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Basic Guitar Types Explained

By: Pat Newsome

To the uninitiated, a guitar might just seem like a guitar.  Sure, you're aware of the difference between an electric and a non-electric, or acoustic.  Beyond this basic distinction, however, there are many differences in guitars.  For instance, classical guitarists use a different style of guitar than do country or rock musicians.  Jazz musicians sometimes choose a different type from the country musicians.  Further complicating matters is the fact that electric guitars can have a solid or a hollow body.

A classical guitar has nylon strings, a wide fret board, and usually lacks a pick guard.  Often the strings wind up in an opening in the headstock rather than on tuning pegs.  Traditionally, a classical guitar is played balanced on the left knee and held with the neck angled up.  They don't have to be played like this, however.  The nylon strings make plucking strings easier on the fingers, and the wide fingerboard makes it easier to find the spot you want to place your finger.

Similar to a classical guitar is a flamenco guitar, which is designed for this uniquely Spanish style of music.  Classical and flamenco guitars are smaller than the big dreadnoughts used in country music.

The basic style of large six string guitar used in country and other styles of music is called a dreadnought.  Even larger guitars are called jumbos and often have a more curvy rounded look.  Basic acoustic guitars also come in smaller sizes.  Small guitars designed for children are sometimes called 1/2 or 3/4 guitars to indicate their size.  Travel and back-packer guitars are other small sized innovations.

The term "cutaway" refers to guitars that have part of the body cut away where the neck joins the body so that the guitarist can reach the higher frets more easily.  These guitars are often not as thick as the dreadnought, and may not be as large either.  They sometimes are equipped to be amplified.  The smaller size makes them a little easier to handle, but they lose some of the big deep sound of the dreadnought.

Jazz guitarists sometimes like to play an arch top guitar with f-holes.  These usually have the cutaway section on the body, and are usually thinner than the other acoustics.  Some are equipped for amplification.

Solid body electric guitars come in a variety of shapes that lend themselves to different styles of music.  Hollow body electrics often have the f shaped holes of the jazz arch top guitars.  Electric guitars feature knobs for volume and tone.

Guitars can also vary according to how many strings they have.  Six string models are by far the most common, but there are also seven string guitars made.  This guitar features a pair of G strings, with one tuned an octave higher than the other.  This gives the guitar a real ring to its sound.  Another more common variation in string number is the twelve string, which duplicates all the strings, with the lower four pairs differing by an octave




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