About The Guitar

Here are some facts and things to know about the guitar!

Guitar

An electric guitar is a type of guitar that uses pickups to convert the vibration of its steel-cored strings into an electrical current, which is made louder with an instrument amplifier and a speaker. The signal that comes from the guitar is sometimes electronically altered with guitar effects such as reverb or distortion. While most electric guitars have six strings, seven-string instruments are used by some jazz guitarists and metal guitarists (especially in nu metal),[1] and 12-string electric guitars (with six pairs of strings, four of which are tuned in octaves) are used in genres such as jangle pop and rock.

The electric guitar was first used by jazz guitarists, who used amplified hollow-bodied instruments to get a louder sound in Swing-era big bands. The earliest electric guitars were hollow bodied acoustic instruments with tungsten pickups made by the “Rickenbacker” company in 1931. While one of the first solid-body guitars was invented by Les Paul, the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar was the Fender Esquire (1950). The electric guitar was a key instrument in the development of many musical styles that emerged since the late 1940s, such as Chicago blues, early rock and roll and rockabilly, and 1960s blues rock. It is also used in a range of other genres, including country music, ambient (or “new-age“), and in some contemporary classical music.

The guitar is a musical instrument with ancient roots that is used in a wide variety of musical styles. It typically has six strings, but four, seven, eight, ten and twelve string guitars also exist.

Guitars are recognized as one of the primary instruments in blues, country, flamenco, rock music, and many forms of pop. They can also be a solo classical instrument. Guitars may be played acoustically, where the tone is produced by vibration of the strings and modulated by the hollow body, or they may rely on an amplifier that can electronically manipulate tone. Such electric guitars were introduced in the 20th century and continue to have a profound influence on popular culture.

Traditionally guitars have usually been constructed of combinations of various woods and strung with animal gut, or more recently, with either nylon or steel strings.

History

The need for an amplified guitar became apparent during the big band era, as jazz orchestras of the 1930s and 1940s increased in size, with larger brass sections. Initially, electric guitars used in jazz consisted primarily of hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies to which electromagnetic transducers had been attached.

Early years

Sketch of Rickenbacker “frying pan” lap steel from 1934 patent application.

Electric guitars were originally designed by an assortment of luthiers, guitar makers, electronics enthusiasts, and instrument manufacturers. Guitar innovator Les Paul experimented with microphones attached to guitars.[2] Some of the earliest electric guitars adapted hollow bodied acoustic instruments and used tungsten pickups. This type of guitar was manufactured beginning in 1932 by Electro String Instrument Corporation in Los Santos under the direction of Adolph Rickenbacher and George Beauchamp. Their first design was built by Harry Watson, a craftsman who worked for the Electro String Company. This new guitar which the company called “Rickenbacker” would be the first of its kind.[3]

The earliest documented performance with an electrically amplified guitar was in 1932, by guitarist and bandleader Gage Brewer. The Wichita, Kansas-based musician had obtained two guitars, an Electric Hawaiian A-25 (Fry-pan, lap-steel) and a standard Electric Spanish from his friend George Beauchamp of Los Angeles, California. Brewer publicized his new instruments in an article in the Wichita Beacon, October 2, 1932 and through performances that month.

The first recordings using the electric guitar were made by Hawaiian Style players such as Andy Iona as early as 1933. Bob Dunn of Milton Brown’s Musical Brownies introduced the electric Hawaiian guitar to Western Swing with his January 1935 Decca recordings, departing almost entirely from Hawaiian musical influence and heading towards Jazz and Blues. Alvino Rey was an artist who took this instrument to a wide audience in a large orchestral setting and later developed the pedal steel guitar for Gibson. An early proponent of the electric Spanish guitar was jazz guitarist George Barnes who used the instrument in two songs recorded in Chicago on March 1st, 1938, Sweetheart Land and It’s a Low-Down Dirty Shame. Some historians incorrectly attribute the first recording to Eddie Durham, but his recording with the Kansas City Five was not until 15 days later.[4] Durham introduced the instrument to a young Charlie Christian, who made the instrument famous in his brief life and is generally known as the first electric guitarist and a major influence on jazz guitarists for decades thereafter.

The first recording of an electric Spanish guitar, west of the Mississippi was in Dallas, in September 1935, during a session with Roy Newman and His Boys, an early Western swing dance band. Their guitarist, Jim Boyd, used his electrically amplified guitar during the recording of three songs, “Hot Dog Stomp” (DAL 178-Vo 03371), Shine On, Harvest Moon (DAL 180-Vo 03272), and Corrine, Corrina (DAL 181-Vo/OK 03117).[5][6][7] An even earlier Chicago recording of an electrically amplified guitar—albeit an amplified lap steel guitar—was during a series of session by Milton Brown and His Brownies (another early Western swing band) that took place January 27-28, 1935, wherein Bob Dunn played his amplified Hawaiian guitar.[8]

Early proponents of the electric guitar on record include: Jack Miller (Orville Knapp Orch.), Alvino Rey (Phil Spitalney Orch.), Les Paul (Fred Warring Orch.), Danny Stewart (Andy Iona Orchestra), George Barnes (under many alias), Floyd Smith, Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, George Van Eps, Charlie Christian (Benny Goodman Orch.) Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, and Arthur Cruddup.

Early electric guitar manufacturers include: Rickenbacker (first called Ro-Pat-In) in 1932, Dobro in 1933, National, AudioVox and Volu-tone in 1934,Vega, Epiphone (Electrophone and Electar), and Gibson in 1935 and many others by 1936.

The version of the instrument that is best known today is the solid body electric guitar, a guitar made of solid wood, without resonating airspaces within it. Rickenbacher, later spelled Rickenbacker, did, however, offer a cast aluminum electric steel guitar, nicknamed The Frying Pan or The Pancake Guitar, developed in 1931 with production beginning in the summer of 1932. This guitar is sounds quite modern and aggressive as tested by vintage guitar researcher John Teagle. The company Audiovox built and may have offered an electric solid-body as early as the mid-1930s.

Another early solid body electric guitar was designed and built by musician and inventor Les Paul in the early 1940s, working after hours in the Epiphone Guitar factory. His log guitar (so called because it consisted of a simple 4×4 wood post with a neck attached to it and homemade pickups and hardware, with two detachable Swedish hollow body halves attached to the sides for appearance only) was patented and is often considered to be the first of its kind, although it shares nothing in design or hardware with the solid body “Les Paul” model sold by Gibson. In 1945, Richard D. Bourgerie made an electric guitar pickup and amplifier for professional guitar player George Barnes. Bourgerie worked through World War II at Howard Radio Company making electronic equipment for the American military. Mr. Barnes showed the result to Les Paul, who then arranged for Mr. Bourgerie to have one made for him.

Fender

Sketch of Fender lap steel guitar from 1944 patent application.

In 1946, radio repairman and instrument amplifier maker Clarence Leonidas Fender—better known as Leo Fender—through his eponymous company, designed the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar with a single magnetic pickup, which was initially named the “Esquire“. This was a departure from the typically hollow-bodied Jazz-oriented instruments of the time and immediately found favor with Country-Western artists in California. The two-pickup version of the Esquire was called the “Broadcaster”. However, Gretsch had a drumset marketed with a similar name (Broadkaster), so Fender changed the name to “Telecaster“.

Features of the Telecaster included: an ash body; a maple 25½ scale, 21-fret or 22-fret neck attached to the body with four-bolts reinforced by a steel neckplate; two single-coil, 6-pole pickups (bridge and neck positions) with tone and volume knobs, pickup selector switch; and an output jack mounted on the side of the body. A black bakelite pickguard concealed body routings for pickups and wiring. The bolt-on neck was consistent with Leo Fender’s belief that the instrument design should be modular to allow cost-effective and consistent manufacture and assembly, as well as simple repair or replacement. Due to the earlier mentioned trademark issue, some of the first production Telecasters were delivered with headstock decals with the Fender logo but no model identification. These are today very much sought after, and commonly referred to by collectors as “Nocasters”.

In 1954, Fender introduced the Fender Stratocaster, or “Strat.” The Stratocaster was seen as a deluxe model and offered various product improvements and innovations over the Telecaster. These innovations included a well dried ash or alder double-cutaway body design for bridge assembly with an integrated spring vibrato mechanism (called a synchronized tremolo by Fender, thus beginning a confusion of the terms that still continues), three single-coil pickups, and body comfort contours. Leo Fender is also credited with developing the first commercially successful electric bass guitar called the Fender Precision Bass, introduced in 1951.

