Acoustic Guitars Vs. Electric Guitars

Difference Between Acoustic Guitars And Electric Guitars

The acoustic guitar produces sound from the vibrations of the strings. The sound resonates in the body, or sound box, of the guitar and is amplified (made louder).

An acoustic guitar may have either nylon or steel strings depending on its design and purpose. A hardwood, such as rosewood, is used for the back and sides of the instrument. The top of the acoustic guitar is most commonly made of cedar or spruce, each wood giving the instrument a distinctive tone. The neck is joined to the body and is often made of a wood such as mahogany. The fingerboard is usually rosewood or ebony.

Nylon-string acoustics are used in classical and flamenco music. These classical, or Spanish, guitars may also be used in other styles and are prized for their rich, warm sound. The basic design of these guitars has remained almost unchanged from the design of Torres Jurado.

The Spanish guitarist AndrĂ©s Segovia is generally considered to be responsible for the re-emergence of classical guitar in the 1900’s. He established the guitar as a legitimate concert instrument. One of his innovations was the use of the fingernails in plucking the strings to enhance clarity and tone.

Steel-string acoustics are used in virtually all kinds of music except classical. There are two main forms of steel-string acoustics: flat-top and arch-top guitars. Both were developed in the United States during the late 1800’s.

The flat-top or folk guitar resembles its classical ancestor but has a slightly larger body and a narrower neck. Compared with the classical guitar, it produces greater volume and has a bright, ringing tone favored by folk singers. While there are many flat-top virtuosos, such as Tony Rice and Leo Kottke, the emphasis for this instrument tends to be on simple accompaniment to singing.

The second type of steel-string acoustic is the arch-top guitar. Its top, thicker than those of the classical and flat-top guitars, curves outward and has f-shaped sound holes. Arch-top guitars reached their peak of popularity in the jazz and big band music of the 1920’s and 1930’s. They were loud enough to project a clear, warm tone in ensembles. Freddie Greene, of the Count Basie Band, was considered by many to be the master of orchestral rhythm-section guitar playing.

Electric Guitars

The electric guitar was also developed in the United States, during the 1930’s. It uses a pickup to amplify the sound instead of a hollow sound box. The pickup works like a microphone. It converts the sound of the string into an electrical impulse and sends it to an amplifier. There the signal is strengthened and sent to the speaker, which emits the signal as sound.

Early electric guitars were simply acoustic guitars with pickups attached. This created amplification but also problems of unwanted vibrations and noise. These problems were solved by making the body of the guitar from one or more solid pieces of wood, usually around 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches (3.8 to 6.4 centimeters) thick.

Because the body is solid, it can be formed to any shape or size for purposes of comfort or visual appeal. Solid-body guitars have been made in a few traditional shapes, most notably the Les Paul shape, developed by recording artist Les Paul for the Gibson company, and the Stratocaster shape designed by Leo Fender.

Acoustic-electric guitars are still made today and have evolved into an instrument that brings the qualities of both types together. Some emphasize the acoustic characteristics while others favor the electrical qualities.

The electric guitar has great appeal due to its range of expressiveness and ease of playing. It is effective as a solo instrument as well as for accompaniment. Lighter gauge strings used on these instruments make them softer to the touch. Their slim body design also makes them comfortable to hold.

The electric guitar dominates the pop- and rock-music industry and has produced virtuosos comparable to those in the world of other styles of music. Early electric guitar pioneers in the field of rock music include Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton.

Electric guitars can also draw on a vast array of electronic devices, such as wa-wa and distortion pedals, to create effects impossible to achieve on acoustic instruments.


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