February 11, 2010

Introduction to different categories of Guitars

In general, guitars can be divided in two categories: acoustic guitars and electric guitars. The difference between these two categories is huge. The acoustic guitar is the guitar that has a hollow body and the sound is amplified using the resonance of the guitar body. The body of the electric guitar, as opposed to the acoustic guitar, is made of solid wood and the sound produced by the strings is amplified using electricity (pickups, amplifiers, processors, etc.) and the final sounds come out of a speaker.

In turn, acoustic guitars can be divided in two categories: nylon acoustic guitars, such as the classical guitar and the flamenco guitar, and steel stringed acoustic guitars, such as the western (folk, country) guitar, twelve string acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, archtop guitar, or baroque guitar.

The baroque guitar represents the original instrument. It is the first acoustic guitar ever to be played. It was introduced in the baroque era, around 1600. The strings were made from animal gut, and the guitar was significantly smaller then the modern acoustic guitar. The frets were also made from animal gut and tied to on the neck.

The classical guitar represents the modern acoustic guitar. Also known as the Spanish guitar, this guitar is usually played by musicians playing classical music. For this reason, the fret and the distance between the strings are slightly bigger then in the case of other guitars as the players use their right hand fingers to pluck the strings instead of a pick (as in the case of folk guitars).

The size and shape of the classical acoustic guitar has remained the same for the last hundred years. A distinct characteristic of the classical guitar is the fact that it is usually played with nylon strings for their rich and warm sound. The position of the player is also unique: the left leg is raised using a footstool, the guitar is placed on this leg (as opposed to the other guitars which are held on the right leg) and the guitarist holds the guitar in place using his right arm.

When talking about the classical acoustic guitar, talking about some of the greatest classical guitar players seems imperative. And from these players, Andres Segovia is probably the most representative player, the man who stated he “rescued the guitar from the hands of flamenco gypsies," and built up a classical repertoire to give it a place in concert halls. He held his first concert at the age of sixteen in Spain, and a couple of years later his first professional concert in Madrid included transcriptions of Francisco Tarrega and works by Johann Sebastian Bach. Although not many believed that the new sounds of Segovia would be accepted in the guitar playing community, with his technique and unique touch he managed to revive the acoustic guitar and give it a well deserved place in concert halls. He continued to play into his old age and received the title Marques de SalobreƱa in 1981 for his impressive cultural contribution.

If interested in the classical acoustic guitar, one should definitely look into the works of Matteo Carcassi, Mauro Giuliani, Fernando Carulli, Fernando Sor, Augustin Barrios, to name just a few.

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