Guide to Guitars

Gibson SG with strings and humbucker
The sound of a guitar is present in almost every legendary song that was composed over the past 100 years. The guitar is a popular choice for musicians to play because it does not only sounds good, but it is also an instrument that blends well with other instruments like the drums, the saxophone, or the violin. The guitar can serve as a complementary instrument to vocals or other primary instruments, and it can also be the focal point of the song during solos.

Its versatility is what makes the guitar a truly excellent instrument that can be used for many styles and genres. In addition, playing the guitar is fairly simple and easy to learn too, and that is why many people who wanted to play music would opt to start with learning how to play the guitar first. However, while the guitar is easy to learn, it can be quite difficult to master. It would take years for a guitarist to understand the intricacies and technicalities of the instrument fully.

Things You Should Know About in Buying a Guitar

If you are someone who wants to learn how to play the guitar, then there are several things that you should know about before purchasing your first guitar.

Strings

A guitar usually has six strings, with the first string at the bottom being the thinnest while the sixth string at the top is the thickest. The set of strings also have gauges, which means that a set of six strings that have a .10 gauge would feel a bit different to .9 gauge strings since they are thicker. 

For beginners, it is recommended that they should start with .9 or .10 gauges as these would feel comfortable for the fingers, as thicker strings would be too painful to play if they haven’t developed calluses yet and thinner strings would prevent them from learning to place their fingers properly on the fretboard since they are too light.

Fretboard

Speaking of frets, the guitarist would have to rely not only on strings but also on the fretboard in order for the guitar to produce different sounds. A regular-sized guitar would have 21 to 22 frets, but some guitars would have 24 to make the lower frets higher and easier to reach.

Also, there are two kinds of wood that are typically used to make the fretboard, and these woods are maple and rosewood. Maple has a lighter color, and it is also often seen as a material for the guitar neck, while rosewood is darker and more porous than maple, which makes it have a rougher texture that hinders your finger from slipping while they are on the frets.

At present, rosewood is becoming harder and harder to find due to the restrictions placed on it to prevent it from going extinct. Due to these restrictions, guitar manufacturing companies are finding alternatives to rosewood that can give the same texture and feel as the said wood to the fretboard.

String Action

String Action is the term used to describe the gap between the strings and the fretboard, and the gap or height can be adjusted at the bridge of the guitar where you will insert the strings.

If your guitar has high string action, then it would be painful for you to fret the guitar since you have to apply too much pressure on the strings for it to get closer to the frets. If the action is too low, then the strings will create a fret buzz, which is an annoying sound that can be unpleasant to the ears. Before purchasing a guitar, make sure that the action on the instrument’s strings doesn’t produce a fret buzz and is comfortable for you to play.

Popular Guitar Types

There are many different kinds of guitars to choose from when you go to an instrument store, and some of these guitars may be what you are looking for if you wanted to learn how to play it. For beginners, there are a few types of guitars that are much more suitable to them than other kinds, and these guitars are mostly easier to play. To familiarize yourself with the various kinds of guitars out there, here is a guide of all popular guitar types for you to see which one is best for you.

Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is the best type of guitar for beginners, as they don’t need to buy electronics like amplifiers or speakers for them to hear what they are playing on the instrument. Its loud sound comes from its large body, which is hollow and has a hole in the middle where sound waves produced by the strings will go in. The sound waves will then be amplified thanks to the resonating qualities of the hollow body’s wood, thus producing a loud sound.

While the acoustic is a type of guitar in itself, there are several subtypes of the acoustic guitar that exist as well. Here are some of the well-known acoustic guitar types.

Classical Guitar

classical guitar with nylon strings
A kind of acoustic that you may have seen in many households as this mostly serves as an entry point to people who are learning to play the instrument, the classical guitar has nylon strings that are softer to the touch and won’t produce severe calluses on your fingertips.

