Seven Different Types of Guitars - Part 1

So you think you know what a guitar sounds like, huh? Did you know there are numerous different kinds of guitar, each with their own unique sound. Electric, acoustic, classical, 12-string, high-strung, dobro, and 7-string are some of the common ones, but there many more. In this article we'll take a look at the most common three types, and in part two we'll take a look at some of the others. So, let's find how these different guitars sound and what makes each guitar sound the way it does.

First, let's look at the campfire classic, the acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is instantly recognizable. Traditional acoustics (also called steel-string guitars because of the kind of strings they use) have a body made out of wood. The sound is produced from the vibration of the strings and the body acts like an echo chamber. The strings are held in place by pins in the bridge. You don't need an amplifier to be able to hear it, though some acoustics have electronics so that it can be amplified to be heard in large arenas (these are often called acoustic-electrics). The strings are made from steel, as well as bronze tightly wrapped around a steel core. Acoustics can be played either with your fingers or with a pick. Acoustics usually come with a pick guard in a tear drop shape to help protect the wood from wear and tear from the pick. Here's a couple examples of acoustics in action. First example is played fingerstyle and the second is strummed using a pick.

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Song:Hey There Delilah
Artists: Plain White T's
Album: All That We Needed
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Song: Elephant
Artists: Damien Rice
Album: 9 Lies
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Now let's look at the classical guitar. It looks very similar to an acoustic, so some people don't even realize it's actually a different kind of guitar. The main difference is the kind of strings the classical uses. Instead of steel strings, the classical guitars use two kinds of strings. The thinnest three are clear nylon stings (a kind of plastic) and the other three are nickel strings wound tightly around a threaded-nylon core. The classical guitar has a more delicate sound. It is a little more mellow due to the strings as well as a little quieter in volume. The strings are usually tied on instead of fastened using a bridge pin. Many people think it has a particularly spanish sound, so these are sometimes called spanish guitars. The head of the classical guitar is also a little different from an acoustic. You definitely would not want to put steel strings on a classical guitar, because the guitar is not made to be able to handle the kind of tension steel strings create. Eventually you would end of cracking the guitar, warping the wood or pulling the bridge up. Another difference is the way a classical is played. Traditionally, classical guitars are played with fingers only (though some guitarists break this rule). Because you normally don't use a pick, these guitars do not have a pick guard on them. You will also find a decorative circle with a Spanish influence around the sound hole, called a rosetta.

Now check some examples of a classical guitar in action. Notice it's smooth silky sound in action.

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Song: Unforgiven
Artists: Metallica
Album: Metallica (Black Album)
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Song: Leyenda
Artist: John Williams
Composer: Albeniz
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One quick way to tell a classical guitar apart from an acoustic is to look at the headstock. Take a look at the heads of these two guitars and you'll see an instant difference.

The third kind of guitar is the electric guitar. When you play an electric a few things are immediately noticeable. First is, an electric guitar to help produce its volume. But because an amplifier increases the volume, you can use much thinner strings. Also, By usis nearly inaudible unless you plug it into an amplifier. Second is that the strings are much thinner than the other kinds of guitars. The strings are thinner for two reasons. Acoustic and classical guitars rely partly on the string thicknessing thinner strings you can bend them much more easily, which gives electrics it's characteristic sound. Electrics are equipped with pickups under the strings which convert the string vibrations into an electric current using magnets. The size, number and shape of the pickups may differ on each electric, but the function is the same. You will also usually find a few different knobs on electric guitars for tweaking the tone and volume. The strings also use steel, but the wound strings use nick le plated copper instead of bronze. The electric guitar is usually played with a pick, though many players will use their fingers instead. A host of guitar effects are usually added to an electric guitar to change it's sound. The most common effect is distortion (or overdrive or fuzz) which gives the electric the characteristic crunchy rock sound. Playing without distortion is called playing "clean."

Here is an example of a clean electric sound.

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Song: In My Place
Artists: Coldplay
Album: A Rush Of Blood To The Head
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This song has both distortion and string bending, that are so characteristic of electric guitar playing

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Song: Meant To Live
Artists: Switchfoot
Album: The Beautiful Letdown
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That covers the acoustic, classical and electric guitars. So be sure to check out part two, where we'll take a look at some more exotic variations to the guitar.

Thanks to the Stock.Xchng for providing the guitar pictures!