Choosing a guitar
When I first wanted to play the guitar, I had no idea that there are so many types of guitar available. Sure, I had heard about acoustic and electric guitars, but I just thought that electric guitars were for amplification only.
So I went and bought the first guitar I could afford, which was a second-hand classical guitar, with nylon strings. Later as I started to mix with other guitar players (all beginners at that stage) I became aware that there are so many types of guitar and mine was not suitable for all the songs I wanted to play.
So in this brief article, I will illustrate the main differences between guitars, to help beginners choose a guitar suitable for the style of music they wish to play. I will not recommend one brand over another, and by no means is this article to be taken as a full reference on this subject.
Acoustic guitars come in two styles; nylon strings and steel strings. Nylon string guitars are again divided into two styles; Classical and Flamenco. Although classical pieces can be played on a Flamenco guitar and vice versa, there are some subtle differences. Flamenco guitars have a slightly smaller body, constructed from lighter wood, and are fitted with a tapping plate called a Golpeador.
The tone of a Flamenco guitar is brighter and louder than that of its Classical cousin, as Classical guitars have a warmer and more mellow sound, with definitely no buzzing. Flamenco guitars tend to ‘buzz’ a bit due to the lower action (that is the distance between the strings and the fret board) of the strings. Flamenco guitars are also more expensive than classical guitars. Steel string guitars are normally referred to as Acoustic or Folk guitars. Steel string guitars are more versatile; they may be used for Folk, Country, Pop, Acoustic Rock, and even Blues and Jazz.
Besides having steel strings, these guitars have a narrower neck compared to nylon guitars and are also heavier in weight. I have seen people putting nylon strings on steel string guitars.
This is OK if you like that sort of sound, but definitely, don’t try the reverse, as steel strings on a Classical or Flamenco guitar will certainly damage the guitar.
All Acoustic guitars, steel and nylon strings, can be fitted with ‘pick-ups’ (microphones) that will amplify the tone of the guitar. The tone of an Acoustic guitar depends on the shape of the guitar body, and also the type of wood that it is constructed from. ‘Pick-ups’ work differently with electric guitars where the body shape and type of wood has nothing to do with the tone produced.
Electric guitars do not depend on their body shape or the material of construction to produce their sound. The sound is produced by the vibrating strings disturbing the magnetic field of the ‘pick-ups’. This then creates an electromagnetic signal that is amplified by the amplifier. This method of sound production explains why electric guitars can be manufactured in any shape imaginable. They are also heavier than acoustics due to their solid body.
The ‘pick-ups’ that are fitted to electric guitars come in two types; single-coil ‘pickups’ and ‘Humbuckers’. Single-coil ‘pick-ups’ produce clean sound; however they produce some humming noise near electrical items, or when using multiple effects. ‘Humbuckers’ are good ‘pickups’ for using with distortion and other guitar effects.
Electric guitars are easier to play because of their narrower, thinner necks and the lighter gauge strings, which are necessary for bending. Electric guitars cost more initially, and you have the added cost of an amplifier, and if desired, also the cost of effects units.
An electric guitar is a must for Hard Rock and Metal. They are also suitable for Rock, Blues and Jazz, but not for Classical or Flamenco music.
All Guitars, Acoustic and Electric, come in full size or 1/2 and 3/4 sizes for children and smaller- handed people.
Finally, if you have any questions about this topic please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
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