Steel-string acoustic guitar

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Steel-string acoustic guitar
Gibson SJ200.jpg
A Gibson SJ200 model
String instrument
Classification String instrument (plucked)
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 321.322-6
(Composite chordophone sounded by a plectrum)
Playing range
Range guitar.svg
Related instruments
Fingerpicking a steel-string guitar Playing acoustic guitar.jpg
Fingerpicking a steel-string guitar
A C.F. Martin Eric Clapton model C.F. Martin 000-28EC Eric Clapton model Acoustic Guitar.jpg
A C.F. Martin Eric Clapton model
Fender DG-41SCE Fender DG-41SCE Electro-acoustic guitar.JPG
Fender DG-41SCE
Epiphone PR-5E VS Epiphone PR-5E VS Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar (Vintage Sunburst).jpg
Epiphone PR-5E VS

The steel-string acoustic guitar is a modern form of guitar that descends from the nylon-strung classical guitar, but is strung with steel strings for a brighter, louder sound. Like the classical guitar, it is often referred to simply as an acoustic guitar.

Contents

The most common type is often called a flat top guitar, to distinguish it from the more specialized archtop guitar and other variations.

The standard tuning for an acoustic guitar is E-A-D-G-B-E (low to high), although many players, particularly fingerpickers, use alternate tunings (scordatura), such as open G (D-G-D-G-B-D), open D (D-A-D-F-A-D), drop D (D-A-D-G-B-E), or D-A-D-G-A-D (particularly in Irish traditional music).

Construction

Steel-string guitars vary in construction and materials. Different woods and approach to bracing affect the instrument's timbre or tone. While there is little scientific evidence, many players and luthiers believe a well-made guitar's tone improves over time. They theorize that a decrease in the content of hemicellulose, crystallization of cellulose, and changes to lignin over time all result in its wood gaining better resonating properties. [1]

Types

Steel-string acoustic guitars are commonly constructed in several body types, varying in size, depth, and proportion. In general, the guitar's soundbox can be thought of as composed of two mating chambers: the upper bouts (a bout being the rounded corner of an instrument body) on the neck end of the body, and lower bouts (on the bridge end). These meet at the waist, or the narrowest part of the body face near the soundhole. The proportion and overall size of these two parts helps determine the overall tonal balance and "native sound" of a particular body style – the larger the body, the louder the volume.

Any of these body type can incorporate a cutaway , where a section of the upper bout below the neck is scalloped out. This allows for easier access to the frets located atop the soundbox, at the expense of reduced soundbox volume and altered bracing, which can affect the resonant qualities and resulting tone of the instrument.

All of these relatively traditional looking and constructed instruments are commonly referred to as flattop guitars. All are commonly used in popular music genres, including rock, blues, country, and folk.

Other styles of guitar which enjoy moderate popularity, generally in more specific genres, include:

Tonewoods

Traditionally, steel-string guitars have been made of a combination of various tonewoods , or woods considered to have pleasing resonant qualities when used in instrument-making. Note that the term is ill-defined - the wood species that are considered tonewoods have evolved throughout history. [3] Foremost for making steel-string guitar tops are Sitka spruce, the most common, and Alpine and Adirondack spruce. The back and sides of a particular guitar are typically made of the same wood; Brazilian rosewood, East Indian rosewood, and Honduras mahogany are traditional choices, however, maple has been prized for the figuring that can be seen when it is cut in a certain way (such as flame and quilt patterns). A common non-traditional wood gaining popularity is sapele, which is tonally similar to mahogany but slightly lighter in color and possessing a deep grain structure that is visually appealing.

Due to decreasing availability and rising prices of premium-quality traditional tonewoods, many manufacturers have begun experimenting with alternative species of woods or more commonly available variations on the standard species. For example, some makers have begun producing models with red cedar or mahogany tops, or with spruce variants other than Sitka. Cedar is also common in the back and sides, as is basswood. Entry-level models, especially those made in East Asia, often use nato wood, which is again tonally similar to mahogany but is cheap to acquire. Some have also begun using non-wood materials, such as plastic or graphite. Carbon-fiber and phenolic composite materials have become desirable for building necks, and some high-end luthiers produce all-carbon-fiber guitars.

