter does justice to reproduction and amplification sacrificing acoustic quality. Electro-acoustic guitars are aimed at solving these limitations.

The quality of the sound and the sustain capability are the differences between models from the various guitar manufacturers. In general, the lower end models suited for beginners will not have tables constructed from a single piece of wood – a feature with most of the high-end variants.

Classical Nylon Strung Acoustic Guitars:

Classical acoustic guitars have a wider neck and nylon strings, which allow for playing scales and certain complicated chords with relative ease using fingernails. The guitar is usally played in a seated position. Historically, ox gut was used for these strings but nylon strings have replaced them with lower tension than the steel strings in round-hole acoustic guitars. The fingerboard is flat with no inlays unlike the slight radius for round-hole acoustics.

The guitar is usually plucked and strumming is less common. Classical guitarists tend to shape their fingernails for this reason to achieve the desired tone. The classical guitar naming is actually a misnomer as it implies only classical pieces can be played on it – all kinds of music including folk, jazz, and flamenco are performed on it.

Modern classical guitars are also termed Spanish guitars as they are considered as modeled from the designs of 19th century Spanish luthier Antonio Torres Jurado. As with round-hole acoustics, there exist many choices among the lower end models appropriate for beginners. The instruments are almost always right handed.

Electric Guitars:


Electric guitars do not have mechanical amplification via a soundboard. Instead, the vibrations generated by the strings is transferred into electrical energy and amplified. This requires at least a cable and an amplifier – the strings are thinner and closer to the neck making the sound without an amplifier miffed.

Electric guitars are a popular option for beginners too as everything doable in an acoustic guitar can be done on an electric guitar while the reverse is not true. Also, it is easier to play the electric guitar – which implies a slight learning curve when switching to an acoustic.

Good electric guitars used to be on the expensive side but many branded guitar manufacturers have over the years successfully shifted down a significant portion of their lines to lower cost areas that now a days reasonably priced good branded electric guitar are available.

Electro-acoustic Guitars:


These are slim guitars compared to regular acoustics, but with enough acoustic sound that allows for practice without an amplifier. These guitars use pickups that mimic the sound produced by the timber of acoustic guitars really well. The special pickups also mean a preamplifier incorporated into the body of the guitar – tone controls or equalizers are also part of the package.

These instruments are also known as plug-in acoustic guitars as they can be plugged straight into a speaker system without the need for a microphone. As the volume can be increased when connected to speaker system, these guitars are a popular choice for use in folk music, as they possess the sound of an acoustic guitar with no volume limitations. They can also be used with an effects pedal or recording equipment very easily.

Ovation and Taylor are considered the best brands with the former specializing in the synthetic bowl-backs and the latter with a traditional all-wood construction.

Others:


There are umpteen other types of guitars. The more common among them are the bass guitars, resonator guitars, archtop guitars, double-neck guitars, twelve-string guitars, and steel guitars. The bass guitar is usually a four string guitar (acoustic or electric) that feature thicker strings and are pitched an octave lower – the four strings of the bass guitar correspond to the lowest four strings of a regular acoustic guitar an octave lower. Resonator guitars, used by blues musicians and some country players, feature a large plate that conceals the resonator cone – they produce a loud and bright voice. Archtop guitars, used in jazz music, feature a sound block in the middle and create a unique timber taken from the design of violins. Double-neck guitars have two necks within the same body – a six-string neck and a twelve-string neck that allows easy access and easy switching between the necks. Twelve string guitars have the regular six strings and a set of thinner strings. The regular strings correspond to the notes of a regular acoustic and the thinner set are tuned an octave higher – they form pairs and can be played like a six-string, they produce a brighter sound but are harder to play. Steel guitars are most often used in country music and are played horizontally. A metal slide or steel is used to play it and is held on the left hand by a right-handed player.

The most popular brands in Guitars sold in the USA include Gibson-USA, Fender, Dean Guitars, Epiphone, Washburn, Taylor Guitars, Takamine, Schecter, Daisy Rock, etc. Price ranges are all over the spectrum and the quest is to seek the best values in one’s price range. Our next articles will look into how to select a guitar once you have settled on a particular type.

Related Posts:
  1. Guitars - An introduction to different types (this post).
  2. Best Values in Round-hole Steel-strung and Classical Nylon-string Acoustic Guitars.
  3. Best Values in Electric and Acoustic-Electric Guitars.
Last Updated: 04/2017.

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