Learn Guitar

Learn Guitar – Information about types, parts and history

This article is first in the series to learn Guitar, as part of various Music Courses in Karama offered by Mindbuilder Training Center. It provides basic guitar information and introduces the beginners to the various parts of guitars and main types of guitars in general. In subsequent articles, we shall discuss, individual types of guitars in detail in terms of construction and playing.

Introduction to Guitar

A guitar is defined as a musical instrument with frets and with six strings in majority of the cases. Frets are the thin strips of metal located at intervals that are increments of half steps on scale of 12 tones. Frets are provided on the neck of the guitar and usually cover the full width of the neck. Board where frets are placed is known as the Fret board or Fingerboard.

Parts of Guitars

You are required to use Both hands to play the guitar. With one hand you can pluck the strings by either with your finger or fingernails or by using what is known as guitar pick. At the same time, with the fingers of the other hand you have to press the strings against the frets, also known as fretting.

The three main parts of Guitar are body, neck and head. The strings get anchored or terminated to the body of the guitar at a part which is called as bridge. The sound produced by the vibrating strings is transferred by the bridge to guitar body and hollow chamber that results in the sound output of the instrument. This process is referred to as projection. In case of electric guitar, an amplifier and speaker is used for the process.

The guitar falls into a category of musical instruments known as chordophone where vibrating strings connected between fixed points and in stretched condition produce sound. Other examples being Banjo, Piano, Sitar Violin etc.

Brief History of Guitar

History of guitar can be traced back to about 4000 years ago. Following are the versions which preceded and were responsible for its development to present shape.

  • Gittern
  • Vihuela
  • Four course Renaissance Guitar
  • Five Course Baroque Guitar

Types of Guitars

There are three main types of guitars as shown below:

  • Classical guitars having nylon strings
  • Acoustic guitars with steel strings
  • Electric guitars having magnetic pickups

These three types have many variations. In addition to these main types, there are also other types such as bass guitars, resonator guitars, 12-string, Seven-string and eight-string

Guitars for different types of music.

The use of different type of guitars is also related to the type of music you like or want to play:

  • Classical, Flamenco or bossa novas - Nylon string guitar.
  • Folk or country picking - Steel string.
  • Jazz - Hollow body electric.
  • Rock & roll or blues - Solid body electric

It is usually recommended to start with is a nylon string guitar because it’s having the wider fingerboard with more room and its soft string allows you to learn to have a better string control.

Brief Description of main types of Guitars

The main features of different types of guitars is summarized below. The main types of guitars shall be dealt in detail on separate pages.

Classical Guitar – Also known as the Spanish Guitars.

  • Having Nylon strings, plucking done by fingers and played in sitting position
  • Used for variety of styles including classical
  • Has a wide and flat neck portion enabling you to play scales and certain forms without much interference form adjacent strings as compared to other forms of guitar.
Classical Guitar

Acoustic Guitars or Steel String Guitars

  • Steel strung to have bright and loud sound.
  • Most Common type is Flat top guitar and specialized versions are arch-top guitars and other variations.
  • Standard tuning is from low to high (E-A-D-G-B-E).
  • Use of different woods, different constructional elements such as type of bracing affect the tone of the instrument. Also, there are many variations in size, depth and proportions.
  • The larger the body, the louder the volume.
Acoustic Guitars
  • Required to be plugged into amplifier and has a metallic sound with a lengthier decay period.
  • Two types – Solid body guitars and archtop with hollow body.
  • No requirement of acoustic chamber, hence available in contoured and thin body designs.
  • Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul are the two of the most popular designs.

Other types of Guitars

Bass Guitars

  • Hollow wooden body which is similar to acoustic 5 string guitar in construction but larger in size.
  • Has four strings that are generally tuned E-A-D-G.
  • In rare cases, comes with 5 or 6 strings to have wider range of notes with lesser up / down movement on the neck.

Resonator Guitars

  • All three types invented by John Dopyera. Purpose was to produce large sound. Hence largely superseded by Electric guitars, but still used due to its distinctive tones.
  • Appearance is similar to flattop guitar, but body can be made from brass, steel, nickel silver or even wood.
  • One of more Aluminium resonator cones are mounted to produce sound making the principle similar to loudspeaker.
  • Available as either round neck or square neck.

Twelve string Guitar

  • Usually with steel strings.
  • Has wide usage in folk, blues and Rock & Roll.
  • Six courses are made up of two strings each similar to lute or mandolin. Highest two courses have to be tuned in unison while others in octaves.
  • Also made in electric form.

Eight String and Seven String Guitar

  • In 1980s and 1990s, seven string guitars with solid body became popular.
  • Some artists went a step further and used an eight string guitar which had two extra low strings.