Is The Guitar A String Or Percussion Instrument? 

The guitar is a remarkable instrument! It has captivated the hearts and minds of people worldwide. From its role in classical music to its significance in rock and metal. It includes a wide variety of musical possibilities. But have you ever stopped to think about what kind of instrument it is? Is the guitar a string or percussion instrument?

The guitar is a stringed instrument. This is because it produces sound through the vibration of strings. The sound produced by plucking or strumming these strings is then amplified by the guitar’s body. It also shares characteristics with others string instruments like the violin and cello.

Whether you are a seasoned musician or a beginner. This article will provide insight into the inner workings of this iconic instrument.

What Is A String Instrument?

What is a musical instrument that produces sound through the vibration of strings? Well, this would be called a string instrument. They can be classified into several categories. They include bowed, plucked, and hammered.

String Instrument StyleExamplesDescription
BowedViolin and CelloThey produce sound by drawing a bow across the strings.
PluckedGuitar and UkuleleThey make sounds by plucking or strumming the strings with fingers or a pick. 
HammeredPiano and HarpTheir tone is made by striking the strings with hammers or other instruments.

Strings are typically made of materials such as gut, metal, or plastic. They are stretched across a frame or body to create a specific pitch when they are plucked or strummed.

Common examples of string instruments include the violin, cello, guitar, ukulele, and banjo. There are many different musical styles that use these instruments. They include jazz, rock, metal, folk, and classical music.

String instruments are often played solo or in groups. They can be found in orchestras, bands, and other musical ensembles. Every instrument has its own distinct qualities and techniques. However, they all have the ability to produce sound by causing the strings to vibrate.

Is The Guitar A String Or Percussion Instrument? 

The guitar is a stringed instrument. This is due to the fact that it makes sound by vibrating strings. A guitarist uses their fingers or a pick to pluck or strum the guitar’s strings. When this is done, a pitch is heard depending on the characteristics of the string.

The musician plays notes by pressing down on the strings at specific points on the fretboard. This is the cause of the different pitches. The sound is then amplified by the body of the instrument, which is typically made of wood.

The sound of the guitar is distinctive for a variety of reasons. The tone is influenced by the type of strings used and their thickness. The body plays a significant role in determining tone, as does string tuning.

There are different materials and shapes which can produce many tones. The sound is also influenced by the way the musician plays the guitar. This includes the techniques used.

Overall, it’s a versatile instrument that can produce a wide range of sounds. The bright, twangy tone of a hollow-bodied electric guitar is one of them. The warm, mellow tone of an acoustic guitar is another.

But the guitar has the ability to fit into many different musical styles and genres. This is possible thanks to the many different types which can include, 6, 7, and even 12 strings.

Stringed Instrument.

History of The Guitar

The guitar has a long and storied history! With its roots dating back to ancient civilizations. The earliest known string instruments are believed to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia. Well over 4,000 years ago. These instruments, known as harps, were likely played with the fingers or a plectrum made of bone or metal.

The modern guitar can trace its ancestry back to the lute. This is a stringed instrument that was popular in medieval Europe and the Middle East. The lute, which was played with a plectrum, had a pear-shaped body and a long neck with frets, much like a modern guitar.

The guitar has changed and evolved over time, taking on many distinct forms. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the guitar began to be associated with percussion. It was frequently used as a rhythmic accompaniment in popular music genres. This includes, but is not limited to, jazz and blues.

Even now, guitarists still incorporate percussive elements in their technique. Many players use a variety of methods to produce percussive sounds. Because of this, some people might question the type of instrument it has become.

Percussive Hand Drum.

Characteristics of Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments produce sound through the use of non-vibrating objects. This includes sticks, mallets, or hands used to strike, scrape, or shake a surface or object. Percussion instruments are typically classified as non-pitched.

Like a string or wind instrument, they cannot produce a certain pitch or melody.
Instead, they are intended to give music a rhythm or to provide color and texture.
Drums, cymbals, maracas, tambourines, and triangles are some common percussion instruments.

Numerous musical genres commonly incorporate percussion instruments. This consists of pop, rock, metal, jazz, and classical music.

Does the Guitar Have Percussive Elements?

Yes, it does! The guitar’s percussive elements are unlocked by hitting or plucking motions. This is done on the body or the strings of the guitar to create a rhythmic effect. These methods can give the music additional layers of complexity and texture.

They can be used in both lead and rhythmic playing. On the guitar, percussive methods including slapping, tapping, and palm muting are employed.

  • Slapping is used on electric guitars more often. It involves striking the strings with the side of the thumb. Sometimes even the edge of the hand which creating a percussive sound. This technique is often used in funk and fusion styles of music.
  • Tapping is an interesting technique. It involves using the fingers or a pick to repeatedly strike the strings in a specific pattern. This often creates a fast and intricate melody. This technique requires a high level of skill and coordination and is often used in rock and metal music.
  • Palm muting involves pressing down on the strings with the palm of the hand while playing. This creates a muted, dampened sound. This technique can be used to add a percussive element to the music. It can be varied in intensity to create different feels.

Overall, the percussion elements of the guitar add complexity to the music. You can use them in a variety of musical styles.

6 Tips For Playing Guitar With Percussive Elements

Playing the guitar with percussive elements can add depth to your music. Here are a few tips for incorporating percussive techniques into your guitar playing:

  1. Use your fingers to play the strings. Rather than using a pick, try your fingers to pluck or strum the strings. This allows you to add more percussive elements to your playing. Such as adding accents or ghost notes by tapping the strings with your fingers.
  2. Experiment with alternate picking techniques. Alternate picking involves changing between upstrokes and downstrokes. However, you can also use alternate picking techniques with your fingers. This is done by using different fingers to pluck the strings in a rapid, alternating pattern.
  3. Explore different strumming patterns. In addition to traditional strumming patterns, try incorporating percussive elements. This is done by using a mixture of upstrokes and downstrokes. Or by using your fingers to tap or slap the strings.
  4. Use the body of the guitar as a percussion instrument. You can add percussive elements to your playing by tapping, slapping, or muting the body of the guitar. This can be done with your hands or other objects.
  5. Experiment with different tunings. Changing the tuning of your guitar can open up new possibilities. This is great for incorporating percussive elements into your playing. Using an open tuning allows you to play percussive rhythms. By strumming across the strings, you can do some creative things. And all without fretting any notes.
  6. Use palm muting. This involves resting the palm of your strumming hand on the strings near the bridge of the guitar. This results in a muted, percussive sound. It’s a technique that is often used in genres such as rock and metal to create a heavier, more aggressive sound. 

Experiment with ways to use the guitar as a string instrument. But with percussive elements. This has the potential to produce some great sounds and add new techniques to your unique tone.


It’s amazing how versatile the guitar is! It has numerous features and can be used as a percussion or string instrument. The widespread use can be attributed to its versatility for different sounds.
Do you consider the guitar to be a percussion or string instrument? Whatever the case, there is no doubting its capacity to produce stunning and emotional music.

Photo of author

Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!