In this chapter we will look at the different types of guitars and their different sound characteristics.
There are hundreds of different models, brands and shapes of guitar, with
books totally devoted to this subject alone. This chapter is an overview, covering the
fundamentals for beginners who are perhaps looking at buying their first guitar.
1. Nylon String Guitar
Classical and Flamenco players use this hollow style of instrument, which it is usually picked
with the fingers. The nylon strings are soft and easier on the fingers which is encouraging for
beginners and they also have a very distinctive tone.
2. Six String Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic guitars are constructed to generate their own sound, whereas electric guitars use
electronics and amplification to project their sound.
Steel string guitars are louder then nylon string guitars and are used in more styles of music.
They’re harder on the fingers and can be strummed with a flat pick, but can also played with
bare fingers or finger-picks.
3. Twelve String Acoustic Guitar
The twelve string guitar has six pairs of strings which make them fuller and more resonant
than six-string instruments. They produce a rich, ringing tone, and are somewhat louder
than a standard six-string. Typically, the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd strings are tuned in octaves,
with the 2nd and 1st stings being tuned in unisons. The neck is wider to accommodate the
extra strings, and is similar to the width of a classical guitar neck.
4. Solid Body Electric
Electric guitars were invented to overcome the problems of feedback and be able to compete with the volume of a band. They tend to have thinner strings so are easier to bend and play lead guitar. Unlike acoustic guitars which have a hollow body, electric guitars are solid and therefore weigh more. The sound comes from the pickups (which are essentially microphones that are used to collect the sound). Electric guitars have very little sound when not plugged into a guitar amplifier.
5. Acoustic Electric with Cutaway
These are basically acoustic guitars with a pickup source installed so they can be plugged in and amplified. They enable an acoustic guitar to be heard above the sound of drums and other louder instruments, which is very useful on stage. The term “cutaway” refers to a section of the body has been cut out to allow easier access further up the neck.
6. Jazz Guitar
Depending on the thickness of the body these guitars produce a more audible sound un-plugged. The pickups simply add volume to the acoustic sound. Played mainly by jazz and blues artists they tend to have a warmer tone.
7. Resonator Guitar
Often played using a slide, or “bottleneck” in Country and Blues music these guitars come equipped with a resonator which acts as a loud speaker, making them louder than plain acoustic guitars.
8. Bass Guitar
The bass guitar is similar to an electric guitar but with a longer neck and scale length. It traditionally comes with 4 strings tuned an octave lower then the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd strings of a guitar. Like the electric guitar, the bass guitar has pickups and it is plugged into an amplifier and speaker for live performances. The bass usually anchors the harmonic framework of a tune and establishes the beat alongside the drums.
9. Lap Steel Guitar
The lap steel guitar is typically placed on the player’s lap and changes pitch by gliding a metal or glass bar against the strings. Like the resonator guitar they are associated closely with Hawaiian music, country music and bluegrass, but have consistently crossed genres.