Vox

In 1962 Vox introduced the pentagonal Phantom guitar, originally made in England but soon after made by Alter EKO of Italy. It was followed a year later by the teardrop-shaped Mark VI, the prototype of which was used by Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, and later Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls. Vox guitars also experimented with onboard effects and electronics. In the mid 1960s, as the sound of electric 12-string guitars became popular, Vox introduced the Phantom XII and Mark XII electric 12-string guitars as well as the Tempest XII which employed a more conventional Fender style body and thus is often overlooked as a Vox classic from the Sixties. The few that were manufactured also came from Italy. Vox also produced other traditional styles of 6- and 12-string electric guitars in both England and Italy, The 12-string electric guitars had a much larger neck and body and averaged at the weight of 26.4 pounds(11.9kg), they were also played on tables such as a piano or other sit down instrument.

Construction

While guitar construction has many variations, in terms of the materials used for the body, the shape of the body, and the configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups, there are features which are found in almost every guitar. The photo below shows the different parts of an electric guitar. The headstock(1) contains the metal machine heads, which are used for tuning ; the nut(2), a thin fret-like strip of metal or plastic which the strings pass over as they first go onto the fingerboard; the machine heads (3), which are worm gears which the player turns to change the string tension and thus adjust the tuning; the frets(4), which are thin metal strips which stop the string at the correct pitch when a string is pressed down against the fingerboard; the truss rod(5) , a metal cylinder used for adjusting the tension on the neck (not found on all instruments); decorative inlay (6), a feature not found on lower-cost instruments.

The neck and the fretboard (7) extend from the body; at the neck joint (8), the neck is either glued or bolted to the body; the body (9)- in this instrument, it is made of wood which is painted and lacquered, but some guitar bodies are also made of polycarbonate or other materials ; pickups (10), which are usually magnetic pickups, but which may also be piezoelectric transducer pickups; the control knobs (11) for the volume and tone potentiometers ; a fixed bridge(12)-on some guitars, a spring-loaded hinged bridge called a “tremolo system” is used instead, which allows players to “bend” notes or chords down in pitch or perform a vibrato embellishment; and a plastic pickguard(13), a feature not found on all guitars, which is used to protect the body from scratches.

The wood that the body (9) is made of largely determines the sonic qualities of the guitar. Typical woods include alder(brighter, but well rounded), swamp ash(similar to alder, but with more pronounced highs and lows), mahogany(dark, bassy, warm), poplar(similar to mahogany) and basswood(very neutral). Maple, a very bright tonewood, is also a popular body wood, but is very heavy. For this reason it is often placed as a ‘cap’ on a guitar made of primarily of another wood. Cheaper guitars are often made of cheap woods sound sterile and lifeless, such as plywood.

Pickups

Main article: Pickup (music)

Compared with an acoustic guitar, which has a hollow body, electric guitars make comparatively little audible sound simply by having their strings plucked, and so electric guitars are normally plugged into a guitar amplifier, which makes the sound louder. When an electric guitar is strummed, the movement of the strings generates (i.e., “induces”) a very small electrical current in the magnetic pickups, which are magnets wrapped with coils of very fine wire. That current is then sent through a cable to a guitar amplifier.[9] The current induced is proportional to such factors as the density of the string or the amount of movement over these pickups. That vibration is, in turn, affected by several factors, such as the composition and shape of the body.

A close-up of the pickups on a Fender Squier “Stagemaster” guitar; on the left is a “humbucker” pickup and on the right are two single-coil pickups.

Some hybrid electric-acoustic guitars are equipped with additional microphones or piezoelectric pickups (transducers) that sense mechanical vibration from the body. Because in some cases it is desirable to isolate the pickups from the vibrations of the strings, a guitar’s magnetic pickups will sometimes be embedded or “potted” in epoxy or wax to prevent the pickup from having a microphonic effect.

Because of their natural inductive qualities, all magnetic pickups tend to pick up ambient and usually unwanted electromagnetic noises. The resulting noise, the so-called “hum“, is particularly strong with single-coil pickups, and aggravated by the fact that very few guitars are correctly shielded against electromagnetic interference. The most frequent cause is the strong 50 or 60 Hz component that is inherent in the frequency generation of current within the local power transmission system. As nearly all amplifiers and audio equipment associated with electrical guitars rely on this power, there is in theory little chance of completely eliminating the introduction of unwanted hum.

Double-coil or “humbucker” pickups were invented as a way to reduce or counter the unwanted ambient hum sounds. Humbuckers have two coils of opposite magnetic and electric polarity. This means that electromagnetic noise hitting both coils should cancel itself out. The two coils are wired in phase, so the signal picked up by each coil is added together. This creates the richer, “fatter” tone associated with humbucking pickups. Optical pickups [10] are a type of pickup which sense string and body vibrations using infrared LED light.

Tremolo arms

Main article: Tremolo arm

Some electric guitars have a tremolo arm (sometimes called a “whammy bar” or a “vibrato bar”[11] and occasionally abbreviated as trem), a lever attached to the bridge which can slacken or tighten the strings temporarily, changing the pitch, thereby creating a vibrato effect. Early tremolo systems, such as the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, tended to be unreliable and cause the guitar to go out of tune quite easily, and also had a limited range. Later Fender designs were better, but Fender held the patent on these, so other companies used Bigsby-style tremolo for many years.

Detail of a Squier-made Fender Stratocaster. Note the tremolo arm, the 3 single-coil pickups, the volume and tone knobs.

With the expiration of the Fender patent on the Stratocaster-style tremolo, various improvements on this type of internal, multi-spring tremolo system are now available. Floyd Rose introduced one of the first improvements on the vibrato system in many years when in the late 1970s he began to experiment with “locking” nuts and bridges which work to prevent the guitar from losing tuning even under the most heavy whammy bar acrobatics.

Guitar necks

Electric guitar necks can vary according to composition as well as shape. The primary metric used to describe a guitar neck is the scale, which is the overall length of the strings from the nut to the bridge. A typical Fender guitar uses a 25.5 inch scale, while Gibson uses a 24.75 inch scale in their Les Paul. The frets are placed proportionally according to the scale length, so the smaller the scale, the tighter the spacing of the frets.

Necks are described as bolt-on, set-in, or neck-through depending on how they are attached to the body. Set-in necks are glued to the body in the factory, and are said to have a warmer tone and greater sustain; this is the most traditional type of joint. Bolt-on necks were pioneered by Leo Fender to facilitate easy adjustment and replacement of the guitar neck. Neck-through instruments extend the neck itself to form the center of the guitar body, and are known for long sustain and for being particularly sturdy. While a set neck can be carefully unglued by a skilled luthier, and a bolt-on neck can simply be unscrewed, a neck-through design is difficult or even impossible to repair, depending on the damage. Historically, the bolt-on style has been more popular for ease of installation and adjustment; since bolt-on necks can be easily removed, there is an after-market in replacement bolt-on necks from companies such as Warmoth and Mighty Mite. Some instruments, notably most Gibson models, have continued to use set/glued necks. Neck-through bodies are somewhat more common in bass guitars.

The materials used in the manufacture of the neck have great influence over the tone of the instrument. Hardwoods are very much preferred, with maple, ash, and mahogany topping the list. The neck and fingerboard can be made from different materials, such as a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. In the 1980s, exotic man-made materials such as graphite began to be used, but are pricey and never really replaced wood in production instruments. Such necks can be retrofitted to existing bolt-on instruments.

There are several different neck shapes used on guitars, including shapes known as C necks, U necks, and V necks. These refer to the cross-sectional shape of the neck (especially near the nut). There are also several sizes of fret wire available, with traditional players often preferring thin frets, and metal shredders liking thick frets. Thin frets are considered better for playing chords, while thick frets allow lead guitarists to bend notes with less effort. An electric guitar with a neck which folds back called the “Foldaxe” was designed and built for Chet Atkins by Roger Field (featured in Atkins’ book “Me and My Guitars.”). Steinberger guitars developed a line of exotic instruments without headstocks, with tuning done on the bridge instead.

Sound and effects

While an acoustic guitar‘s sound is largely dependent on the vibration of the guitar’s body and the air within it, the sound of an electric guitar is largely dependent on a magnetically induced electrical signal, generated by the vibration of metal strings near sensitive pickups. The signal is then “shaped” on its path to the amplifier by using a range of effect devices or circuits that modify the tone and characteristics of the signal. The most basic sound-shaping circuitry are the volume control (potentiometer), tone control (which “rolls off” the treble frequencies), and the pick-up selectors which are found on most electric guitars, and the gain and tone (usually consisting of at least bass and treble) controls on the guitar amplifier.

