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An Introduction to Acoustic Guitars
What we now know as the acoustic guitar is the product of centuries of musical evolution, tracing its lineage back to the Middle Ages, with the small gut strung gittern - or guitarra in Spain. Today, the acoustic guitar remains vital to many different genres, and is one of the most popular instruments on earth.
All acoustic guitars include a head and long neck connected to a hollow body. The guitar's strings stretch from the tuning machine heads, over the nut, across the neck frets, over the sound hole, and finally into the bridge. Some people assume that a guitar's sound comes from the vibrations of its strings - but this is only half the story. On their own, guitar strings are fairly quiet, as they don't move air very effectively. An acoustic guitar is only capable of such resonant volume because its strings transmit vibrations through the bridge to the soundboard, and hollow body cavity. In this way, acoustic guitar bodies are sophisticated acoustic systems, capable of great volume and rich sound. And for this reason, a guitar's size, material, and strings all affect its tone and harmonic qualities.
If you picture an acoustic guitar in your mind, chances are, you're picturing a 6-string model, since that's the most common type of acoustic guitar. Guitars can be made from a variety of materials; high-quality bodies may be made from maple, mahogany, spruce, or rosewood. Entry-level guitars, on the other hand, are often made with laminated tonewood. Luckily, today's acoustics no longer use strings made from gut, or animal intestines; modern strings are made from steel or nylon. Sweetwater carries a huge variety of acoustic 6-strings, for beginners all the way to longtime collectors. Epiphone's DR-100 is a great introductory guitar with a Vintage Sunburst finish, and spruce top. Martin's 000-15M sparkles with an all-mahogany body, and rosewood bridge.
Some players gravitate towards the grandeur of 12-string guitars. Six extra strings lend a lush ring to the guitar's sound, without making the transition from 6-string to 12-string overly complicated. The twelve strings are paired up in courses, with the bottom four pairs tuned in octaves, while the top two pairs are tuned in unisons. A longer headstock and reinforced construction help accommodate for the extra strings. Seagull's Excursion Walnut 12 SG is a perfect example; it boasts a spruce top, walnut back and sides, and a warm, generous tone. Afficianados might look into the Taylor 856, with its smoked ebony bridge and Sitka spruce top.
6-string versus 12-string is only the beginning; acoustic models come in several different styles and materials, each with their own personalities. For example, classical (or Spanish) guitars, like the Cordoba C5, use nylon strings instead of steel strings. Played while seated, classical guitars have a distinct tone, and favor plucking over strumming. Resonator guitars, on the other hand, feature metal cones (called resonators) built into the soundboard - allowing more volume, and a sound still prized in the blues, bluegrass, etc. The Epiphone Dobro Hound Dog Deluxe Squareneck is a great example.
Sweetwater carries hundreds of acoustic/electric acoustic guitars, like the Fender CD-60CE All Mahogany. Acoustic/electric models retain the build and sound of an acoustic instrument, but built-in hardware allows them to plug directly into amps, pedals, or PA systems. Sweetwater also carries left-handed acoustic guitars, as well as dulcitars, banjos, mandolins and ukuleles. We've got endless options for every playing style, budget, and experience level; call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer today.