Main Guitar Types

My youngest daughter has started going to guitar lessons this last week. Yayyy! Another guitarist in our family!

For her and her friends, I would like to give here a short introduction to guitars:

Guitars are probably the most popular musical instrument in the Western world today, used for all music genres. I cannot imagine Pop music, Country music, and Jazz without them! And of course Latin music, Flamenco, Rock, Heavy Metal… They all use guitars. I have also heard guitars playing Classical Music, an more.

Of the various types of guitars, I would like to speak here about 4 basic types, each of which is ideally played for specific genre of music, or specific classes of sounds. These four types are:

  1. The acoustic guitar.
  2. The electric guitar.
  3. The bass guitar.
  4. The twelve string guitar.


1. The Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is thought to be the most “basic”. It’s origins go back over 5000 years ago, to guitar-like musical instruments. New players will normally start their career with these guitars, and move on to the electric guitar, and then to the bass or the twelve string guitar. Acoustic guitars are the most common, and thus also often the cheapest. Country music and Jazz will often be played on acoustic guitars.

The most common sub-types of acoustic guitar classes would be the steel stringed and the classic guitars. The steel stringed are defined to have one sound hole and narrow necks, and use metal strings. Classical have a very similar appearance to the steel stringed, but have much wider necks and are stringed with nylon strings.

2. The Electric Guitar

Teen agers learning to play the guitar will often want to get their first electric guitar after a year or two of playing the acoustic guitar. Electric guitars have a more “cool” appeal, and are used for Rock, Hip-Hop and other genres identified more with the younger generation.

Electric guitars are guitars which use pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into an electric current, and require an amplifier for them to be heard. Other types of guitars, like acoustic guitars, could work with or without amplifiers. The electric guitars may come with hollow bodies, semi-solid bodies, or fully solid bodies, each type having its specific sounds and set of advantages. Special sound effects could be made with electric guitars, like distortions, and are often used in heavy metal music.

3. The Bass Guitar

The bass guitar, also called the electric bass guitar, is an electric guitar in the sense it uses a pickup and requires and amplifier. It appeared sometime around the begining of the 20th century, and replaced the double bass guitar which is a big and curmbersome instrument. It is similar in appearance to the electric guitar, but has a longer neck and scale length, and produces lower scale notes. It is used in Rock, Regai, Punk and other genres.

The bass guitar will usually have only four strings which are tuned the same as the double bass (or the mandoline). Some bass guitars will have additional strings, making them have in total 5 or 6 strings (and rarely even more – sometimes strung in pairs), with the main ones being tuned as in the double bass. Bass guitars are often made fretless, making it more difficult for the novice player.

4. The twelve string guitar

In the twelve string guitar each regular guitar string is replaced by a pair, giving it a richer sound.  Note the twelve string guitar is not the same as the double neck guitar, which will also have 12 strings, but not in pairs. Normally the strings in the 2 higher pairs would be tuned in unison, while in the 4 lower-note pairs the second string will be tuned one octave higher than the first.



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