In the 1960s, some guitarists began exploring a wider range of tonal effects by distorting the sound of the instrument. To do this, they increased the gain, or volume, of the preamplifier, which produced a “fuzzy” sound. This effect is called “clipping” by sound engineers, because when viewed with an oscilloscope, the wave forms of a distorted signal appear to have had their peaks “clipped” off. This was not actually a new development in the instrument, but rather a shift of aesthetics. This sound was not generally recognized previously as desirable. In the 1960s, the tonal palette of the electric guitar was further modified by introducing an effects box in its signal path. Traditionally built in a small metal chassis with an on/off foot switch, such “stomp boxes” have become an important part of the electric guitar tone in many genres. Typical effects include stereo chorus, fuzz, wah-wah and flanging, compression/sustain, delay, reverb, and phase shift. Not all special effects are electronic; in 1967, guitarist Jimmy Page of The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin created unusual, psychedelic sound effects by playing the electric guitar with a violin bow and smacking the strings with the bow.

A Boss “stomp-box”-style distortion pedal in use.

In the 1970s, as effects pedals proliferated, their sounds were combined with power-tube distortion at lower, more controlled volumes by using power attenuators such as Tom Scholz’ Power Soak as well as re-amplified dummy loads such as Eddie Van Halen’s use of a variac, power resistor, post-power-tube effects, and a final solid-state amp driving the guitar speakers. A variac is one approach to power-supply based power attenuation, to make the sound of power-tube distortion more practically available.

By the 1980s and 1990s, digital and software effects became capable of replicating the analog effects used in the past. These new digital effects attempted to model the sound produced by analog effects and tube amps, to varying degrees of quality. There are many free guitar effects computer programs for PCs that can be downloaded from the Internet. By the 2000s, PCs with specially-designed sound cards could be used as digital guitar effects processors. Although digital and software effects offer many advantages, many guitarists still use analog effects.

In 2002, Gibson announced the first digital guitar, which performs analog-to-digital conversion internally. The resulting digital signal is delivered over a standard Ethernet cable, eliminating cable-induced line noise. The guitar also provides independent signal processing for each individual string. Also, in 2003 amp maker Line 6 released the Variax guitar. It differs in some fundamental ways from conventional solid-body electrics. For example it uses piezoelectric pickups instead of the conventional electromagnetic ones, and has an onboard computer capable of modifying the sound of the guitar to model the sound of many instruments.

Solid body

Solid body electric guitars have no hollow internal cavity to accommodate vibration and no sound holes such as those used to amplify string vibrations in acoustic guitars. Solid body instruments are generally made of hardwood with a lacquer coating and have six steel strings. The wood is dried for 3 to 6 months in heated storage before being cut to shape. The sound that is audible in music featuring electric guitars is produced by pickups on the guitar that convert the string vibrations into an electrical signal. The signal is then fed to an amplifier (or amp) and speaker.

One of the first solid body guitars was invented by Les Paul. Gibson did not present their ‘Les Paul‘ guitar prototypes to the public, as they did not believe it would catch on. The first mass-produced solid-body guitar was Fender‘s Broadcaster (later to become the ‘Telecaster‘) first made in 1948, five years after Les Paul made his prototype. The Gibson Les Paul appeared soon after to compete with the Broadcaster.[12]

Hollow body

Main article: Semi-acoustic guitar

These guitars have a hollow body and electronic pickups mounted on its body. They work in a similar way to solid body electric guitars except that because the hollow body also vibrates, the pickups convert a combination of string and body vibration into an electrical signal. A variant form, the semi-hollow body guitar, strikes a balance between the characteristics of solid-body and hollow-body guitars. Advocates of semi-hollow-body guitars argue that they have greater resonance and sustain than true solid-body guitars,[13] as well as lighter overall weight. Typically, a semi-hollow body guitar will have a form factor more similar to a solid-body electric guitar, and may include two sound holes, one, or none.

Metal body

A number of metal-bodied guitars have worked with the unique acoustic/sustaining qualities of metal. These are not hollow-bodied guitars, like a blues steel-bodied guitar, although most are chambered for weight; instead, these metal-bodied guitars are built to play as a solid wood body. Several metal bodies were made in the 1950s by violin and cello makers. In the 1970s, John Veleno made a polished aluminum guitar. Liquid Metal Guitars makes a metal body guitar made out of a solid block of alumimum and then chrome or gold-plates the instrument. Many guitars otherwise sold as solid-bodied instruments, such as the Gibson Les Paul or the PRS Singlecut, are built with “weight relief” holes bored into the body which affect the sound of the instrument[14]. The Les Paul Supreme edition is currently described by the manufacturer as a “chambered” instrument, with a weight relief system designed to positively affect the sound.

Acoustic-electric

Some steel-string acoustic guitars are fitted with pickups purely as an alternative to using a separate microphone. They may also be fitted with a piezo-electric pickup under the bridge, attached to the bridge mounting plate, or with a low mass microphone (usually a condenser mic) inside the body of the guitar that will convert the vibrations in the body into electronic signals, or even combinations of these types of pickups, with an integral mixer/preamp/graphic equalizer. These are called electric acoustic guitars, and are regarded as acoustic guitars rather than electric guitars because the pickups do not produce a signal directly from the vibration of the strings, but rather from the vibration of the guitar top or body. These should not be confused with hollow body electric guitars, which have pickups of the type found on solid body electric guitars.

String, bridge, and neck variants

Fewer than six

Although rare, the one-string guitar is sometimes heard, particularly in Delta blues, where improvised folk instruments were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Eddie “One String” Jones had some regional success with a Mississippi blues musician Lonnie Pitchford played a similar, homemade instrument. In a more contemporary style, Little Willie Joe, the inventor of the Unitar, had a rhythm and blues instrumental hit in the 1950s with “Twitchy”, recorded with the Hall Orchestra. The best-known exponent of the four-string guitar, often called the tenor guitar was Tiny Grimes, who played on 52nd Street with the beboppers and played a major role in the Prestige Blues Swingers. Grimes’ guitar omitted the bottom two strings. Deron Miller of CKY only uses four strings, but plays a six string guitar with the two highest strings removed. Many banjo players use this tuning: DGBE, mostly in Dixieland. Guitar players find this an easier transition than learning plectrum or tenor tuning.

Seven-string

Main article: Seven-string guitar

Most Seven-string guitars add a low “B” string below the low “E”. Both electric and classical guitars exist designed for this tuning. A high “A” string above the high “E” instead of the low “B” is sometimes used. Another less common seven-string arrangement is a second G string situated beside the standard G string and tuned an octave higher, in the same manner as a twelve-stringed guitar (see below). Jazz guitarists using a seven-string include veteran jazz guitarists George Van Eps, Bucky Pizzarelli and his son John Pizzarelli.

Seven-string electric guitars were popularized among rock players in the 1980s by Steve Vai. Along with the Japanese guitar company Ibanez, Vai created the Universe series seven string guitars in the 1980s, with a double locking tremolo system for a seven string guitar. These models were based on Vai’s six string signature series, the Ibanez Jem. Seven-string guitars experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 2000s, championed by Korn, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad, Nevermore, and other hard rock/metal bands. Metal musicians often prefer the seven-string guitar for its extended lower range. The seven-string guitar has also played an essential role in progressive rock, and is commonly used in bands such as Dream Theater and by experimental guitarists such as Ben Levin.

Eight and nine-string

Main article: Eight string guitar

Eight-string electric guitars are rare, but not unused. One is played by Charlie Hunter (manufactured by Novax Guitars). The largest manufacturer of 8- to 14-strings is Warr Guitars. Their models are used by Trey Gunn (ex King Crimson) who has his own signature line from the company. Also, Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah used 8-string guitars made by Nevborn Guitars and now guitars by Ibanez. Munky of nu metal band Korn is also known to use eight-string Ibanez guitars and it is rumoured that he is planning to release a K8 eight-string guitar similar to his K7 seven-string guitar. In 2008 Ibanez released the Ibanez RG2228-GK which is the first mass produced eight-string guitar. Jethro Tull‘s first album uses a nine-string guitar on one track. Josh Smith of the band The Fucking Champs plays a 9-string guitar, with two G, B, and high E strings each, tuned in unison.

