Types of Guitars

There are three basic types of guitars: Acoustic, Classical and Electric. Each type has six strings, which in standard tuning are tuned from low to high as E, A, D, G, B, and E. Different pitches are produced by pressing down on the strings at different points on the neck. A guitar has “frets”, slightly raised metal bars that go across the neck, that indicate where to place your fingers to play each note.

Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is the type of guitar used in folk, country and “mellow” blues, jazz and popular music. Standard acoustic guitars use six steel strings that are picked or strummed. This type of guitar is often used to play chords to accompany singing or other musical instruments. On this type of guitar, and the classical guitar, when the strings vibrate, the sound resonates in its hollow body.

Classical Guitar

The classical guitar looks similar to the acoustic guitar, but has several important differences. Instead of using steel strings, the classical guitar uses nylon strings, which produce a softer sound. On a classical guitar, the body is smaller and the neck is wider than on an acoustic guitar, so it requires a bigger reach. A classical guitarist uses a footstool under one foot to raise the guitar to a comfortable playing position. Classical guitar repertoire includes early music originally written for lute and Spanish music, as well as other pieces that have been transcribed for guitar. It is played as a solo instrument, as well as in smaller classical music ensembles. Occasionally it is featured in orchestra concertos or opera pieces.

Electric Guitar

Electric guitars are used mainly in rock music, but also in some blues, jazz and pop music, where the guitar player often gets to play “lead”, a melody or solo part, in addition to playing chords. In contrast to acoustic and classical guitars, which have sound holes and hollow bodies, electric guitars have flat, solid bodies. When the strings vibrate, the signal is picked up by wire-wrapped magnets under each string. The signal is turned into an electric current, which travels through cables to an amplifier to make the sound audible. Controls on the guitar and amplifier adjust volume, tone and effects.

Which type of guitar should you choose?

Each type has a few benefits and a few downsides. It’s most important to choose the type of guitar that fits the type of music you want to play. Most beginners choose either acoustic, if they like that sound, or electric if they want to play rock. The acoustic is a bit harder at first for some beginners because the thicker strings are a little harder to press down. Beginning acoustic players soon develop small calluses on their fingertips and get used to this, though. The nylon strings on a classical guitar are easier to press down, but the wider neck can make it more difficult for those with smaller hands. An electric guitar is a little easier for a beginner to play, because the body and neck are smaller and the lighter strings are easier to press down. It does require an amplifier and cables, though, which increases the cost and complications. If you start on one type and want to take up another type later, it will be quite easy, as the notes and fingering are the same.

Two More Types of Guitars

12-String Guitar

The 12-String Guitar is an acoustic guitar that has each of the standard 6 strings doubled to make a fuller sound.

Electric Bass Guitar

The Electric Bass Guitar, also called the “electric bass” looks similar to an electric guitar, but only has four strings, which are tuned the same as an acoustic double bass. It is used to lay down a harmonic foundation and beat in rock and other pop styles.

Beginning Guitar

Guitar is a very popular first instrument.  It’s used in all types of music and we see and hear them everywhere.

Guitar can be a good starting instrument for kids because some manufacturers make small-sized guitars. Beginners can start in group classes, on-line programs or with private lessons. The Suzuki Method is available for guitar.

Beginning guitar students will usually learn to play chords by reading symbols. Music may be written out in standard notation or melody and patterns are sometimes written out using guitar tablature – which is like a diagram showing the six strings and indicating where to put your fingers on the guitar neck.

Guitar Sizes

It’s important to get a guitar that is the right size so that it is easy to hold and play. Some guitar manufacturers make smaller sized guitars that work well for kids approximately ages 5-10. A 1/2-sized guitar is about 30” and a 3/4-sized guitar is 34-36”. A guitar shop can help you choose the best size.