Guitar Types Used By Musicians
The Guitar is a fretted stringed musical instrument that has been around in some form or the other for over 5000 years, from the ancient Cithara, to the more recent ministrel's Lute.
The guitar creates its music from the vibration of its strings. Each string vibrates at a different frequency based on its thickness and length, thereby making different sounds. Additionally, by pressing down a string at a fret (the metallic bumps that run down the length of the guitar's neck), you effectively shorten the length of that string, changing its vibration and its sound. There are two broad families of guitars: Acoustic guitars and Electric guitars. An acoustic guitar is constructed in a shape that reflects back the sound of its vibrating strings, amplifying them "acoustically". An electric guitar makes no audible sounds, its vibrating strings are detected by electro-magnetic coils called "pickups" - and the electric signal is sent to an "amplifier" (amp) which converts it to sound and amplifies it as well. A hybrid of both these guitar types is the Acoustic-Electric guitar, which is an acoustic guitar with built in pickups. Acoustic-electric guitars can be heard without an amp, but it can also be plugged in if a higher sound volume is desired. The next pages have information on Acoustic Guitar Parts and Electric Guitar Parts.
There are several types of guitars available today, for different kinds of music and playing styles. The type of string used on a guitar determines its sound, and also the kind of music that can be effectively played by it. Most classical guitars are acoustic and use nylon strings (as they are often "finger picked"). Most blues, rock and country music use guitars with steel strings for the more aggressive sound; both electric and acoustic guitars are used.
Most modern music consists of three main elements; lead, rhythm, and bass. Bass is often provided by drums (the beat), and also can be played by a bass guitar that has 4 strings (but we are not going to discuss bass guitars at all). Lead is usually provided by vocals (the singing) and often also with a lead guitar (although, any musical intrument can be used to play lead). Rhythm is best described as the background music that rhythmatically establishes the "sound" of that particular piece of music, and is often provided by a rythm guitar and/or a piano (keyboard). If you examine your favorite music group or band, at the very least you will find a drummer and a bass guitar player providing bass; a piano/keyboard player and a rhythm guitarist for rhythm; and a singer and lead guitarist for lead. When one plays music alone, you really can't have that band sound (unless you're Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins). Mostly, we sacrifice the bass and just sing for lead and strum the guitar (or pound on a piano) for rhythm.
The acoustic guitar is often the choice for rhythm players. Acoustic guitars have a richer consistent sound, and experienced musicians can really bring out expression in their music with an acoustic guitar. That being said, electric guitars can also be used for rhythm especially with the creative use of "effects pedals". Mainly, electric guitars are used for playing lead. From the mind wrenching wails of Jimi Hendrix' guitar, to the heart moving riffs of BB King's guitar - that is what the electric guitar has become synonymous with. Of course, acoustic guitars can also be used in playing lead, and is often seen in country-western style music.
There are numerous variations of guitars. One of the most popular is the twelve string guitar. As the name suggests, the 12 string guitar has 12 strings instead of the usual six. Each of the traditional strings is paired with a duplicate string, so it sounds as though two guitars are being played simultenously. Another popular variant is the archtop guitar, which is has a curved top piece (instead of the normal flattop as normal acoustic guitars have), and an f shaped sound hole (instead of the normal round sound hole seen in normal acoustic guitars). Archtop guitars have a distinctive tone and a louder sound than traditional acoustic guitars.
The Dobro guitar or Resonator guitar has a metal resonator cone instead of a sound hole, this produces a funky metallic tone often seen in country music. Some Dobro guitars have necks with a square cross section (square necks) and very large frets, these are played with the instrument flat on your lap, with a glass or metal slide and are often called Slide guitars. There are also acoustic and electric guitar variants with 7 strings instead of the usual six, called Seven string guitars. The next pages have more detailed information on Acoustic Guitar Parts and Electric Guitar Parts; followed by suggestions on choosing to learn on an Acoustic or Electric Guitar.
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