You maybe find yourself to be overwhelmed by the endless acoustic guitars types today when you are looking to get your first one or to add a new one to your guitar collection.
I want to provide you with some keys that will make your task of choosing the right equipment a bit easier.
I hope you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the instrument, and the last thing you need is the frustration of playing an instrument that fights rather than facilitates your desire to make music.
There are many aspects that will affect the sound and tone of the acoustic guitar you’ll choose, like:
- The string gauge and brand
- Type of wood
- Presence of a cutaway
- Type of bracing
- Strumming with a pick vs fingerpicking.
- With or without nails.
- The level of the tense you apply on the strings.
- Right-hand position- near the nut or the soundhole.
- Style of music.
- Space- room size, dry or wet, outdoors.
- Solo guitar playing or with other instruments.
- Temperature changes.
Guitars, like most musical instruments, are very personal objects.
You might develop a strong attachment to your instrument when you find one that feels right to them.
No two players’ hands or arms the same, and the feel of a guitar is such important as the sound or look.
You may have chosen already the guitar used by your favorite guitar player but you are still open-minded to other acoustic guitar types.
If, however, you discover that guitar just doesn’t feel right to you,
I would suggest you continue your search rather than forcing the instrument onto yourself.
With the countless options available,you’re sure to find the sound, look, and feel that’s right for you.
Acoustic Guitar Size And Type
Within the realm of the acoustic guitar, there are many different types available.
Here we’ll look at a few of the most common variations of acoustic guitars and their features.
The dreadnought also called a ‘Western guitar’, is a large instrument with a full sound and ample bass,
guitarists use to accompany vocals.
This is probably the most common type of acoustic guitar and what most non-guitarists picture in their head
when they think acoustic guitar.
The Dreadnoughts guitar brand and luthier make them from many different types of wood and range in price from under a hundred to several thousand dollars (as is the case with all of the types mentioned here).
Neil Young is best known for playing Martin acoustic dreadnought guitars like D-45, a D-28 and a D-18.
Folk or Parlor Style Guitar
This guitar is much smaller in size and usually slightly quieter than a dreadnought.
Due to the reduced size, the frequency response of these guitars is usually more balanced, resulting in an even, pronounced sound favored by fingerstyle players in particular.
Parlor guitars are quite popular these days.
As the name implies es, the jumbo is the largest style of acoustic guitar and, as you might expect, produces a big, booming sound. These guitars usually have prominent bass frequencies.
The sound is similar to that of a dreadnought, but often times the midrange is slightly more pronounced in a jumbo. Their timbre usually sits well within a mix of many different instruments, making them a common choice for pop artists.
Pete Townshend usually uses Gibson SJ-200 Jumbo acoustic guitars on stage.
12-String acoustic guitar
The 12-string acoustic is widely available In all of the styles I mentioned above, except for the folk style.
The top two pairs of strings are the same, while the bottom four are octaves, giving this instrument a shimmering sound that can liven up the most pedestrian of strumming or fingerpicking patterns.
One of the most well-known live performances with a 12-string guitar is the acoustic version
of ‘Love of my life’ in which Brian May plays it.
Some common 12- strings include the Guild F212 XL and the Gibson J-185 12.
More Acoustic Guitars Types
Aside from the size and type, there are a few alternatives to consider when choosing your instrument.
Cutaway Acoustic Guitar
Virtually all of the types mentioned are available in a cutaway model.
The cutaway has minimal to no effect on tone.
A well-made model shouldn’t suffer any serious tonal loss.
The obvious advantage to using a cutaway model lies in its access to the higher frets.
If you plan on soloing over the topmost region of your acoustic fretboard the cutaway model must be a practical choice.
Electric Acoustic Guitar
In some cases, practicality will be the determining factor when choosing your instrument.
For instance, if you’re going to be performing live with a band, you may want to look into an electric acoustic.
These are available in all of the acoustic guitars types and have become arguably as popular as standard acoustics, in many circles.
Electric acoustic models feature a pickup that allows you to plug into an amplifier just as you would an electric guitar.
Magnetic soundhole pickups, which were among the first ones invented, are still available but not as common.
Most of the guitarists I know use the piezo pickup, which mounts under the guitar’s saddle.
