If you’re not musically minded, you probably think that one guitar is pretty much the same as the next. We all understand the difference between an electric guitar and an acoustic one, but unless you’ve a real interest in the subject you’d be hard pressed to describe the ways in which a classical guitar differs from a mandolin, or what difference the type of strings makes to the sound produced.
Acoustic v Electric
The most basic differentiation between types of guitars acoustic and electric. An acoustic guitar is not plugged into the mains and is usually made from some sort of wood. The player plucks the strings to make the noise and it is associated with classical and relaxing music. An electric guitar is typically associated with rock stars, and musicians often feed the sound produced through an amplifier to make the sound louder. Electric guitars can be made of wood too, but can be made from a multitude of different materials and come in all shapes and sizes.
Classical guitars fall into the acoustic category, and are used when the musician wants to produce a sound which is warm and rich. The neck of the guitar is wide, and the strings are nylon. As the neck is wide, it makes positioning the fingers relatively easy, and the classical guitar is a good choice for the beginner. The notes are played by plucking rather than strumming, and this sort of guitar is the variety most often taught to children who are learning to play guitar for the first time.
Steel Stringed Guitars
Although they are similar in shape to the classical guitar, as the name suggests a steel stringed guitar has strings made from metal. The sound made by the metal strings is different from nylon, and steel stringed guitars are more common in the pop, rock and country music world. The most famous user of a steel stringed guitar is probably Elvis Presley, and although the neck is narrower, they are still quite easy to learn.
The traditional guitar used in Spain is very similar to the classical guitar in looks, but it is usually made out of a lighter wood. The style of playing means that the traditional flamenco guitar is a mix of string and percussion instrument, and most guitars have special wooden plates which the musician uses to make the rhythmic tapping sound to keep the beat of the music. Flamenco guitars have nylon strings, and this gives a softer edge to the sound.
A bass guitar is bigger than a standard classical guitar, and the size of the body and the length of the strings means that the sound they produce is lower. Most other acoustic guitars have six strings, whereas a bass has only four. Bass guitars are not typically used to perform the main melody of the piece, and it’s unusual to see a bass guitar played alone as it is normally part of a group with other guitars and instruments.