Assembly

The steel-string acoustic guitar evolved from the gut-string classical guitar, and because steel strings have higher tension, heavier construction is required overall. One innovation is a metal bar called a truss rod, which is incorporated into the neck to strengthen it and provide adjustable counter-tension to the stress of the strings. Typically, a steel-string acoustic guitar is built with a larger soundbox than a standard classical guitar. A critical structural and tonal component of an acoustic guitar is the bracing, a systems of struts glued to the inside of the back and top. Steel-string guitars use different bracing systems from classical guitars, typically using X-bracing instead of fan bracing. (Another simpler system, called ladder bracing, where the braces are all placed across the width of the instrument, is used on all types of flat-top guitars on the back.) Innovations in bracing design have emerged, notably the A-brace developed by British luthier Roger Bucknall of Fylde Guitars.

Most luthiers and experienced players agree that a good solid top (as opposed to laminated or plywood) is the most important factor in the tone of the guitar. Solid backs and sides can also contribute to a pleasant sound, although laminated sides and backs are acceptable alternatives, commonly found in mid-level guitars (in the range of US$300–$1000).

From the 1960s through the 1980s, "by far the most significant developments in the design and construction of acoustic guitars" were made by the Ovation Guitar Company. [4] It introduced a composite roundback bowl, which replaced the square back and sides of traditional guitars; because of its engineering design, Ovation guitars could be amplified without producing the obnoxious feedback that had plagued acoustic guitars before. Ovation also pioneered with electronics, such as pickup systems and electronic tuners. [4] [5]

Amplification

A steel-string guitar can be amplified using any of three techniques:

The last type of guitar is commonly called an acoustic-electric guitar as it can be played either "unplugged" as an acoustic, or plugged in as an electric. The most common type is a piezoelectric pickup, which is composed of a thin sandwich of quartz crystal. When compressed, the crystal produces a small electric current, so when placed under the bridge saddle, the vibrations of the strings through the saddle, and of the body of the instrument, are converted to a weak electrical signal. This signal is often sent to a pre-amplifier, which increases the signal strength and normally incorporates an equalizer. The output of the preamplifier then goes to a separate amplifier system similar to that for an electric guitar.

Several manufacturers produce specialised acoustic guitar amplifiers, which are designed to give undistorted and full-range reproduction.

Music and players

Until the 1960s, the predominant forms of music played on the flat-top, steel-string guitar remained relatively stable and included acoustic blues, country, bluegrass, folk, and several genres of rock. The concept of playing solo steel-string guitar in a concert setting was introduced in the early 1960s by such performers as Davey Graham and John Fahey, who used country blues fingerpicking techniques to compose original compositions with structures somewhat like European classical music. Fahey contemporary Robbie Basho added elements of Indian classical music and Leo Kottke used a Faheyesque approach to make the first solo steel-string guitar "hit" record.[ citation needed ]

Steel-string guitars are also important in the world of flatpicking, as utilized by such artists as Clarence White, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, Doc Watson and David Grier. Luthiers have been experimenting with redesigning the acoustic guitar for these players. These flat-top, steel-string guitars are constructed and voiced more for classical-like fingerpicking and less for chordal accompaniment (strumming). Some luthiers have increasingly focused their attention on the needs of fingerstylists and have developed unique guitars for this style of playing.

Many other luthiers attempt to recreate the guitars of the "Golden Era" of C.F. Martin & Co. This was started by Roy Noble, who built the guitar played by Clarence White from 1968 to 1972, and was followed by Bill Collings, Marty Lanham, Dana Bourgeois, Randy Lucas, Lynn Dudenbostel and Wayne Henderson, a few of the luthiers building guitars today inspired by vintage Martins, the pre–World War II models in particular. As prices for vintage Martins continue to rise exponentially, upscale guitar enthusiasts have demanded faithful recreations and luthiers are working to fill that demand.