Twelve-string

Main article: Twelve string guitar

Twelve string electric guitars feature six pairs of strings, usually with each pair tuned to the same note. The extra E, A, D, and G strings add a note one octave above, and the extra B and E strings are in unison. The pairs of strings are played together as one, so the technique and tuning are the same as a conventional guitar, although creating a much fuller tone. They are used almost solely to play harmony and rhythm. They are relatively common in folk rock music. Lead Belly is the folk artist most identified with the twelve-string guitar, usually acoustic with a pickup.

George Harrison of The Beatles and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds brought the electric twelve-string to notability in rock and roll. During the Beatles’ first trip to the US, in February 1964, Harrison received a new “360/12” model guitar from the Rickenbacker company, a 12-string electric made to look onstage like a 6-string. He began using the 360 in the studio on Lennon’s “You Can’t Do That” and other songs. Roger McGuinn began using electric 12-string guitars to create the jangly sound of The Byrds. Another notable guitarist to utilize electric 12-string guitars is Jimmy Page, the guitarist with proto-heavy metal and rock group Led Zeppelin.

3rd bridge

Main article: 3rd Bridge

The 3rd bridge guitar is an electric prepared guitar with an additional 3rd bridge. This can be a normal guitar with for instance a screwdriver placed under the strings, but can also be a custom made instrument. Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth plays with a 3rd bridge.

Double neck guitars

Main article: Double neck guitar

Double-neck (or, less commonly, “twin-neck”) guitars enable guitarists to play guitar and bass guitar or, more commonly, a six-string and twelve-string. The double-neck guitar was popularized by Jimmy Page, who used a custom-made Gibson EDS-1275 to perform the Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven“. Guitarist Don Felder also used the Gibson EDS-1275 during the Hotel California tour.

There were also some double necks that had two six-string necks with different pickup configurations. The most popular 6 and 6 were made by Ibanez in the early 1980s, which were copies of the Gibson SG style 6 and 12, and were also referred to as the “pre-lawsuit” guitars. Ibanez stopped production when they lost a lawsuit to Gibson. The Gibson 6-string and 12-string was also popularized by the Eagles song “Hotel California”.

English progressive rock bands such as Genesis used custom-made double-neck instruments produced by the Shergold company. Rick Nielsen, guitarist for Cheap Trick, uses a variety of custom guitars mostly made by Hamer Guitars, many of which have five necks, with the strap attached to the body by a swivel so that the guitar can be rotated to put any neck into playing position. Guitarist Steve Vai occasionally uses a triple-neck guitar; one neck is twelve string, one is six string and the third is a fretless six-string. In the 2000s, a small number of boutique guitar makers produce specialty instruments with up to six necks on a guitar, consisting of various guitar necks with different stringing and/or “drone” strings which are designed to vibrate sympathetically.

Before the development of the electric guitar and the use of synthetic materials, a guitar was defined as being an instrument having “a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides”.[1] Instruments similar to the guitar have been popular for at least 5,000 years. The six string classical guitar first appeared in Spain but was itself the product of a long and complex history of diverse influences. Like virtually all other stringed European instruments, the guitar ultimately traces back thousands of years, via the Near East, to a common ancient origin from instruments then known in central Asia and India. It is distantly related with contemporary instruments such as the tanbur, setar, and the Indian sitar. The oldest known iconographic representation of an instrument displaying all the essential features of a guitar being played is a 3,300 year old stone carving of a Hittite bard.[2] The modern word, guitar, was adopted into English from Spanish guitara (German Gitarre, French Guitare)[3], loaned from the Andalusian Arabic qitara[4] and Latin cithara, which in turn was derived from the earlier Greek word kithara,[5] which is perhaps related to Old Persian sitar.[6] Sihtar itself is related to the Indian instrument, the Sitar.

The modern guitar is descended from the Roman cithara brought by the Romans to Hispania around 40 AD, and further adapted and developed with the arrival of the four-string oud, brought by the Moors after their conquest of the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century.[7] Elsewhere in Europe, the indigenous six-string Scandinavian lut (lute), had gained in popularity in areas of Viking incursions across the continent. Often depicted in carvings c. 800 AD, the Norse hero Gunther (also known as Gunnar), played a lute with his toes as he lay dying in a snake-pit, in the legend of Siegfried.[8] By 1200 AD, the four string “guitar” had evolved into two types: the guitarra morisca (Moorish guitar) which had a rounded back, wide fingerboard and several soundholes, and the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) which resembled the modern guitar with one soundhole and a narrower neck.[9]

The Spanish vihuela or “viola da mano“, a guitar-like instrument of the 15th and 16th centuries is, due to its many similarities, usually considered the immediate ancestor of the modern guitar. It had lute-style tuning and a guitar-like body. Its construction had as much in common with the modern guitar as with its contemporary four-course renaissance guitar. The vihuela enjoyed only a short period of popularity as it was superseded by the guitar; the last surviving publication of music for the instrument appeared in 1576. It is not clear whether it represented a transitional form or was simply a design that combined features of the Arabic oud and the European lute. In favor of the latter view, the reshaping of the vihuela into a guitar-like form can be seen as a strategy of differentiating the European lute visually from the Moorish oud.

The Vinaccia family of luthiers is known for developing the mandolin, and may have built the oldest surviving six string guitar. Gaetano Vinaccia (1759 – after 1831)[10] has his signature on the label of a guitar built in Naples, Italy for six strings with the date of 1779.[11][12] This guitar has been examined and does not show tell-tale signs of modifications from a double-course guitar although fakes are known to exist of guitars and identifying labels from that period.

The dimensions of the modern classical guitar (also known as the Spanish guitar) were established by Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-1892), working in Seville in the 1850s. Torres and Louis Panormo of London (active 1820s-1840s) were both responsible for demonstrating the superiority of fan strutting over transverse table bracing.[13]

An acoustic guitar is one not dependent on an external device to be heard but uses a soundboard which is a wooden piece mounted on the front of the guitar’s body. The acoustic guitar is quieter than other instruments commonly found in bands and orchestras so when playing within such groups it is often externally amplified. Many acoustic guitars available today feature a variety of pickups which enable the player to amplify and modify the raw guitar sound.

There are several notable subcategories within the acoustic guitar group: classical and flamenco guitars; steel string guitars, which include the flat top or “folk” guitar; twelve string guitars and the arch top guitar. The acoustic guitar group also includes unamplified guitars designed to play in different registers such as the acoustic bass guitar which has a similar tuning to that of the electric bass guitar.

Renaissance and Baroque guitars
These are the gracile ancestors of the modern classical guitar. They are substantially smaller and more delicate than the classical guitar, and generate a much quieter sound. The strings are paired in courses as in a modern 12 string guitar, but they only have four or five courses of strings rather than six. They were more often used as rhythm instruments in ensembles than as solo instruments, and can often be seen in that role in early music performances. (Gaspar SanzInstrucción de Música sobre la Guitarra Española of 1674 constitutes the majority of the surviving solo corpus for the era.) Renaissance and Baroque guitars are easily distinguished because the Renaissance guitar is very plain and the Baroque guitar is very ornate, with ivory or wood inlays all over the neck and body, and a paper-cutout inverted “wedding cake” inside the hole.
Classical guitars
These are typically strung with nylon strings, played in a seated position and are used to play a diversity of musical styles including classical music. The classical guitar’s wide, flat neck allows the musician to play scales, arpeggios and certain chord forms more easily and with less adjacent string interference than on other styles of guitar. Flamenco guitars are very similar in construction, but are associated with a more percussive tone. In Mexico, the popular mariachi band includes a range of guitars, from the tiny requinto to the guitarron, a guitar larger than a cello, which is tuned in the bass register. In Colombia, the traditional quartet includes a range of instruments too, from the small bandola (sometimes known as the Deleuze-Guattari, for use when traveling or in confined rooms or spaces), to the slightly larger tiple, to the full sized classical guitar. The requinto also appears in other Latin-American countries as a complementary member of the guitar family, with its smaller size and scale, permitting more projection for the playing of single-lined melodies. Modern dimensions of the classical instrument were established by Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-1892). Classical guitars are sometimes referred to as classic guitars. In recent years, the series of guitars used by the Niibori Guitar orchestra have gained some currency, namely:
  • Sopranino guitar (an octave and a fifth higher than normal); sometimes known as the piccolo guitar
  • Soprano guitar (an octave higher than normal)
  • Alto guitar (a 5th higher than normal)
  • Prime (ordinary classical) guitar
  • Niibori bass guitar (a 4th lower than normal); Niibori simply calls this the “bass guitar”, but this assigns a different meaning to the term than other parts of the community use, as his is only a 4th lower, and has 6 strings
  • Contrabass guitar (an octave lower than normal)
The modern Ten-string guitar

The Modern/Yepes 10-string guitar (a classical guitar) adds four strings (resonators) tuned in such a way that they (along with the other three bass strings) can resonate in unison with any of the 12 chromatic notes that can occur on the higher strings; the idea behind this being an attempt at enhancing and balancing sonority.

