Acoustic Guitars – Variations On A Theme

Author: classic-guitars  //  Category: Instruments - Guitars
Ricky Sharples posted:

An acoustic guitar does not have any electronic means of producing its sound. The music that comes out of it is a matter between the guitar and its player. Actually, once upon a time, all guitars were acoustic. Nowadays they need to be distinguished from electric guitars and acoustic guitars that have pickups in them to provide electronic means of amplification.

To the beginner guitar player it could be a surprise that there is an enormous range of sizes, shapes and materials in acoustic guitars. To most acoustic guitar players who only play popular music, the main distinction is between nylon string and steel string acoustic guitars. Within the classification of acoustic guitars there’s the Baroque guitar, the classical guitar, the Renaissance guitar, the archtop guitar, the flamenco guitar and the twelve string guitar.

The classical guitar is the basic model for the acoustic guitar. Even though steel string acoustic guitars have been developed with a cutaway body to help the guitarist reach the high notes, the classical guitar retains the standard shape which was more or less decided upon a couple of hundred years ago. Classical guitar players use their fingers to pluck and strum the strings, growing the nails on their right hands slightly longer than the nails on the left hand. Although it’s called a classical guitar, many guitarists from many genres have been seduced by the tone of the nylon string guitar. As a result you can find the nylon string sound in jazz, pop, folk or even blues music.

The flamenco guitar looks similar to a classical guitar but is lighter in color and weight. The flamenco guitar is traditionally much brighter in sound than the classical guitar even though in recent years many flamenco guitarists have been playing instruments with a more mellow sound similar to the classical guitar. A distinguishing characteristic of the flamenco guitar is the tapping plate which is a piece of white or transparent plastic attached to the body of the guitar just below the sound hole. You will sometimes find flamenco guitars that are fitted with wooden tuning pegs instead of machine heads. All guitars had these kind of tuning pegs once but now they are only retained because some flamenco guitarists prefers them because they keep the weight of the guitar to a minimum.

The twelve string guitar has six courses of strings, and it produces a much more complex sound than the six string. The twelve string guitar is made for strumming rather than picking or plucking because the individual courses do not easily lend themselves to single note playing. The twelve string has proved to be very attractive for guitarists who enjoyed experimenting with open tunings. Back in the 70s the image of Jimmy Page playing his double neck guitar was a rock ‘n roll icon. One neck was fitted with twelve strings which allowed him to move between six and twelve string guitar for different effects.

Efforts to make the guitar heard above other instruments in jazz bands of the early twentieth century resulted not only in the production of the electric guitar, but also the resonator guitar. In the resonator guitar the sound is produced by metal cones instead of by the wooden body of the guitar. The resonator did not help much with amplification but its distinctive sound has made it a favorite with bluegrass and blues players.

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