An acoustic guitar is a modern form of guitar descended from the classical guitar,
but generally strung with steel strings for a brighter, louder sound. Strictly speaking,
the terms steel-stringed guitar, classical guitar and folk guitar
all refer to acoustic (that is, non-electric) guitars, though some of these terms refer
to different types of instruments (nylon-strung vs. steel-strung). The term "acoustic guitar"
is a retronym, since before the invention of the electric instrument, all guitars were "acoustic".
Playing an acoustic guitar without a pick (fingerpicking)
There are many different variations on the construction of and materials used in acoustic guitars.
More expensive guitars feature solid wood tops (often spruce), sides and backs (often rosewood,
maple, or mahogany). Lower-priced guitars can combine solid tops with laminated backs and/or sides.
Entry-level guitars are usually made entirely of laminated wood. Necks are generally made of mahogany
(either Philippine or Honduras), and fingerboards are usually made of dense tropical hardwoods such as
rosewood or ebony. The various combinations of the different woods and their quality, along with design
and construction elements (for example, how the top is braced) are among the factors affecting the
timbre or "tone" of the guitar. Since a steel-string guitar must withstand higher string tension than
nylon-strung instruments, heavier construction is required overall. Steel-string guitars use different
bracing systems from classical guitars, typically using x-bracing instead of the fan bracing
used on classical and flamenco guitars. (Another simpler system, called ladder bracing, where the
braces are all placed across the width of the instrument, is used on all types of flat-top guitars.)
Due to decreasing availability and rising prices of the premium-quality woods, many manufacturers have
begun experimenting with alternate species of woods or more commonly available variations on the standard
species. For example, some makers have begun producing models with redcedar or mahogany tops. Some have also
begun using non-wood materials, such as plastic or graphite. Most luthiers and experienced players agree that
a good solid top is the most important factor in the tone of the guitar, and that solid backs and sides can
also contribute to a pleasant sound, although laminated sides and backs are acceptable alternatives. Some
jazz players prefer laminated backs and sides.
Another style of acoustic guitar is the archtop guitar. This incorporates a top, either carved out of solid
wood or heat-pressed using laminations, that is arched like instruments in the violin family, usually with
f-holes rather than a round soundhole. These guitars are most commonly used by swing and jazz players, and
often incorporate electronics in the form of a pickup.
There are several prominent American makers of acoustic guitars. Martin, Guild, Taylor, and Gibson are
known for both the quality and price of their instruments. The Selmer-Maccaferri Guitar is an unusual looking
guitar played by Django Reinhardt style musicians, distinctive by its "D" hole or longitudinal oval soundhole.
The standard tuning for an acoustic guitar is EADGBE (low to high), although many players, particularly fingerpickers,
use alternate tunings, such as "Open G" (DGDGBD), "open D tuning" (DADF#AD), or "Drop D" (DADGBE).
One variation on the standard acoustic guitar is the 12 string guitar, which sports an additional doubling string
for each of the traditional six strings. This guitar was made famous by artists such as Huddie Leadbetter (a.k.a.
Leadbelly), Pete Seeger, and Leo Kottke.
Throughout the 20th century the predominant forms of music played on the most common type of acoustic guitar
(the flattop steel-string guitar) remained relatively stable and included acoustic blues, country, bluegrass,
folk, and several genres of rock>. In the last decade or two more intricate fingerstyle guitar music, rooted
in classical music, Celtic music, and American styles and characterized by musicians such as Al Petteway,
Alex de Grassi, and Pierre Bensusan, has become popular enough that several luthiers have been experimenting
with redesigning the acoustic guitar. These flat top steel-string guitars are constructed and voiced more for
classical-like fingerpicking and less for chordal accompaniment. Luthiers such as Kevin Ryan, Stefan Sobell,
and George Lowden have increasingly focused their attention on the needs of fingerstylists and have developed
unique guitars for this style of playing.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Document License
It uses material from the Wikipedia article - Acoustic guitar