Guitar

The guitar is a musical instrument classified as a fretted string instrument with anywhere from four to 18 strings, usually having six. The sound is projected either acoustically, using a hollow wooden or plastic and wood box (for an acoustic guitar), or through electrical amplifier and a speaker (for an electric guitar). It is typically played by strumming or plucking the strings with the fingers, thumb or fingernails of the right hand or with a pick while fretting (or pressing against the frets) the strings with the fingers of the left hand. The guitar is a type of chordophone, traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings and distinguished from other chordophones by its construction and tuning. The modern guitar was preceded by the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.

There are three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar), the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar, which is sometimes called a “jazz guitar”. The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the strings’ vibration, amplified by the hollow body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber. The classical guitar is often played as a solo instrument using a comprehensive finger-picking technique where each string is plucked individually by the player’s fingers, as opposed to being strummed. The term “finger-picking” can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues, bluegrass, and country guitar playing in the United States. The acoustic bass guitar is a low-pitched instrument that is one octave below a regular guitar.

Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, use an amplifier and a loudspeaker that both makes the sound of the instrument loud enough for the performers and audience to hear, and, given that it produces an electric signal when played, that can electronically manipulate and shape the tone using an equalizer (e.g., bass and treble tone controls) and a huge variety of electronic effects units, the most commonly used ones being distortion (or “overdrive”) and reverb. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid wood body was eventually found more suitable during the 1960s and 1970s, as it was less prone to unwanted acoustic feedback “howls”. As with acoustic guitars, there are a number of types of electric guitars, including hollowbody guitars, archtop guitars (used in jazz guitar, blues and rockabilly) and solid-body guitars, which are widely used in rock music.

Electric guitars and bass guitars have to be used with a guitar amplifier and loudspeaker or a bass amplifier and speaker, respectively, in order to make enough sound to be heard by the performer and audience. Electric guitars and bass guitars almost always use magnetic pickups, which generate an electric signal when the musician plucks, strums or otherwise plays the instrument. The amplifier and speaker strengthen this signal using a power amplifier and a loudspeaker. Acoustic guitars that are equipped with a piezoelectric pickup or microphone can also be plugged into an instrument amplifier, acoustic guitar amp or PA system to make them louder. With electric guitar and bass, the amplifier and speaker are not just used to make the instrument louder; by adjusting the equalizer controls, the preamplifier, and any onboard effects units (reverb, distortion/overdrive, etc.) the player can also modify the tone (aka timbre or “colour”) and sound of the instrument. Acoustic guitar players can also use the amp to change the sound of their instrument, but in general, acoustic guitar amps are used to make the natural acoustic sound of the instrument louder without changing its sound that much.