However, classical guitar is not just used by beginners, as they are originally made to play classical music, hence the reason why it is called “classical guitar.” Moreover, some musicians often refer to it as a “Spanish guitar” due to how it was widely used as an instrument for the Flamenco playing style. In Flamenco, guitarists will sit the body of the guitar on one leg (usually the right) while the other leg will support the guitar and prevent it from falling. Flamenco players normally play the instrument with their fingers and without any picks or plectrums, which is a guitar accessory that is very popular today.

Classical guitars are typically smaller than most acoustic guitars, and this small body makes it more comfortable for Flamenco style musicians to play it.

Dreadnought Guitar

dreadnought guitar with steel strings
The dreadnought arguably has the most recognizable body shape out of all acoustic guitars. Like the classical guitar, the dreadnought is also a kind of acoustic guitar for beginners, as they are widely available and are much cheaper than any other types of acoustic guitars in the market.

However, the dreadnought is regarded as the better beginner guitar than the classical due to the fact that it has steel strings, which are seen in almost every guitar today. Those who are learning to play the guitar should play dreadnought acoustics first for them to get used to the feel of steel strings, and once they are accustomed to these strings, they can easily move to other types like electric guitars or bass guitars.

The dreadnought guitar shape is invented by CF Martin, which is considered one of the best guitar manufacturing companies in the world. Due to its large body, the guitar type was named after the dreadnought, a big English battleship that was predominantly used during World War I.

Its large body enables the dreadnought to produce a louder and fuller sound than the classical guitar, and it is complemented well with the steel strings that provide a twangier tone than nylon strings, which can sound dull on chords.

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Martin Standard Series D-28 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Natural

Martin LX1E Little Martin Solid Sitka Spruce/Mahogany HPL Acoustic/Electric w/Gig Bag

Taylor Guitars Baby Mahogany-e Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Gibson J-200 Standard Acoustic-Electric Guitar Antique Natural Finish

Fender Player Telecaster, Maple - Tidepool Bundle with Gig Bag, Stand, Cable, Tuner, Strap, Strings, Picks, Capo, Fender Play Online Lessons, and Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD

Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Pau Ferro Fingerboard - Tobacco Sunburst

Gibson 2016 T Les Paul Studio 50's Tribute Electric Guitar, Gold Top

Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar, Heritage Cherry

Parlor Guitar

The parlor guitar shape is also invented by CF Martin, but this time it is smaller than the dreadnought and even smaller than the classical guitar. This type of guitar combines the benefits of both the dreadnought and the classical guitar and put them all in one small instrument.

Parlor guitars usually have steel strings, which are slightly better than the nylon strings of the classical guitar, but this is all just a matter of preference as to what string you like more. In addition, parlor guitars are small, meaning that musicians can carry the instrument with them without the hassle of strapping a guitar bag on their back or being burdened by the weight of the guitar.

Travel Guitars

mini acoustic guitar
Another small guitar type, the travel guitar typically has a similar body shape to the dreadnought, but it is a lot smaller and has a shorter neck compared to most acoustic guitars. Although they don’t produce excellent sounds like dreadnoughts and classical guitar, the advantage that travel guitars have over the mentioned acoustic guitar is that it is portable and can easily be carried during backpacking trips or camping.

CF Martin produces their version of the travel guitar, which is the LX1E, while their fiercest competitor, Taylor, has also created a travel guitar called the Baby Taylor.

Jumbo Acoustic Guitar

Gibson super jumbo 200
From the smallest guitar body shapes, we are now focusing on an acoustic guitar that probably has the biggest body shape out of all, and that is the jumbo acoustic guitar.

The jumbo acoustic guitar has a louder sound compared to dreadnought thanks to its larger body, which allows the sound waves to resonate more inside and created a powerful sound. However, the guitar may have a little bit too much bass to it if played using a nylon string, which is why steel strings are mainly strung on this instrument for better tone or sound quality.