Main article: Ten-string guitar
Portuguese guitar

In spite of the name, it is not a guitar, but rather a cittern.

Main article: Portuguese guitar
Flat-top (steel-string) guitars
Similar to the classical guitar, however, within the varied sizes of the steel-stringed guitar the body size is usually significantly larger than a classical guitar and it has a narrower, reinforced neck and stronger structural design. This allows the instrument to withstand the additional tension of steel strings. The steel strings produce a brighter tone, and according to many players, a louder sound. The acoustic guitar is used in many kinds of music including folk, country, bluegrass, pop, jazz and blues.
Archtop guitars
These are steel string instruments in which the top (and often the back) of the instrument are carved in a curved rather than a flat shape. Lloyd Loar of the Gibson Guitar Corporation introduced the violin-inspired f-hole design now usually associated with archtop guitars, after designing a style of mandolin of the same type. The typical archtop is a deep, hollow body guitar whose form is much like that of a mandolin or violin family instrument. Nowadays, most archtops are equipped with magnetic pickups and are therefore both acoustic and electric. F-hole archtop guitars were immediately adopted upon their release by both jazz and country musicians and have remained particularly popular in jazz music, usually with flatwound strings.

Ellis 8 string baritone tricone resonator guitar.

Resonator, resophonic or Dobro guitars
Similar to the flat top guitar in appearance, the sound of the resonator guitar is produced by a metal resonator mounted in the middle of the top. The physical principle of the guitar is therefore similar to the banjo. The original purpose of the resonator was to amplify the sound of the guitar. This purpose has been largely superseded by electrical amplification, but the resonator guitar is still played because of its distinctive sound. Resonator guitars may have either one resonator cone or three resonator cones. Three-cone resonators have two cones on the left above one another and one cone immediately to the right. The method of transmitting sound resonance to the cone is either a “biscuit” bridge, made of a small piece of hardwood, or a “spider” bridge, made of metal and larger in size. Three-cone resonators always use a specialized metal spider bridge. The type of resonator guitar with a neck with a square cross-section – called “square neck” – is usually played face up, on the lap of the seated player, and often with a metal or glass slide. The round neck resonator guitars are normally played in the same fashion as other guitars, although slides are also often used, especially in blues.
12 string guitars
The twelve string guitar usually has steel strings and is widely used in folk music, blues and rock and roll. Rather than having only six strings, the 12-string guitar has six courses made up of two strings each, like a mandolin or lute. The highest two courses are tuned in unison, while the others are tuned in octaves. The 12-string guitar is also made in electric forms.
Russian guitars
These are seven string acoustic guitars which were the norm for Russian guitarists throughout the 19th and well into the 20th centuries. The guitar is traditionally tuned to an open G major tuning.
Acoustic bass guitars
Have steel strings or gut strings and often the same tuning as an electric bass guitar.
Tenor guitars
A number of classical guitarists call the Niibori prime guitar a “Tenor Guitar” on the grounds that it sits in pitch between the alto and the bass. Elsewhere[citation needed]the name is taken for a 4-string guitar with a scale length of 23″ (585 mm) – about the same as a Terz Guitar. The tenor guitar is tuned in fifths, C G D A, as is the tenor banjo and the cello. It is generally accepted[citation needed] that the tenor guitar was created to allow a tenor banjo player to follow the fashion as it evolved from Dixieland Jazz towards the more progressive Jazz that featured guitar. It allows a tenor banjo player to provide a guitar-based rhythm section with little to learn. A small minority of players (such as Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio) close tuned the instrument to D G B E to produce a deep instrument that could be played with the 4-note chord shapes found on the top 4 strings of the guitar or ukulele. The deep pitch warrants the wide-spaced chords that the banjo tuning permits, and the close tuned tenor does not have the same full, clear sound.
Harp guitars
Harp Guitars are difficult to classify as there are many variations within this type of guitar. They are typically rare and uncommon in the popular music scene. Most consist of a regular guitar, plus additional ‘harp’ strings strung above the six normal strings. The instrument is usually acoustic and the harp strings are usually tuned to lower notes than the guitar strings, for an added bass range. Normally there is neither fingerboard nor frets behind the harp strings. Some harp guitars also feature much higher pitch strings strung below the traditional guitar strings. The number of harp strings varies greatly, depending on the type of guitar and also the player’s personal preference (as they have often been made to the player’s specification). [2] The Pikasso guitar; 4 necks, 2 sound holes, 42 strings] and also the Oracle Harp Sympitar; 24 strings (with 12 sympathetic strings protruding through the neck) are modern examples.
Extended-range guitars
For well over a century guitars featuring seven, eight, nine, ten or more strings have been used by a minority of guitarists as a means of increasing the range of pitch available to the player. Usually, it is bass strings that are added. Classical guitars with an extended range are useful for playing lute repertoire, some of which was written for lutes with more than six courses.
Guitar battente
The battente is smaller than a classical guitar, usually played with four or five metal strings. It is mainly used in Calabria (a region in southern Italy) to accompany the voice.

Electric guitars can have solid, semi-hollow, or hollow bodies, and produce little sound without amplification. Electromagnetic pickups convert the vibration of the steel strings into electrical signals which are fed to an amplifier through a cable or radio transmitter. The sound is frequently modified by other electronic devices or the natural distortion of valves (vacuum tubes) in the amplifier. There are two main types of pickup, single and double coil (or humbucker), each of which can be passive or active. The electric guitar is used extensively in jazz, blues, and rock and roll, and was commercialized by Gibson in collaboration with Les Paul, and independently by Leo Fender of Fender Music. The lower fretboard action (the height of the strings from the fingerboard) and its electrical amplification lend the electric guitar to some techniques which are less frequently used on acoustic guitars. These include tapping, extensive use of legato through pull-offs and hammer-ons (also known as slurs), pinch harmonics, volume swells, and use of a tremolo arm or effects pedals.

Seven-strings were popularized in the 1980s and 1990s in part due to the release of the Ibanez Universe guitar, endorsed by Steve Vai. Other artists go a step further, by using an 8 string guitar with two extra low strings. Although the most common 7-string has a low B string, Roger McGuinn (of The Byrds and Rickenbacker) uses an octave G string paired with the regular G string as on a 12 string guitar, allowing him to incorporate chiming 12 string elements in standard 6 string playing.

The electric bass guitar is similar in tuning to the traditional double bass viol. Hybrids of acoustic and electric guitars are also common. There are also more exotic varieties, such as guitars with two, three,[14] or rarely four necks, all manner of alternate string arrangements, fretless fingerboards (used almost exclusively on bass guitars, meant to emulate the sound of a stand-up bass), 5.1 surround guitar, and such.

Some electric guitar and electric bass guitar models feature Piezoelectric pickups, which function as transducers to provide a sound closer to that of an acoustic guitar with the flip of a switch or knob, rather than switching guitars.

General

Guitars can be constructed to meet the demands of both left and right-handed players. Traditionally the dominant hand is assigned the task of plucking or strumming the strings. For the majority of people this entails using the right hand. This is because musical expression (dynamics, tonal expression and colour etc) is largely determined by the plucking hand, while the fretting hand is assigned the lesser mechanical task of depressing and gripping the strings. This is similar to the convention of the violin family of instruments where the right hand controls the bow. A minority, however, believe that left-handed people should learn to play guitars strung in the manner used by right-handed people, simply to standardise the instrument.

Headstock

Main article: Headstock

The headstock is located at the end of the guitar neck furthest from the body. It is fitted with machine heads that adjust the tension of the strings, which in turn affects the pitch. Traditional tuner layout is “3+3″ in which each side of the headstock has three tuners (such as on Gibson Les Pauls). In this layout, the headstocks are commonly symmetrical. Many guitars feature other layouts as well, including six-in-line (featured on Fender Stratocasters) tuners or even “4+2″ (Ernie Ball Music Man). However, some guitars (such as Steinbergers) do not have headstocks at all, in which case the tuning machines are located elsewhere, either on the body or the bridge.

Nut

Main article: Nut (instrumental)

The nut is a small strip of bone, plastic, brass, corian, graphite, stainless steel, or other medium-hard material, at the joint where the headstock meets the fretboard. Its grooves guide the strings onto the fretboard, giving consistent lateral string placement. It is one of the endpoints of the strings’ vibrating length. It must be accurately cut, or it can contribute to tuning problems due to string slippage, and/or string buzz.

