The Wonderful World of Guitars

Guitars are instruments of beauty, style and finesse. They are found in almost every type of western music and close relatives of it are found in eastern music. Whatever shape, size, string number a guitar has you can always categorize them into one of three groups. You are either holding an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, or an electro-acoustic guitar.


Acoustic guitars are identifiable by the soundhole they have. 90% of them have round holes about halfway down the body, the other 8% have narrower oval holes and the remaining 1% has a special or novelty style. Sound is produced by the vibration of the nylon strings which are amplified by the hollow body. The sound is whole, fluid and natural. The wood ha an exceptional role in the sound quality, it even makes a difference if the neck is made from a different wood. Rosewood is frequently used for necks (as with all guitars) and WOOD TYPES are used for the bodies.


Electric guitars are, I think, familiar to everyone. They show great variation in shapes stretching from the classic Fender Stratocaster to the dramatic B.C. Rich line of guitars. These guitars have no sound hole, sound is produced with the help of electromagnetism. Remember in physics class that if you move a metal in specific ways in a magnetic field it produces electricity? Well that's sort of the way it works here. The pickups, found round-about the place the soundhole would be, are coils of electromagnets that pick up the vibration of the steel strings and turn them into sound waves. These guitars have to be used in conjunction with some sort of amp because of the sound formation style and many other accessories are available, such as effect pedals, sound mastering hardware, etc. Effects pedals are the  little devices that enable guitarists to play screaming solos, use wah-wah effects or to achieve some new age sounds.


Electro-acoustic guitars are a compromise between naturally audible guitars and electric ones. They have a soundhole and pickups too. Usually the tonal quality can be enriched by the pickups and great variation can be achieved with enough patience and work. These guitars are great for live performances because they can produce the special sound only electric guitars can but also have a mellow, acoustic tonal quality.


Additional types of guitars can be found, just one example is the popular 12 stringed guitar. This guitar has a wider sound, it really is a 6 string guitar with octave strings. Playing it doesn't require much more practice than any normal guitar, although it requires some extra strength and dexterity. Jimmy Page used a 12 string a lot as I recall, he plays Stairway to heaven live with one.

Dobro guitars are very popular in blues, jazz and country. They give twangy sounds and are played mostly with glass slides. This enables players to slide up and down the strings creating organic slides and bends. Chris Rea uses a Dobro in Road to Hell, perhaps everyone now knows what I'm talking about.

Double neck guitars look a bit weird and although may not suit everyone's taste they are handy on stage. They combine two guitars, a 6 string and a 12 string perhaps. This way a musician can play either one, switching instantaneously.

Any amount of specialty can be added to these instruments. I have seen 4 necked guitars, 7 stringed, 13 stringed, etc. Many string types come from classical musicians who are always trying new configurations to play classical music.
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