Are you in the market for a new guitar? You may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available! There are many different types of guitars to choose from, each tailored to a specific kind of music or style. Some guitars are more versatile, making them suitable for a wide range of genres.
The 3 basic types of guitars are acoustic, electric, and bass. These are the guitar types that most people will recognize and are ideal for new players due to the wealth of resources available for learning and support.
In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to the different types of guitars, incorporating some key terms to help you make an informed decision.
Acoustic guitars produce sound through the vibration of their strings, amplified by the hollow body of the instrument. The tone and volume of these guitars can vary depending on their size, the type of wood used (such as mahogany or rosewood), and other factors.
Acoustics are popular for their natural, warm tone and versatility, making them suitable for a vast array of musical styles like pop music, bluegrass, and contemporary genres. Most acoustic guitars have six strings, but 12-string versions are also available, offering a unique sound and appeal.
Classical, or nylon-string guitars, are deeply rooted in tradition. They have been a significant part of various cultures for centuries. At the turn of the century, the classical guitar was incredibly popular in Spain. They are typically used for classical, flamenco, and mariachi music, among other styles.
One of the defining features of classical guitars is their use of nylon strings. These strings are responsible for the softer, warmer, and quieter sound that distinguishes them from steel-string guitars. The nylon strings also contribute to a more comfortable playing experience. Particularly for fingerstyle techniques and intricate flamenco patterns.
Classical guitars are designed with wider fretboards and flatter neck profiles. Making them more suitable for precise finger movements and complex chord shapes. This design further enhances their suitability for traditional and culturally-rich music styles.
In terms of construction, classical guitars are generally lighter and have smaller bodies than their steel-string counterparts. This is because they don’t require the same level of string tension, which would otherwise result in damage to the instrument.
Despite their smaller size, classical guitars still produce a rich and resonant sound. All thanks to the unique combination of nylon strings and carefully crafted bodies.
Related Article: Acoustic Vs Classical Guitar.
Steel-string acoustic guitars are a popular choice among musicians of various genres, thanks to their vibrant sound and versatility. They produce a brighter and louder sound compared to classical guitars, making them ideal for both fingerpicking and strumming techniques.
Often favored by singer-songwriters, steel-string acoustic guitars are suitable for beginners and experienced players alike. They feature a structurally sound body designed to handle the increased tension of steel strings, which contributes to a more rigid resonance chamber and improved projection.
These guitars come in a variety of sizes and shapes to cater to different playing styles and preferences. The six most popular body styles include:
When choosing a steel-string acoustic guitar, it’s essential to consider the body size that best suits your needs. Some players may find larger guitars challenging to handle.
While others may prefer the fuller sound and projection they offer. Ultimately, selecting the right size will ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable playing experience.
The wood material the top is made from is also worth considering. Materials like mahogany and spruce are common but offer different tones.
Further reading: Can the guitar also be a percussive instrument?
These guitars are popular among jazz musicians and have a curved top. This enhances their projection and tone. They often have f-holes on their soundboard, similar to violins.
The archtop guitar is another type of semi-acoustic or hollow body. This design features a wider body because the guitar has an arched top. It sticks out further as a result.
Some versions have both an arched top and back. This makes them exceptionally wide and has a broad, deep sound. The f-holes in the body project the sound, adding to the resonance. These guitars are also popular for modern jazz and rockabilly.
Resonator guitars are unique acoustics that feature a metal cone to amplify the vibrations from the strings through the bridge. While these guitars have sound holes, they don’t primarily contribute to the volume as they do in standard acoustics.
Instead, it’s the metal cone that gives them their distinctively loud and resonant sound. Making them well-suited to compete with the volume of brass instruments.
Initially designed for big band jazz ensembles, resonator guitars have since found their place in a variety of musical genres. These include blues, folk, and bluegrass. As well as certain country bands that desire a specific sound. Their versatility and distinctive tonal qualities have made resonator guitars a popular choice for musicians seeking a unique and powerful instrument.
Electric guitars employ magnetic pickups, which necessitate additional components. These pickups transform the string vibrations into electrical signals that are subsequently amplified by a guitar amplifier. Electric guitars are celebrated for their versatility and ability to generate a diverse array of sounds and effects. This makes them a favorite among many guitarists.