But increasingly, guitarists and guitar manufacturers are opting for complete systems-like Rahman’s Aura or Taylor’s Expression system-that blend pickup and microphone signals, as well as acoustic imaging technology to best, depict the natural acoustic tone of the guitar.
For many years, acoustic amplification lagged way behind its electric counterpart, but in recent years several manufacturers have crafted top-notch amps explicitly made for acoustic guitars.
Many of these also include a channel for vocals as well, with an XLR mic input and separate level and EQ controls.
These two in one amp are often the perfect choice for the singer-songwriter looking to play smaller venues where just a slight amount of amplification is needed.
Alternatively, direct boxes are commonly employed, along with various processors (EOs, compressors, effects boxes, etc.) to plug an acoustic guitar directly into the PA.
This method will also allow you to further shape the sound of the guitar, as the PA’s mixer will usually possess some EO as well.
If you just can’t get used to the sound of a normal electric acoustic, there is another possibility for amplification: using a microphone.
Generally speaking, this approach will reproduce the tone of the guitar more faithfully than any pickup can, but there are several things to cons der.
The first is freedom of movement.
When playing with a microphone, you’re going to be stuck in front of it and unable to move more than six or eight inches without losing the signal. Just a two-inch diversion will change the tone!
Because of this, microphones are usually used only when sitting down.
Another concern is feedback.
Though a unidirectional mic will help with this issue, sometimes it’s still necessary to enlist the help of an EQ or some type of “feedback eliminator” to identify and remove the offending frequencies.
Recently, some internally (or externally) mounted microphones have become available,
combining the practicality of a pickup with the sound of a mic.
Though these types of systems usually run in the higher price range, using one may be your best route if you’re not willing to compromise your true acoustic sound.
Construction And Wood Type
Probably the most significant factor contributing to the tone of an acoustic guitar is the type of wood
used to build it.
In ad addition to its sound, the wood look and durability are also factors to consider when choosing woods.
There are several commonly used kinds of wood today, and each one colors the sound in its own way.
It’s also quite common for a guitar to use one type of wood for the back and Sides and another type for the soundboard.
Acoustic Guitar Types – The Most Common Woods And Their Tone:
Sitka spruce: Consistent. Uniform grain with a good overall tonal response.
Englemann spruce: A light wood in both color and weight, with a slightly louder and more “open tone than Sitka. Koa: Extremely beautiful grain with a predominant treble response and slightly less volume than spruce.
Western red cedar. An extremely light wood with great clarity of sound and good volume.
Genuine mahogany: A less projective wood with more emphasis on midrange.
Back and Sides
East Indian rosewood: An extremely resonant wood usually red, brown, and dark purple in color, it produces a warm bass response, especially on larger guitars.
For several years already is under CITES protection and therefore, very expensive and limited in availability.
The color ranges from dark brown to violet and commonly contains attractive streaks in the grain, while the tonal response is nicely balanced.
Morado: Finer in texture, but closely resembles East Indian rosewood in appearance and tonal qualities.
Koa: A golden-brown wood with dark streaks containing slightly less bass response than rosewood and slightly less treble response than maple, but a balanced tone nonetheless.
European flamed maple: A hard, reflective wood containing an attractive rippled pattern through the grain. It produces a loud, powerful sound.
All the wood tone are a matter of subjective preferences.
Different players have ears for different guitars, and until you get out and play one, it’s hard to make a decision.
If you’re not able to get your hands on many guitars and demo them, try to find out what guitars are making sounds that you like on record.
For instance, Bob Dylan recorded ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ with a Gibson Nick Lucas Special.
This guitar featured Brazilian rosewood for the back, and sides and red Adirondack spruce for the top.
The Beatles often made use of the Gibson J-160E in the early days, which featured solid Sitka spruce on the top and mahogany for the back and sides.
James Taylor makes use of a custom-made Olson guitar combining a cedar top
with East Indian rosewood back and sides.
In the end, you probably will have to make a choice that is compromising on some parameters that one guitar has and that second is missing.
I think that the least “philosophical” thing is if the guitar feels comfortable for you.
All the rest are objective parameters.
To know if a guitar is right for you, you have to spend weeks/months with it,
play with it in outdoors and indoors places, listen to it in the after you make some recording and
try it in different musical style, etc.
Most importantly is that the guitar will inspire you to sit and play.