Guitars 101: Acoustic Guitars
While electric guitars allow players to toggle the sound by incorporating effects pedals and production tools, not everyone needs these features. Acoustic guitars, traditionally hollow, often create a softer, more intimate sound than electric, making then a frequent choice for singer/songwriters, country musicians, jazz artists, and soft rock bands. They also require much less gear than electric guitars, which is why new players often start on an acoustic guitar.
All guitars have two main parts: the neck and the body. When the strings, which run from the neck to the body, get plucked, the vibration gets transmitted to the top, side, and back of the guitar. Unlike electric guitars, acoustic guitars have a sound hole in the body, amplifying the vibrations and creating a stronger, robust sound. Therefore, acoustic guitars do not require an amp, lowering equipment costs.
Unlike electric guitars, many acoustic guitars have a waist, the indented area to easily rest the guitar on your knee. The two widenings that come from the waist are called the bouts, which heavily affect the tone depending on the size and shape. However, the main pieces of the guitar that affect the sound are the fingerboard and frets.
Since the acoustics of an electric guitar come out of an amp, the body size doesn’t change the sound. However, the body size of an acoustic guitar is the main part that manipulates the sound. The larger the body, the heavier the bass response is. (The exclusion to this is the Orchestra Model which lacks a bass response even though it’s a mid-sized guitar.) The size of the body also affects the volume levels; smaller acoustic guitars often have a light, balanced sound, whereas larger guitars have a heavy, robust sound. Choosing the right body allows you to decide the bass and volume levels of your instrument.
The fingerboard is the face of the neck that your fingers move up and down on, and the frets are the metal pieces that cut into the fingerboard at specific intervals. When you press down on the strings over the frets, the length of the string that vibrates changes, changing the tone that comes out of the sound hole.
The last piece of a guitar that changes the sound comes from the tuning heads, the metal knobs attached to the headstock. When you turn these knobs, the tension of the strings changes, creating a sharper or deeper sound. Changing the tension of the strings changes the key in which the guitar is tuned, so it’s very important that you know how far you need to turn the tuning heads. A tuner can help you with this.
While acoustic guitars have limitations, they are great instruments for musicians looking for an intimate sound, new players, and those who have no need for effect pedals or amps. Take a look at Allen Eden’s catalog of premium acoustic guitars on our website.