Although purely electric guitars are the instrument of choice for hard rockers, many purists insist that you simply can't beat that mellow acoustic guitar sound. Early versions of the instrument existed 4,000 years ago, but it is the classic guitar that most people today are familiar with. Here's a little more about this popular and versatile addition to the music world.
Most guitars have six strings, but there is a wide range of exceptions to this very loose standard. The tone is produced by a combination of the vibration from the strings and the modulation from the hollow body. The size and shape of the body are extremely important to what kind of sound and tone will come out of the instrument. If you have ever listened to a Mariachi band and heard the deep sounds of a large Mexican "guitarron," you can really tell the difference that body size makes.
Strings were traditionally made from animal gut, but nylon and steel are more commonly used nowadays. As with body sized, the type of string plucked will produce a much different vibration and hence a different sound. Cedar is a popular wood for acoustic guitars although these are also used: alder, ash, mahogany, walnut, and both soft and hard maple. There is some difference to the sound when it comes to choosing wood, but the look of one or another is usually what determines the choice that is made.
The advent of the purely electric guitar diminished the influence of acoustic in popular music for a while. However, musicians such as B.B King and others in the blues genre found an innovative way to combine the richness of the acoustic sound with the advantage of electrical amplification. Pickups allowed the quiet sound emanating from the guitar's hole to be amplified and even modified altogether.
The sound was still rich and lovely, but the instrument instantly became more versatile. This type of guitar was an instant hit in the folk music scene of the early 1960's because it allowed musicians to play to a much larger audience in a much larger venue. Today, electric acoustic guitars are widely played and are an integral part of jazz and blues bands worldwide.
They should not be confused with semi-acoustic guitars, which are really electric guitars with a chamber added for resonance. Acoustic guitars that are equipped with the necessary attachments can be played acoustically or may simply be plugged in to an amplifying system, and the sound can be heard clearly at the back of a room.
An acoustic electric guitar allows for a wide range of applications with one instrument while not sacrificing the mellow sounds and tones that traditionalists love.
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