Gibson is one of the biggest names that come to mind when it comes to jumbo guitars, as they are the inventors of the first jumbo acoustic that is the Super Jumbo 200.

Electric Guitars

Playing an electric guitar is the next step for most beginner musicians, as this type of guitar requires a lot of hard work to play properly, and players may need a lot more money to play an electric guitar since they would have to buy amplifiers and effects for it to sound great.

There are various shapes available for electric guitars, and each of these variations produces different sounds. These are some of the most popular shapes of electric guitars.

Telecaster

Fender telecaster with two single coil pickups
Considered as the first solid-body electric guitar that became popular among musicians, the telecaster has an interesting shape, and that is because it has an hourglass figure like a classical acoustic guitar, but it is made of solid wood and has a deep cutaway at the bottom for easier access to the higher frets.

The telecaster has two single coils pickups, one near the neck and one at the bridge, and these pickups provide unique sounds for the guitar. The neck pickup is considered the “rhythm” pickup because it has more bass than the bridge pickup that allows it to blend well into the rhythm section of a song or musical piece. The bridge pickup is the “lead” pickup that has a twangier sound and has more midrange stand out in a particular section of the song.

Fender is the company that invented the telecaster, but there are many guitar manufacturing companies that produce telecaster copies.

Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster with three single coil pickups
The Stratocaster is another electric guitar invented by Fender, but this one has three single-coil pickups instead of two. The pickups are said to produce a slightly more balanced sound than the telecaster, which has a little bit more treble to it than other solid-body electric guitars.

This guitar shape is also one of the most comfortable in the electric guitar line, as it has contour as the back where your belly is located, and it has another contour at the top part of the body where the picking or plucking arm usually rests.

Its well-balanced sound and comfortable body shape make the Stratocaster the most favored electric guitar by beginners and veterans alike.

Les Paul

Gibson Les Paul humbuckers
When Les Paul, a famous jazz guitarist, was approached by Gibson to make his own model of electric guitar, they never imagined back then that the instrument they are inventing would eventually turn out to be one of the most iconic electric guitars that are used in dozens of genres around the world.

The Les Paul’s body shape is similar to the classical guitar, but like the telecaster, it is made of solid wood with no holes, and it has a cutaway at the bottom so you can easily access the last frets on the neck.

Instead of single coils, the standard Les Paul has two humbuckers, which are pickups where two single coils are wound together to reduce the noise or “buck the hum” that they are usually producing. Because of the praise that humbuckers got from musicians, Fender opted to add humbuckers to some variants of their Stratocaster and Telecasters.

SG

Gibson SG solid guitar
When this guitar shape was introduced as the Gibson Les Paul SG in 1961, Les Paul didn’t want his name to be present in the headstock of the guitar, prompting Gibson to change its name to just SG, which is an abbreviation for “Solid Guitar.”

The SG has a thinner body profile than the Les Paul, and it has two cutaways that look like horns. Moreover, the main issue for the Les Paul back then was its hefty weight, so Gibson created another guitar model that is lightweight and thinner to make it more comfortable for guitarists to play.

Hollow and Semi-Hollow Electric Guitars

hollow body guitar with Bigsby tremolo
The hollow and semi-hollow electric guitars are the preferred instruments by jazz musicians because they combine the resonance of the acoustic guitar with the electronics of an electric guitar. The one biggest downside to hollow guitars is that it produces too much hum or feedback due to its almost empty body, and that is why semi-hollow guitars are created to eliminate the noise coming from the pickups.

Semi-hollow guitars commonly have a slab of wood at the center where all the electronics will be installed, and then the hollow part of the guitar is found at the sides to provide the acoustic resonance for the instrument.

Besides the types of guitars and their shapes, there are more aspects of the instrument that you should learn about when you are already good at playing it, such as tonewoods and pickup choices. But for now, it is great to familiarize yourself first with the different types of guitars so that you will know which body shapes and strings suit your preferences.