In addition to the standard 6-string models, electric guitars are available with 7, 8, and 9 strings. Offering an extended range of notes and catering to different guitar tunings. These extended-range guitars are particularly popular among progressive rock, metal, and experimental musicians.
Players who seek unconventional and complex tunings. The vast range of options and configurations available for electric guitars further contributes to their popularity and adaptability across various musical genres.
Solid body electric guitars are the most prevalent type and feature a solid wood construction, which bolsters their sustain and tone. These guitars cater to a wide variety of musical genres, encompassing rock, metal, jazz, and blues.
The sonic possibilities offered by solid-body electric guitars are virtually limitless! When paired with various effects and amplifiers with equalization options, the range of sounds achievable is astounding. Iconic solid-body guitars such as the Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul have become synonymous with the instrument.
Inherently, solid-body guitars do not produce a significant volume on their own. Thus, an amplifier is typically necessary to attain the optimal sound and volume.
Unlike acoustic guitars, the solid wood body of electrics cannot project sound efficiently. However, the incorporation of pickups and electronics, including switches, provide solid body guitars with unparalleled versatility.
Hollow Body Guitars Featuring a fully hollow body, these guitars are favored by jazz and blues musicians due to their warm and rich sound. They also employ pickups, solidifying their place in the electric guitar category. However, one drawback is their susceptibility to feedback at high volume levels.
Semi-Hollow Body Guitars
As an alternative, semi-hollow guitars combine a hollow body with a solid wood block running down the center. This design reduces feedback and improves sustain, making them suitable for various musical styles, including jazz, blues, and rockabilly.
The bass guitar is a prominent instrument featured in numerous musical genres. Commonly found in 4-string models, bass guitars also come in various shapes and sizes to cater to different preferences.
Bass guitar strings are notably thicker and more widely spaced apart, enabling the instrument to produce lower frequencies. This characteristic is particularly important when playing alongside other instruments within an ensemble.
The scale length of a bass guitar typically ranges between 30 and 36 inches, resulting in highly tensioned strings. Consequently, a certain level of finger strength is necessary to fret notes accurately. With regular practice, mastering the bass guitar becomes more accessible, and accuracy improves over time.
The intended use of a bass differs significantly from that of electric or acoustic guitars. Bass guitars may not be the ideal choice for those interested in playing lead lines or solos. But they are perfect for musicians who appreciate rhythm and groove.
To achieve the best sound and volume, it’s essential to use a bass amplifier. These amplifiers are specifically designed to handle the lower frequencies produced by bass guitars, ensuring optimal performance and sound quality.
Other Types of Guitars
In addition to acoustic, electric, and bass guitars, there are several other types. These are also used in various musical genres. These guitars have their unique features and playing characteristics. It makes them suitable for different playing styles and preferences.
- 12-String Guitars. These guitars have six pairs of strings, which produces a full and rich sound. They have a wider fingerboard as a result of the extra strings. They are commonly used in folk, rock, and country music.
- Travel Guitars. Travel guitars are smaller than standard models and are designed for easy transport. They are popular among travelers and musicians who need a compact instrument to take on the go.
- Baritone. A baritone has a longer scale length and is designed to play lower notes than standard guitars. They have a deeper, yet bold tone. This type of guitar is commonly used in jazz, blues, and rock music.
- Lap Steel. The lap steel is truly not like these other types of guitars. Also known as Hawaiian, the lap steel guitar is played much as the name implies. In your lap!
- Piccolo Guitar: This is a miniature version of a full sized guitar with steel strings tuned up a fourth. The word piccolo is Italian for little, which is exactly what it is.
What is the most common type of guitar?
The electric guitar is the most common type and is seen more than most others. It’s also highly sought after! Mainly because it’s incredibly adaptable and can produce a variety of tones. There are also many variations available for different music styles.
Guitar manufacturers sell thousands of this type every year, making it quite common. It’s also great for beginners to start with because they are easy to play.
Which guitar type is best?
When selecting a guitar type, choose the one that will play your favorite music. Some people may suggest trying certain kinds because they are easier to play. But this will only lead you to become bored down the road. And it’s very important to select the one that will excite you to play it.
This will be the guitar used in your favorite music. The one that made you consider the instrument in the first place. Even though it might be harder to play, it will be the one that keeps you motivated. And it’s all about the enjoyment of the hobby in the end.