The acoustic guitar is a popular stringed instrument that originated in
Spain. It has a flat, waisted body, a round sound hole, and a
fretted fingerboard, or "neck," along which run six strings. The
strings are fastened to tuning screws at the top of the fingerboard, and
to a bridge that is glued to the instrument's sound board or "belly" at
the other end. The strings on acoustic guitars are usually made of
steel. On classical guitars, the top three strings are usually made
of nylon or natural gut, while the lower three strings are metal.
The strings are tuned to E, A, D, G, B, and E (starting with the second E
below middle C and ending with the E above middle C).
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Acoustic guitars are the instrument of choice for many country and folk
music guitarists. High quality acoustic guitars generally feature
solid wood construction, with spruce or cedar tops and rosewood or
mahogany sides and backs. Medium quality guitars may combine solid
wood tops with laminated sides and backs, while entry level instruments
are often made from laminated woods. Guitar necks and fingerboards
are typically constructed from stiff woods such as mahogany, ebony, and
Guitars are designed for either right-handed or left-handed players.
With a right-handed guitar, the player's right-hand fingers pluck or strum
the strings while the left-hand fingers are positioned at the appropriate
frets to produce the desired pitches.
How Acoustic Guitars Work
How does an acoustic guitar produce sound? Quite simply, when a
guitar player hits a guitar string, the string absorbs energy and begins
to vibrate. However, this alone is not enough to create sound waves
that can be heard. In order to be heard, the energy must come into
contact with a mass of lower density.
The guitar's hollow body enables this to happen. In a nutshell, the
body of the guitar acts as a soundbox. The energy from the vibrating
strings travels through the saddle and bridge over which the strings pass,
and eventually to the soundbox. The soundbox amplifies the vibration
of the strings, so that the sound can be heard. The guitar's volume
and projection are a result of the soundbox.
How is the soundbox assembled? The front of the guitar is called the
"soundboard," while the sides of the guitar are called the "ribs."
There are small strips of wood that allow the front, sides, and back to be
glued together, and these are called "linings." Once the pieces are
glued together, the joints are hidden by "edging."
The inside of both the soundboard and the back of the guitar will have
something called "strutting" or "bracing." Basically, these are
strips of wood that are laid across the surface in a pattern. The
struts serve to strengthen the wood and prevent it from warping, but they
also allow the soundbox to vibrate and produce the best possible tone.
Tone, simply put, is what the guitar sounds like. Even high-quality
guitars will differ in tone. The design of the soundbox will affect
the sound characteristics of a guitar; as a result, many guitar makers,
known as "luthiers," will change the design of each guitar slightly to
produce varied tonal qualities.
The goal of every luthier is to ensure that their guitars have even tonal
gradations, with no areas where the tone or volume changes abruptly, and
no areas where there is over-accentuated harmony. Different designs
mean that some types of guitars are better suited to particular styles of
music. For example, Martin flat-top guitars are popular with
fingerstyle guitarists because of their clarity and defined bass pattern,
while Gibson flat-tops are frequently used by country musicians because of
the rhythmic sounds they produce when chords are strummed.
Musician Playing an Acoustic Guitar
Guitar Shape and Size
Most acoustic guitars share the same basic shape. The body looks
like a figure-eight made up of an upper bout, a thin waist, and a lower
bout. However, the dimensions of these three parts of the guitar
will determine what it sounds like. Guitars with smaller upper bouts
have enhanced treble frequencies, while guitars with larger upper bouts
have enhanced bass frequencies.
Acoustic guitar sizes vary as well. Flat-top, steel-string acoustic
guitars come in standard, jumbo, and dreadnought sizes. Today, there
are a wide variety of steel-string and nylon-string guitars available on
the market. Browse this website, AcousticGuitars.us, to learn more
about acoustic guitars and the people and companies that make them.
For acoustic guitar photos and an overview of their origins, please see
History of the Acoustic Guitar.
Acoustic Guitar Against a Whitewashed Brick Wall
Acoustic Guitar Dealers
Most of the guitar shops listed below feature a good selection of
acoustic guitars, ranging from popular-price beginner guitars to high-end
pro quality guitars. They may also offer complete guitar packages
as well as guitar cases, straps, gig bags, and other guitar accessories.
- Guitar Center
Buy acoustic guitars, acoustic-electric guitars, amplifiers, and guitar effects online at Guitar Center.
- Gruhn Guitars
Find vintage guitars and acoustic guitars as well as information and resources.
- Sam Ash
This musical instrument megastore with nationwide locations features guitars, keyboards, and drums as well as brass and
woodwind instruments. In addition to musical instruments and accessories,
visitors can find sound and recording equipment, sheet music and videos,
and music software and computers.
- Mandolin Brothers
This well-known Staten Island, New York guitar shop features
acoustic guitars, classical guitars, banjos and mandolins.
- Rondo Music
This family owned and operated music store features a variety of
acoustic guitars as well as bluegrass and folk instruments.
Acoustic Guitar Manufacturers
- Taylor Guitars
Find quality guitars, accessories, and gear from this popular manufacturer.
- Martin Guitar
Establised in 1833, Martin is a leading manufacturer of acoustic guitars and guitar kits.
- Gibson Guitar
This guitar manufacturer offers acoustics, bass guitars,
custom guitars, and historic guitars.
- Jean Larrivee Guitars
Find high quality steel-string and classical guitars.
- Godin Guitars
This Canadian guitar maker offers the Godin,
Seagull, Art & Lutherie, Simon & Patrick, Norman, and LaPatrie brands.
- Seagull Guitars
Seagull provides a selection of hand-crafted acoustic guitars.
This popular Japanese guitar brand provides a wide variety of acoustics and acoustic-electrics.
Well-known for their electric Stratocaster guitars, Fender also offers a variety of acoustic models.
- Guild Guitars and Basses
Guild Guitars manufactures a wide range of acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars.
- Collings Guitars
This Texas-based builder offers fine acoustic steel string instruments.
- Ovation Guitars
Find acoustic guitars engineered for ruggedness and better tonal balance.
- Epiphone Acoustics
Epiphone offers 6 string, 12 string, classical, acoustic-electric, and bluegrass guitars.
- Washburn Guitars
Here you will find a diverse line of popular acoustic guitar models.
- Doolin Guitars
Doolin eatures handmade double-cutaway acoustic guitars.
- Tacoma Guitars
These fine acoustic guitars, mandolins, and basses are made in the USA.
- Breedlove Music
This Oregon guitar maker features acoustic guitars and mandolins.
- Santa Cruz Guitar
This California-based luthier offers custom handmade acoustic guitars.
- Huss & Dalton Guitar Company
These Virginia-based makers of fine hand-crafted instruments capture the spirit of music played in the Shenandoah Valley.
Acoustic Guitar Reviews and Resources
- Discover Guitar
Find guitar workshops, classroom programs, music teacher resources, and guitar industry links.
- Acoustic Guitar Central
Locate guitar reviews and advice, luthier profiles, lutherie trends, new gear and accessories, and projects!
- Acoustic Guitar Information
Help and advice for beginner acoustic guitar shoppers and users.