Fretboard

Main article: Fingerboard

Also called the fingerboard, the fretboard is a piece of wood embedded with metal frets that comprises the top of the neck. It is flat on classical guitars and slightly curved crosswise on acoustic and electric guitars. The curvature of the fretboard is measured by the fretboard radius, which is the radius of a hypothetical circle of which the fretboard’s surface constitutes a segment. The smaller the fretboard radius, the more noticeably curved the fretboard is. Most modern guitars feature a 12″ neck radius, while older guitars from the 1960s and 1970s usually feature a 6-8″ neck radius. Pinching a string against the fretboard effectively shortens the vibrating length of the string, producing a higher pitch. Fretboards are most commonly made of rosewood, ebony, maple, and sometimes manufactured or composite materials such as HPL or resin. See below on section “Neck” for the importance of the length of the fretboard in connection to other dimensions of the guitar.

Frets

Main article: Fret

Frets are metal strips (usually nickel alloy or stainless steel) embedded along the fretboard and located at exact points that divide the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings’ vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Standard classical guitars have 19 frets and electric guitars between 21 to 24 frets (though Ibanez has issued guitars with as many as 36 frets.)

Frets are laid out to a mathematical ratio that results in equal tempered division of the octave. The ratio of the spacing of two consecutive frets is the twelfth root of two. The twelfth fret divides the scale length in two exact halves and the 24th fret position divides the scale length in half yet again. Every twelve frets represents one octave. In practice, luthiers determine fret positions using the constant 17.817, which is derived from the twelfth root of two. The scale length divided by this value yields the distance from the nut to the first fret. That distance is subtracted from the scale length and the result is divided in two sections by the constant to yield the distance from the first fret to the second fret. Positions for the remainder of the frets are calculated in like manner.[15]

There are several different fret gauges, which can be fitted according to player preference. Among these are “jumbo” frets, which have much thicker gauge, allowing for use of a slight vibrato technique from pushing the string down harder and softer. “Scalloped” fretboards, where the wood of the fretboard itself is “scooped out” between the frets allows a dramatic vibrato effect. Fine frets, much flatter, allow a very low string-action but require other conditions such as curvature of the neck to be well maintained in order to prevent buzz.

On steel-string guitars, frets are eventually bound to wear down; when this happens, frets can be replaced or, to a certain extent, leveled, polished, recrowned, or reshaped as required.

Truss rod

Main article: Truss rod

The truss rod is a metal rod that runs along the inside of the neck. It is used to correct changes to the neck’s curvature caused by the neck timbers aging, changes in humidity or to compensate for changes in the tension of strings. The tension of the rod and neck assembly is adjusted by a hex nut or an allen-key bolt on the rod, usually located either at the headstock, sometimes under a cover, or just inside the body of the guitar underneath the fretboard and accessible through the sound hole. Some truss rods can only be accessed by removing the neck. The truss rod counteracts the immense amount of tension the strings place on the neck, bringing the neck back to a straighter position. Turning the truss rod clockwise will tighten it, counteracting the tension of the strings and straightening the neck or creating a backward bow. Turning the truss rod counter-clockwise will loosen it, allowing string tension to act on the neck and creating a forward bow. Adjusting the truss rod affects the intonation of a guitar as well as the height of the strings from the fingerboard, called the action. Some truss rod systems, called “double action” truss systems, tighten both ways, allowing the neck to be pushed both forward and backward (standard truss rods can only be released to a point beyond which the neck will no longer be compressed and pulled backward). Classical guitars do not require truss rods as their nylon strings exert a lower tensile force with lesser potential to cause structural problems.

Inlays

Main article: Inlay (guitar)

Inlays are visual elements set into the exterior surface of a guitar. The typical locations for inlay are on the fretboard, headstock, and on acoustic guitars around the soundhole, known as the rosette. Inlays range from simple plastic dots on the fretboard to intricate works of art covering the entire exterior surface of a guitar (front and back). Some guitar players have used LEDs in the fretboard to produce a unique lighting effects onstage.

Fretboard inlays are most commonly shaped like dots, diamond shapes, parallelograms, or large blocks in between the frets. Dots are usually inlaid into the upper edge of the fretboard in the same positions, small enough to be visible only to the player. Some older or high-end instruments have inlays made of mother of pearl, abalone, ivory, coloured wood or other exotic materials and designs. Simpler inlays are often made of plastic or painted. High-end classical guitars seldom have fretboard inlays as a well trained player is expected to know his or her way around the instrument.

In addition to fretboard inlay, the headstock and soundhole surround are also frequently inlaid. The manufacturer’s logo or a small design is often inlaid into the headstock. Rosette designs vary from simple concentric circles to delicate fretwork mimicking the historic rosette of lutes. Bindings that edge the finger and sound boards are sometimes inlaid. Some instruments have a filler strip running down the length and behind the neck, used for strength and/or to fill the cavity through which the trussrod was installed in the neck.

Elaborate inlays are a decorative feature of many limited edition, high-end and custom-made guitars. Guitar manufacturers often release such guitars to celebrate significant or historic milestones.

Neck

Main article: Neck (music)

A guitar’s frets, fretboard, tuners, headstock, and truss rod, all attached to a long wooden extension, collectively constitute its neck. The wood used to make the fretboard will usually differ from the wood in the rest of the neck. The bending stress on the neck is considerable, particularly when heavier gauge strings are used (see Tuning), and the ability of the neck to resist bending (see Truss rod) is important to the guitar’s ability to hold a constant pitch during tuning or when strings are fretted. The rigidity of the neck with respect to the body of the guitar is one determinant of a good instrument versus a poor one. The shape of the neck can also vary, from a gentle “C” curve to a more pronounced “V” curve. There are many different types of neck profiles available, giving the guitarist many options. Some aspects to consider in a guitar neck may be the overall width of the fingerboard, scale (distance between the frets), the neck wood, the type of neck construction (for example, the neck may be glued in or bolted on), and the shape (profile) of the back of the neck. Other type of material used to make guitar necks are graphite (Steinberger guitars), aluminium (Kramer Guitars, Travis Bean and Veleno guitars), or carbon fiber (Modulus Guitars and ThreeGuitars).

Double neck electric guitars have two necks, allowing the musician to quickly switch between guitar sounds.

Neck joint or ‘Heel’

See also: Set-in neck, Bolt-on neck, and Neck-through

This is the point at which the neck is either bolted or glued to the body of the guitar. Almost all acoustic guitars, with the primary exception of Taylors, have glued (otherwise known as set) necks, while electric guitars are constructed using both types.

Commonly used set neck joints include mortise and tenon joints (such as those used by CF Martin & Co. guitars), dovetail joints (also used by CF Martin on the D28 and similar models) and Spanish heel neck joints which are named after the shoe they resemble and commonly found in classical guitars. All three types offer stability. Bolt-on necks, though they are historically associated with cheaper instruments, do offer greater flexibility in the guitar’s set-up, and allow easier access for neck joint maintenance and repairs.

Another type of neck, only available for solid body electric guitars, is the neck-through-body construction. These are designed so that everything from the machine heads down to the bridge are located on the same piece of wood. The sides (also known as wings) of the guitar are then glued to this central piece. Some luthiers prefer this method of construction as they claim it allows better sustain of each note. Some instruments may not have a neck joint at all, having the neck and sides built as one piece and the body built around it.

Strings

See also: Classical guitar strings

Modern guitar strings are manufactured in either metal or organo-carbon material. Instruments utilising “steel” strings may have strings made of alloys incorporating steel, nickel or phosphor bronze. Classical and flamenco instruments have historically used gut strings but these have been superseded by nylon and carbon-fibre materials. Bass strings for both instruments are wound rather than monofilament.

Guitar strings are strung almost parallel to the neck, whose surface is covered by the fingerboard (fretboard). By depressing a string against the fingerboard, the effective length of the string can be changed, which in turn changes the frequency at which the string will vibrate when plucked. Guitarists typically use one hand to pluck the strings and the other to depress the strings against the fretboard.

The strings may be plucked using either the fingers or a pick (or plectrum).

Body (acoustic guitar)

See also: Sound box

In acoustic guitars, string vibration is transmitted through the bridge and saddle to the body via sound board. The sound board is typically made of tone woods such as spruce or cedar. Timbers for tone woods are chosen for both strength and ability to transfer mechanical energy from the strings to the air within the guitar body. Sound is further shaped by the characteristics of the guitar body’s resonant cavity.

