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Selecting a Guitar
 

Selecting a Guitar

This is the type of guitar that developed from the earliest forms of fourand five-stringed instruments, reaching its final form in the early nineteenth century. In addition to being the type of guitar used for the solo classical repertoire, the Spanish or classical guitar is used for the accompaniment of folk songs, for the songs and dances of Latin America, and for the flamenco music of Spain. Throughout Europe it has long been the favorite accompaniment instrument for love songs and serenades.

The nylon-strung Spanish or classical guitar.

The nylon-strung Spanish or classical guitar.

Traditionally the sides and back of a flamenco guitar differ in that theyre made of cypress wood, which is distinguishable by its yellow color and lighter weight, but this is not always the case today because some of the great flamenco players prefer hardwood.

Classical guitars usually have a slotted peg head and are strung with nylon strings. Generally they are smaller than acoustic or electric instruments. The neck width is greater than on acoustic or electric guitars to facilitate the intricate left-hand work demanded in classical compositions.

Although the term acoustic really applies to any non-amplified guitar, it is commonly used to describe the steel-strung guitar used in country, folk, and blues styles. The steel strings give more volume than nylon, and also have a brassier sound.

Acoustic guitar players can play with their fingers (as do classical players), sometimes adding metal thumb and fingerpicks to enhance their sound. Others strum across all the stringsor play complex melody linesusing a flatpick (also called a plectrum).

The acoustic guitar has a beautiful rich sound in the hands of players like James Taylor, John Renbourne, Leo Kottke, and many others. It works well as an accompaniment instrument, and the best players also use it for solos and improvisations. However, for intricate solo work it is somewhat harder to play than the Spanish guitar.

The acoustic guitar

The acoustic guitar

The jazz guitar

The jazz guitar

This type of guitar is normally played with a plectrum, and represents a transition from acoustic to electric guitar, because the guitar itself has some acoustic property although nowadays it is normally amplified. Although a component of the rhythm section of early jazz groups where its distinctive chunk sound would cut through and be heard without amplification, this guitar was also used extensively for melody and solo work, an example being the work of great players such as Django Reinhardt.

Distinguishing features include the violin-like f-holes which replace the circular sound hole of the traditional guitar. Often jazz guitars are larger in size than classical or acoustic guitars, and they usually have arched tops and backs, like a violin. This is said to improve their sound projection. Pickups are now built into the guitar, as are volume and tone controls.

The pioneering guitarist Les Paul was a technical as well as musical wizard. He is famous for multitrack recorded performances, and his developments on the instrument itself led to the extensive use of solidbody guitars with no innate acoustic resonance. Used for chords and lead in contemporary rock groups, the solid-body guitar has no sound until it is plugged into an amplifier. The electronic sound from pickups is processed in inventive ways for special effects, including deliberate distortion. The result is a new creation that has a fingerboard and strings but acoustically shares little with the traditional guitar.

The solid-body electric guitar

The solid-body electric guitar


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