The acoustic guitar may be the most familiar type of guitar for many people. With its curved sides and steel strings, the acoustic has a look and sound that makes its presence known in folk, country, bluegrass, jazz, blues, and even some popular music. Many people, however, are not as familiar with the beauty of the acoustic guitar design, or the varieties of acoustic guitar that are available.
An acoustic guitar is designed to be heard without any type of external amplification. The woods commonly used for building acoustic guitars, such as spruce, mahogany and maple, are known to guitar makers as “tone” woods because they are more resonant than other types of woods. Inside the acoustic guitar, bracing is placed in such a way as to produce a quality tone, although the bracing style used may vary according to the maker.
An interesting note about acoustic guitar design that is well known to luthiers: You can tell if an acoustic guitar is well made, and will subsequently produce a quality tone, by placing a lit match in front of the sound hole and then tapping the top of the guitar. In a well made guitar, the tap on the top will produce enough air to blow out the match.
Varieties of Acoustic Guitar
Not all acoustics are the same, and the different types of acoustics produce different sounds. The following are a few of the many varieties available:
- Flat-top – A flat-top acoustic guitar is the type that is most familiar to most people. The back and sides of the guitar are flat. The tone produced by a flat-top guitar varies according to the maker, and many players find they prefer one brand to another based solely on the tone.
- Archtop – An archtop acoustic has a curved, or arched, top, and may have a flat or rounded back. The idea behind the archtop was to increase the amplitude of the sound produced by eliminating the standing sound waves inside the body of the guitar, thereby increasing the amount of sound released from the guitar. Not all players will agree that the theory behind the archtop works, but there are many players who prefer archtops.
- Bass – An acoustic bass is generally designed like a flat-top, but with bass tuning like that of an electric bass.
- Classical – The classical guitar is similar to a flat-top, but with a wider fingerboard. In addition, the inside design of the classical guitar does not easily withstand steel strings, so nylon strings are used.
Acoustic guitars also have variations in size, tuning, and the amount of strings. In addition, there are many manufacturers who now produce acoustic guitars with pickups that allow them to be plugged into an external amplifier when needed.
Just as different players prefer different styles of music, they prefer different types of acoustic guitars. The wide variety of acoustics available makes it possible for every player to find something they enjoy. In addition, the design of the acoustic ensures that whatever type a player chooses, they will enjoy a quality tone that requires no external amplifiers.