In electric guitars, transducers known as pickups convert string vibration to an electric signal, which in turn is amplified and fed to speakers, which vibrate the air to produce the sound we hear. Nevertheless, the body of the electric guitar still performs a role in shaping the resultant tonal signature.

In an acoustic instrument, the body of the guitar is a major determinant of the overall sound quality. The guitar top, or soundboard, is a finely crafted and engineered element made of tonewoods such as spruce and red cedar. This thin piece of wood, often only 2 or 3mm thick, is strengthened by differing types of internal bracing. The top is considered by many luthiers to be the dominant factor in determining the sound quality. The majority of the instrument’s sound is heard through the vibration of the guitar top as the energy of the vibrating strings is transferred to it.

Body size, shape and style has changed over time. 19th century guitars, now known as salon guitars, were smaller than modern instruments. Differing patterns of internal bracing have been used over time by luthiers. Torres, Hauser, Ramirez, Fleta, and C.F. Martin were among the most influential designers of their time. Bracing not only strengthens the top against potential collapse due to the stress exerted by the tensioned strings, but also affects the resonance characteristics of the top. The back and sides are made out of a variety of timbers such as mahogany, Indian rosewood and highly regarded Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra). Each one is primarily chosen for their aesthetic effect and can be decorated with inlays and purfling.

The body of an acoustic guitar has a sound hole through which sound is projected. The sound hole is usually a round hole in the top of the guitar under the strings. Air inside the body vibrates as the guitar top and body is vibrated by the strings, and the response of the air cavity at different frequencies is characterised, like the rest of the guitar body, by a number of resonance modes at which it responds more strongly.

Instruments with larger areas for the guitar top were introduced by Martin in an attempt to create louder volume levels. The popularity of the larger “dreadnought” body size amongst acoustic performers is related to the greater sound volume produced.

Body (electric guitar)

See also: Solid body

Most electric guitar bodies are made of wood and include a plastic pick guard. Boards wide enough to use as a solid body are very expensive due to the worldwide depletion of hardwood stock since the 70’s, so the wood is rarely one solid piece. Most bodies are made of two pieces of wood with some of them including a seam running down the centre line of the body. The most common woods used for electric guitar body construction include maple, basswood, ash, poplar, alder, and mahogany. Many bodies will consist of good sounding but inexpensive woods, like ash, with a “top”, or thin layer of another, more attractive wood (such as maple with a natural “flame” pattern) glued to the top of the basic wood. Guitars constructed like this are often called “flame tops”. The body is usually carved or routed to accept the other elements, such as the bridge, pickup, neck, and other electronic components. Most electrics have a polyurethane or nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Other alternative materials to wood, are used in guitar body construction. Some of these include carbon composites, plastic material (such as polycarbonate) and aluminium alloys.

Pickups

Main article: Pickup (music)

Pickups are transducers attached to a guitar that detect (or “pick up”) string vibrations and convert the mechanical energy of the string into electrical energy. The resultant electrical signal can then be electronically amplified. The most common type of pickup is electromagnetic in design. These contain magnets that are tightly wrapped in a coil, or coils, of copper wire. Such pickups are usually placed right underneath the guitar strings. Electromagnetic pickups work on the same principles and in a similar manner to an electrical generator. The vibration of the strings causes a small voltage to be created in the coils surrounding the magnets; this signal voltage is later amplified.

Traditional electromagnetic pickups are either single-coil or double-coil. Single-coil pickups are susceptible to noise induced from electric fields, usually mains-frequency (60 or 50 hertz) hum. The introduction of the double-coil humbucker in the mid-1950s did away with this problem through the use of two coils, one of which is wired in a reverse polarity orientation.

The types and models of pickups used can greatly affect the tone of the guitar. Typically, humbuckers, which are two magnet–coil assemblies attached to each other are traditionally associated with a heavier sound. Single-coil pickups, one magnet wrapped in copper wire, are used by guitarists seeking a brighter, twangier sound with greater dynamic range.

Modern pickups are tailored to the sound desired. A commonly applied approximation used in selection of a pickup is that less wire (lower DC resistance) = brighter sound, more wire = “fat” tone. Other options include specialized switching that produces coil-splitting, in/out of phase and other effects. Guitar circuits are either active, needing a battery to power their circuit, or, as in most cases, equipped with a passive circuit.

Fender Stratocaster type guitars generally utilize three single-coil pickups, while most Gibson Les Paul types use humbucker pickups.

Piezoelectric, or piezo, pickups represent another class of pickup. These employ piezoelectricity to generate the musical signal and are popular in hybrid electro-acoustic guitars. A crystal is located under each string, usually in the saddle. When the string vibrates, the shape of the crystal is distorted, and the stresses associated with this change produce tiny voltages across the crystal that can be amplified and manipulated.

Some piezo-equipped guitars use what is known as a hexaphonic pickup. “Hex” is a prefix meaning six. In a hexaphonic pickup separate outputs are obtained from discrete piezoelectric pickups for each of the six strings. This arrangement allows the signal to be easily modified by on-board modelling electronics, as in the Line 6 Variax brand of electric guitars; the guitars allow for a variety of different sounds to be obtained by digitally manipulating the signal. This allows a guitar to mimic many vintage models of guitar, as well as output alternate tunings without the need to adjust the strings.

Another use for hexaphonic pickups is to send the output signals to a MIDI interpretation device, which determines the note pitch, duration, attack and decay characteristics and so forth. The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) interpreter then sends the note information to a sound bank device. The resulting sound can closely mimic numerous types of instruments.

Electronics

On guitars that have them, these components and the wires that connect them allow the player to control some aspects of the sound like volume or tone. These at their simplest consist of passive components such as potentiometers and capacitors, but may also include specialized integrated circuits or other active components requiring batteries for power, for preamplification and signal processing, or even for assistance in tuning. In many cases the electronics have some sort of shielding to prevent pickup of external interference and noise.

Lining, Binding, Purfling

The top, back and ribs of an acoustic guitar body are very thin (1-2 mm), so a flexible piece of wood called lining is glued into the corners where the rib meets the top and back. This interior reinforcement provides 5 to 20 mm of solid gluing area for these corner joints. Solid linings are often used in classical guitars, while kerfed lining is most often found in steel string acoustics. Kerfed lining is also called kerfing (because it is scored, or kerfed to allow it to bend with the shape of the rib).

During final construction, a small section of the outside corners is carved or routed out and then filled with binding material on the outside corners and decorative strips of material next to the binding, which are called purfling. This binding serves to seal off the endgrain of the top and back. Purfling can also appear on the back of an acoustic guitar, marking the edge joints of the two or three sections of the back.

Binding and purfling materials are generally made of either wood or plastic.

Bridge

Main article: Bridge (instrument)

The main purpose of the bridge on an acoustic guitar is to transfer the vibration from the strings to the soundboard, which vibrates the air inside of the guitar, thereby amplifying the sound produced by the strings.

On both electric and acoustic guitars, the bridge holds the strings in place on the body. There are many varied bridge designs. There may be some mechanism for raising or lowering the bridge to adjust the distance between the strings and the fretboard (action), and/or fine-tuning the intonation of the instrument. Some are spring-loaded and feature a “whammy bar“, a removable arm which allows the player to modulate the pitch moving the bridge up and down. The whammy bar is sometimes also referred to as a “tremolo bar” (see Tremolo for further discussion of this term – the effect of rapidly changing pitch produced by a whammy bar is more correctly called “vibrato”). Some bridges also allow for alternate tunings at the touch of a button.

On almost all modern electric guitars, the bridge is adjustable for each string so that intonation stays correct up and down the neck. If the open string is in tune but sharp or flat when frets are pressed, the bridge can be adjusted with a screwdriver or hex key to remedy the problem. In general, flat notes are corrected by moving the bridge forward and sharp notes by moving it backwards. On an instrument correctly adjusted for intonation, the actual length of each string from the nut to the bridge saddle will be slightly but measurably longer than the scale length of the instrument. This additional length is called compensation, which flattens all notes a bit to compensate for the sharping of all fretted notes caused by stretching the string during fretting.

Pickguard

Main article: Pickguard

Also known as a scratchplate. This is usually a piece of laminated plastic or other material that protects the finish of the top of the guitar from damage due to the use of a plectrum or fingernails. Electric guitars sometimes mount pickups and electronics on the pickguard. It is a common feature on steel-string acoustic guitars. Vigorous performance styles such as flamenco, which can involve the use of the guitar as a percussion instrument, call for a scratchplate to be fitted to nylon-string instruments.

