Meet the Guitar Family

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Guitars have been around for hundreds of years. The following article describes how guitars have changed. Meet the Guitar Family “The guitar is a small orchestra … Every string is a different color, a different voice.” –Andrés Segovia (Spanish classical guitarist) 1 You may be familiar with a The Acoustic Guitar popular video game that allows you 3 Originally, animal gut was used to pretend you are a guitar player. to make the strings for guitars as It includes a number of tunes that well as other stringed instruments, you can play along with, in a sort like violins and cellos. When of karaoke style. The game includes plucked or strummed, the string a toy guitar that does resemble produces a sound which is amplified a real guitar in some ways, but as it vibrates over the sound hole despite its fun qualities, it is in the middle of the guitar. The air obviously not the real thing. So, inside the guitar, and the body of what is “the real thing”? the guitar itself, both vibrate to help The Spanish Guitar amplify the sound and give it its unique tone and texture. This kind 2 Stringed instruments similar of guitar is known as an acoustic to the guitar go back thousands of guitar, and it was the only kind in years. The Spanish vihuela of about existence for hundreds of years, 500 years ago is considered to be until electronic amplifiers came into the guitar’s most direct ancestor. use in the early 1950’s. The vihuela had an hour-glass shape, with six strings and a neck 4 Over the years, the acoustic with frets. Frets are horizontal guitar kept changing. There were wires that run up and down the variations in the shape and number neck of the guitar at intervals. By of strings used, as well as in the pressing a string down between the string material itself. The guitar kept frets, a player shortens the string its basic hour-glass shape, but could and raises the pitch of the sound vary greatly in its overall size. The that will be produced. number of strings ranged from 4 for ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only. a tenor guitar all the way up to The dobro arose from a playing 12. But the standard of 6 strings style called the “bottle-neck.” Blues established itself around 1840 and guitarists started experimenting with has not changed since.using the neck of a bottle to slide up and down the strings. Later, glass The Guitar Changes and metal tubes were used. This 5 Eventually, two basic types was like having a moveable fret for of guitars emerged: the classical, shortening the string. It produced nylon-stringed guitar and the a characteristic ‘twang’ as well steel-stringed guitar. The classical as other special effects not heard guitar is associated with Spanish from a regular guitar. Some of the Flamenco music and European dobros had metal bodies instead of classical music that has been the traditional wood, and they had adapted for the guitar. The steel- special sound resonators built inside stringed guitar has two designs. to enhance their tone. One is a flat-topped version used The Birth of the Electric Guitar mainly for blues, folk, and popular music. The other is an arch-topped 7 The most important change version used for jazz and playing to the steel-stringed guitar was the in bands, which has two holes in addition of small microphones to its top, instead of a single, round pick up the sound—appropriately sound hole in the center. The called pickups. The microphones classical guitar is usually plucked picked up the sound from hollow- or strummed with bare fingers, bodied acoustic guitars and then while steel-string guitar players sent it through an amplifier to make generally use picks made from steel it louder. This led to the “electric” or nylon. Structural differences also guitar, which we know today as exist: the nylon-stringed guitar is the standard lead instrument in generally lighter, while its steel-rock music. Since it uses electronic stringed counterpart is heavier and amplification, unlike the acoustic more robust, with a thinner neck. guitar, the body of the electric guitar can be made of a solid wood such The Slide Guitar as ash, basswood, or maple. This 6 An interesting cousin to solid-body construction is more rigid the steel-stringed guitar is called and easier to produce, and it permits a dobro—also known as the manufacturers to experiment with Hawaiian guitar, or the slide guitar. various shapes because the shape ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only. has little effect on the sound. So we the guitar family is filled with many see electric guitar bodies in the form generations of guitars. Each kind of of stars, triangles, parallelograms, guitar is unique, but still displays and even elephants! Another special the familiar look, feel, and sound of aspect of electric guitars is that they its ancestors. can have two necks instead of just one. 8 With so many different variations, and such a long history, Guitar Pickup The photo above shows the pickup on an acoustic guitar. It is mounted under the bridge of the guitar, and is used to pick up vibrations and amplify the sound. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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