Acoustic guitar

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An acoustic guitar ( acoustic guitar ) is a guitar in which the tone generation and primary tone amplification takes place without electronics , i.e. purely mechanically.

With guitars, the tones are created by plucking or striking the strings . In acoustic guitars, the body of the guitar amplifies the sound transmitted from the strings via the bridge to the top. Of particular importance for its sound is the material and the quality of the top (wooden panel facing the strings). This is mainly made from red cedar (a type of thuja ) or spruce wood. Very inexpensive guitars are also made from plain plywood .

Steve Lukather with an Ovation electro-acoustic guitar

There are also so called electro - acoustic guitars (or semi-acoustic guitars ). These are acoustic guitars with built-in pickups , where the sound can be output via an amplifier just like the electric guitar .

Concert guitar

Concert guitar

The concert guitar or classical guitar (English also Spanish guitar ) has a wider fingerboard compared to the western guitar and the electric guitar, the normal dimension at the saddle is 52 mm with a standard scale of 65 cm. For smaller guitarists and as student guitars, smaller designs are offered, the size of which is given in fractions of a standard guitar (e.g. 3/4 guitar with scale lengths from 595 to 614 mm, 1/2 guitar with scale lengths from 530 to 547 mm, 1/4 guitar with scale lengths of 472 to 487 mm). Scale length and body size are reduced in scale, while the string spacing does not decrease in the same scale. Guitars with smaller lengths are also known as octave, third, fifth, etc. Children's guitars also have smaller sizes.

The body of a high-quality concert guitar is usually made of hardwood for the back and sides and spruce or red cedar wood for the top. In the past, Rio rosewood was in particular demand for the back and sides. Today, different types of mahogany , ovangkol , East Indian rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) but also local woods such as maple or cherry are used for the construction of the back and sides . The neck is usually made of cedro , maple or mahogany, and the fingerboard is made of ebony or rosewood.

High-quality concert guitars are hand-polished with a shellac - resin mixture based on spirit. “Shellac”, as the mixture is often simply called, has the advantage that it can be polished to a high gloss at any time and small scratches disappear again. Above all, however, it represents the thinnest possible surface protection for the wood, thus enabling the ceiling to vibrate largely unhindered. However, shellac requires consistent care and polishing in order not to look unsightly dull. Coating with less sensitive nitro lacquer is meanwhile also common for high-quality instruments.

The guitar strings are (, D, A and E string occasionally the G string) on the bass side of nylon and silk with copper - or silver wire wound on the treble side of homogeneous nylon . For some time now, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) has also been used (so-called carbon strings ). The material has a higher density than nylon, so the strings are thinner at the same pitch and thus more “lively” and more reactive. Historical guitars are sometimes still played with gut strings, which are now made from sheep intestines.

The first concert guitars of today's size and design can be found in Spain from the middle of the 19th century. In these instruments, the neck is no longer pushed in after the sound body has been completed, as is still the case with string instruments today. Probably the most important guitar makers of that era were Antonio de Torres and Gaetano Guadagnini, a relative of the famous violin maker . In Germany, the Torres design was largely implemented and disseminated by Hermann Hauser (I) .

In addition to the 6-string guitars, guitars with seven, eight or more strings are also made, mostly by handcrafted guitar makers.

Flamenco guitar

The flamenco guitar is very similar to the concert guitar. The differences are:

  • Significantly lower string action on the fingerboard, background noises are a characteristic feature of the sound of the flamenco guitar.
  • The back and sides are usually made of light cypress wood (also made of maple or walnut)
  • Overall thinner wall thicknesses of the top, bottom and sides.
  • Slightly lower frame height
  • The equipment with Golpeador . The Golpeador consists of a transparent or white, hard plastic film that is glued to the ceiling above and below the sound hole in order to avoid damage from the flamenco-typical Golpe striking technique .

Wooden pegs are often used on the flamenco guitar instead of a tuning mechanism. A positive influence on overtones is ascribed to these and the associated, more vibrating headstock.

When choosing the body wood of the flamenco guitar, the use of the guitar plays a major role. For dance accompaniment, a percussive instrument is desired that clearly stands out from the sound of other instruments. Rosewood back and sides are often used on instruments for solo pieces; Such guitars sound closer to the concert guitar in terms of sound, but because of the lower string position they sound a bit “unclean”.

Overall, the construction creates a sound that is more percussive and sharper than a concert guitar. Response and volume are much better, but the sustain is all the shorter - an advantage in flamenco. The use of a capo is typical of flamenco guitar playing practice . It is used to adapt to the vocal range of the singers and to achieve certain timbres.

Folk and Western guitar

Acoustic guitar Gibson SJ200 (jumbo body)

The core of the strings on the western guitar is made of steel; they therefore have a much higher tension than nylon strings. Similar to an electric guitar, the neck is usually narrow and - as with almost all steel-string guitars - often contains a neck tension bar to compensate for the tension of the steel strings. The width of the fingerboard on the saddle is usually between 43 and 45 mm, some manufacturers also 46 mm ( Seagull ). A western guitar usually has 6 or 12 strings (rarely 7 or 9). The body is flat (as a flattop as opposed to an archtop ) and is now larger than that of the classical guitar. There are different forms: Dreadnought , Jumbo, Grand Auditorium, Auditorium and Parlor. The fingerboard is usually curved.