Vibrato Arm

Main article: Tremolo arm

The Vibrato (pitch bend) unit found on many electric guitars has also had slang terms applied to it, such as “tremolo bar (or arm)”, “sissy bar”, “wang bar”, “slam handle”, “whammy handle”, and “whammy bar”. The latter two slang terms led stompbox manufacturers to use the term ‘whammy’ in coming up with a pitch raising effect introduced by popular guitar effects pedal brand “Digitech“.

Leo Fender, who did much to create the electric guitar, also created much confusion over the meaning of the terms “tremolo” and “vibrato”, specifically by misnaming the “tremolo” unit on many of his guitars and also the “vibrato” unit on his “Vibrolux” amps. In general, vibrato is a variation in pitch, whereas tremolo is a variation in volume, so the tremolo bar is actually a vibrato bar and the “Vibrolux” amps actually had a tremolo effect. However, following Fender’s example, electric guitarists traditionally reverse these meanings when speaking of hardware devices and the effects they produce. See vibrato unit for a more detailed discussion, and tremolo arm for more of the history.

A distinctly different form of mechanical vibrato found on some guitars is the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, commonly called Bigsby. This vibrato wraps the strings around a horizontal bar, which is then rotated with a handle by the musician.

Another type of pitch bender is the B-Bender, a spring and lever device mounted in an internal cavity of a solid body electric, guitar that allows the guitarist to bend just the B string of the guitar using a lever connected to the strap handle of the guitar. The resulting pitch bend is evocative of the sound of the pedal steel guitar.

Guitar Strap

Strip of fabric with a leather or synthetic leather piece on each end. Made to hold a guitar via the shoulders, at an adjustable length to suit the position favoured by the guitarist.

Tuning

Main article: Guitar tuning

The guitar is a transposing instrument. Its pitch sounds one octave lower than it is notated on a score.

A variety of different tunings may be used. However, the most common by far is known as “Standard Tuning,” which has the strings tuned from a low E, to a high E, traversing a two octave range – EADGBE.

A guitar using this tuning can tune to itself using the fact, with a single exception, that the 5th fret on one string is the same note as the next open string; that is, a 5th-fret note on the sixth string is the same note as the open fifth string. The exception is the interval between the second and third strings, in which the 4th-fret note on the third string is equivalent to the open second string.

Standard tuning has evolved to provide a good compromise between simple fingering for many chords and the ability to play common scales with minimal left hand movement. Uniquely, the guitar’s tuning allows for repeatable patterns which also facilitates the ease in which common scales can be played[16]. There are also a variety of commonly used alternate tunings – most of which are open tunings that create entire chord voicings without fretting any strings. Many open tunings, where all of the strings are tuned to a similar note or chord, are popular for slide guitar playing. Alternate tunings are used for two main reasons: the ease of playing and the variation in tone that can be achieved.

Many guitarists use a long established, centuries-old tuning variation where the lowest string is ‘dropped’ two semi-tones down. Known as Drop-D (or dropped D) tuning it is, from low to high, DADGBE. This allows for open string tonic and dominant basses in the keys of D and D minor. It also enables simple fifths (powerchords) to be more easily played. Eddie Van Halen sometimes uses a device known as a ‘D Tuna,’ the patent for which he owns. It is a small lever, attached to the fine tuner of the 6th string on a Floyd Rose tremolo, which allows him to easily drop that string’s tuning to a D. Many contemporary rock bands detune all strings by several semi-tones, making, for example, Drop-C or Drop-B tunings, However this terminology is inconsistent with that of “drop-D” as “drop-D” refers to dropping a single string to the named pitch. Often these new tunings are also simply referred to as the “Standard” of the note in question e.g. – “D Standard” (DGcfad’).

Some guitarists tune in straight fourths, avoiding the major third between the third and second strings. While this makes playing major and minor triads slightly more difficult, it facilitated playing chords with more complicated extended structures[citation needed]. One proponent of the straight fourth tuning (EADGCF) is Stanley Jordan.

As with all stringed instruments a large number of scordatura are possible on the guitar. A common form of scordatura involves tuning the 3rd string to F# to mimic the standard tuning of the lute, especially when playing renaissance repertoire originally written for the lute.

Notes

  1. ^ Kasha, Dr. Michael (August 1968). “A New Look at The History of the Classic Guitar”. Guitar Review 30,3-12
  2. ^ [A Brief History of the Guitar http://www.guyguitars.com/eng/handbook/BriefHistory.html]
  3. ^Guitar Origins“. Retrieved on 2008-11-11.
  4. ^ Farmer, Henry George (1988), Historical facts for the Arabian Musical Influence, Ayer Publishing, 137, ISBN 040508496X
  5. ^ Kithara appears in the Greek New Testament four times (1 Cor. 14:7, Rev. 5:8, 14:2 and 15:2), and is usually translated into English as harp. Strong’s Concordance Number: 2788 [1]
  6. ^Online Etymology Dictionary“. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  7. ^ Summerfield, Maurice J. (2003). The Classical Guitar, It’s Evolution, Players and Personalities since 1800 (5th ed.) Blaydon on Tyne: Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 1-872-63946-1.
  8. ^ [Viking Art & Architecture http://www.angelfire.com/realm/shades/vikings/vikart.htm]
  9. ^ [A Look At The History Of The Guitar http://www.thejazzfestival.net/showarticle?id=109580]
  10. ^ The Classical Mandolin by Paul Sparks (1995)
  11. ^ Early Romantic Guitar
  12. ^ The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era by James Tyler (2002)
  13. ^ Evans, Tom and MaryAnne (1977). Guitars: Music, history, Construction and Players from the Renaissance to Rock. p. 42. ISBN 0-448-22240-X.
  14. ^ The Official Steve Vai Website – www.vai.com > The Machines > Steve’s Guitars
  15. ^ Mottola, R.M.. “Lutherie Info – Calculating Fret Positions“.
  16. ^One Pattern To Rule Them All“. Between the Licks (2008-04-13). Retrieved on 2008-07-02.

Capotasto

Main article: Capo

A capo (short for capotasto) is used to change the pitch of open strings. Capos are clipped onto the fret board with the aid of spring tension, or in some models, elastic tension. To raise the guitar’s pitch by one semitone, the player would clip the capo onto the fret board just below the first fret. Their use allows a player to play in different keys without having to change the chord formations they use. Because of the ease with which they allow guitar players to change keys, they are sometimes referred to as “cheaters”. Classical performers are known to use them to enable modern instruments to match the pitch of historical instruments such as the renaissance lute.

Slides

Main article: Slide Guitar

A slide, (neck of a bottle, knife blade or round metal bar) used in blues and rock to create a glissando or ‘hawaiian‘ effect. The necks of bottles were often used in blues and country music. Modern slides are constructed of glass, plastic, ceramic, chrome, brass or steel, depending on the weight and tone desired. An instrument that is played exclusively in this manner, (using a metal bar) is called a steel guitar or pedal steel. Slide playing to this day is very popular in blues music and country music. Some slide players use a so called Dobro guitar.

Some performers that have become famous for playing slide are Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Ry Cooder, George Harrison, Bonnie Raitt, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Duane Allman, Muddy Waters and Rory Gallagher.

Plectrum

Main article: Guitar pick

A variety of guitar picks

A “guitar pick” or “plectrum” is a small piece of hard material which is generally held between the thumb and first finger of the picking hand and is used to “pick” the strings. Though most classical players pick solely with their finger nails, the “pick” is often used for electric and some acoustic guitars. Though today they are mainly plastic, variations do exist, such as bone, wood, steel or tortoise shell. Tortoise shell was the most commonly used material in the early days of pick making but as tortoises became more and more endangered, the practice of using their shells for picks or anything else was banned. Tortoise shell picks are often coveted for a supposedly superior tone and ease of use.

Picks come in many shapes and sizes. Picks vary from the small jazz pick to the large bass pick. The thickness of the pick often determines its use. A thinner pick (between .2 and .5 mm) is usually used for strumming or rhythm playing, whereas thicker picks (between .7 and 1.5+ mm) are usually used for single-note lines or lead playing. The distinctive guitar sound of Billy Gibbons is attributed to using a quarter or peso as a pick. Similarly, Brian May is known to use a sixpence coin as a pick. Retired session musician David Persons is known for using old credit cards, cut to the correct size, as plectrum.

Thumb picks and finger picks that attach to the finger tips are sometimes employed in finger-picking styles.

[Copy Right]: All of this is from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

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5 Responses to “About The Guitar”

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