The top is usually made of spruce wood. Different woods are used for the frame and bottom; the most common ones are mahogany and rosewood. In higher price ranges you will find cocobolo , ovangkol , blackwood or koa , among others . However, some manufacturers also offer instruments whose bodies are made entirely or in part of high-quality composite materials. Charles Kaman, founder of the Ovation company, was in charge of the development of this construction method .

The higher tensile forces on the blanket are (English: by a modified top and bottom bracing Bracing ) stabilized. The so-called X-bracing is often used here. The name results from the shape of two stabilizing bars crossing each other directly below the sound hole. The invention of this bracing system is attributed to the guitar maker Christian Friedrich Martin, who emigrated to the USA in the 19th century and founded the " Martin Guitar Company " there. However, it was used almost at the same time by other guitar makers of German origin. Almost all steel string guitars are built according to this construction principle to this day. Scalloped X-Bracing is often used to improve the response of the instrument . Here, the strips of the guitar top are tapered at various points in order to strengthen or weaken certain resonances of the instrument. This processing process should be carried out individually by an experienced guitar maker. Scalloped bracing is therefore mainly found in high quality instruments.

The most sought-after models currently available in the high-quality sector and upper price segment include the acoustic guitars from Martin , Gibson , Guild , Taylor (all USA ), Larrivée and Boucher (both Canada ), Takamine ( Japan ), Furch Guitars ( Czech Republic ), Lakewood ( Germany ), Lowden ( Northern Ireland ) and Maton ( Australia ). The folk / acoustic guitar has compared to the classical guitar a brighter sound that by using a plectrum (Engl. Pick ) is even more brilliant. In order to protect the ceiling against damage from the pick, a pickguard is usually attached below the sound hole.

Occasionally, a six-course acoustic guitar with twelve strings is also played. On this guitar, in addition to the four lowest strings (E, A, D and G), there is a second, thinner string that is tuned an octave higher; the two treble strings (H and E ') are available twice. These additional strings result in a fuller, bright harmonic sound; a chorus effect can also arise by slightly detuning the double strings against each other . Because of the double stringing, the 12-string guitar requires significantly more force in the grip hand.

Today, based on the Ovation system, many acoustic guitars, but also guitars with nylon strings, are equipped with a pickup (often a piezo pickup built into the bridge), preamplifiers with tone control and an amplifier connection.

Between the concert guitar and western guitar stands the robustly built wandering guitar, which is mostly provided with steel strings and originates from the Wandervogel movement . To complete it, the four-string tenor guitar should be mentioned.

Resonator guitar

The resonator guitar , often also called a dobro , is a steel string guitar with one (single-cone) or three (tri-cone) mechanical speakers made of metal inside the body. The strings transmit their vibrations to the cone via the bridge connected to the resonator (s) and set the system vibrating. This construction makes it one of the loudest unamplified guitars. Often the body of these guitars is made of metal.

Bass guitar

Acoustic bass guitar - fretless, but with fret markings

The (six-string) bass guitar is tuned an octave lower than the "primary guitar". More often, however, the bass guitar refers to the four-string acoustic bass guitar , which is usually tuned in fourths like the double bass ('E -' A - D - G). Samples with five or six strings have an additional low string (B) and / or an additional higher string (c). Bass guitars rarely have seven strings; such specimens are usually custom-made. Acoustic bass guitars can also be amplified electrically using electromagnetic and piezoelectric pickups. Due to the large number of designs (full or semi-resonant body, different frame heights), the boundaries between these instruments and the electric bass are fluid.


  • Teja Gerken, Michael Simmons, Frank Ford, Richard Johnston: Acoustic guitars: all about construction and history . Munich 2003, ISBN 3-910098-24-X
  • Tony Bacon, Dave Hunter: Totally Guitar - the Definitive Guide . Backbeat Books, London 2004, ISBN 1-871547-81-4 (English).
  • Franz Jahnel: The guitar and its construction - technology of guitar, lute, mandolin, sister, tanbur and strings. Erwin Bochinsky publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1963, 7th edition, ibid 1999, ISBN 3-923639-09-0 .

Web links

Wikibooks: Guitar  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Päffgen: A guitar is created. Observations by Peter Päffgen. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 6, Heft 6, 1984, pp. 20-24 (Part 1), and Volume 7, Heft 1, 1985, pp. 20-24 (Part 2), as well as Book 3, pp. 24-26 (Part 3) ; here: Part 1 (1984), p. 22: “But many people know that the cedar, which is used for making instruments, is actually not a cedar at all, but rather a" false "cedar (a type of thuja, also known as red cedar) not known".
  2. Michael Koch: Children's guitars, school guitars - general information. (PDF; 87 kB) European Guitar Teachers Association, Section Germany; Retrieved December 20, 2012
  3. Peter Päffgen: A guitar is created (1985), pp. 20–22.
  4. Ivor Mairants: The Flamenco Guitar. A complete method for playing flamenco. Latin-American Music Publishing, London 1958, p. 2.
  5. ^ Tony Bacon, Paul Day: The Ultimate Guitar Book. Edited by Nigel Osborne, Dorling Kindersley, London / New York / Stuttgart 1991; Reprint 1993, ISBN 0-86318-640-8 , p. 46 f.