See also

Related Research Articles

Classical guitar member of the guitar family used in classical music

The classical guitar is a member of the guitar family used in classical music. An acoustic wooden string instrument with strings made of gut or nylon, it is a precursor of the modern acoustic and electric guitars, both of which use metal strings. Classical guitars are derived from the Spanish vihuela and gittern in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which later evolved into the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Baroque guitar and later the modern classical guitar in the mid-nineteenth century.

Electric guitar Electrical string instrument

An electric guitar is a guitar that requires external amplification in order to be heard at typical performance volumes, unlike a standard acoustic guitar. It uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals, which ultimately are reproduced as sound by loudspeakers. The sound can be shaped or electronically altered to achieve different timbres or tonal qualities, making it quite different from an acoustic guitar. Often, this is done through the use of effects such as reverb, distortion and "overdrive"; the latter is considered to be a key element of electric blues guitar music and rock guitar playing.

Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing the strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand. A plectrum or individual finger picks may be used to strike the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected either acoustically, by means of a resonant chamber on the instrument, or amplified by an electronic pickup and an amplifier.

Mandolin Musical instrument in the lute family

A mandolin is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is generally plucked with a plectrum. It most commonly has four courses of doubled metal strings tuned in unison, thus giving a total of 8 strings, although five and six course versions also exist. The courses are typically tuned in an interval of perfect fifths, with the same tuning as a violin. Also like the violin, it is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass.

C. F. Martin & Company American guitar manufacturer established in 1833

C.F. Martin & Company is an American guitar manufacturer established in 1833, by Christian Frederick Martin. It is highly respected for its acoustic guitars and is a leading manufacturer of flat top guitars. The company has also made mandolins and as well as several models of electric guitars and electric basses, although none of these other instruments are currently in production.

Acoustic bass guitar Type of acoustic instrument

The acoustic bass guitar is a bass instrument with a hollow wooden body similar to, though usually larger than a steel-string acoustic guitar. Like the traditional electric bass guitar and the double bass, the acoustic bass guitar commonly has four strings, which are normally tuned E-A-D-G, an octave below the lowest four strings of the 6-string guitar, which is the same tuning pitch as an electric bass guitar.

Appalachian dulcimer fretted string instrument

The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the zither family, typically with three or four strings, originally played in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

Archtop guitar Type of steel-stringed acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar

An archtop guitar is a hollow steel-stringed acoustic or semiacoustic guitar with a full body and a distinctive arched top, whose sound is particularly popular with jazz, blues, and rockabilly players.

Russian guitar

The Russian guitar (sometimes referred to as a "Gypsy guitar") is an acoustic seven-string guitar that was developed in Russia toward the end of the 18th century: it shares most of its organological features with the Spanish guitar, although some historians insist on English guitar ascendancy. It is known in Russian as the semistrunnaya gitara (семиструнная гитара), or affectionately as the semistrunka (семиструнка), which translates to "seven-stringer". These guitars are most commonly tuned to an open G chord as follows: D2 G2 B2 D3 G3 B3 D4. In classical literature, the lowest string (D) occasionally is tuned down to the C.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:

Violin construction and mechanics

A violin consists of a body or corpus, a neck, a finger board, a bridge, a soundpost, four strings, and various fittings. The fittings are the tuning pegs, tailpiece and tailgut, endpin, possibly one or more fine tuners on the tailpiece, and in the modern style of playing, usually a chinrest, either attached with the cup directly over the tailpiece or to the left of it. There are many variations of chinrests such as clamped to the body in the center, on either side of the tailpiece as with a Guaneri style chinrest or to the left of the tailpiece.

Flamenco guitar Acoustic guitar used in Flamenco music

A flamenco guitar is a guitar similar to a classical guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. It usually has nylon strings, like the classical guitar, but it generally possesses a livelier, more gritty sound compared to the classical guitar. It is used in toque, the guitar-playing part of the art of flamenco.

A person who is specialized in the making of stringed instruments such as guitars, lutes and violins is called a luthier.

Acoustic guitar

An acoustic guitar is a musical instrument in the guitar family. Its strings vibrate a sound board on a resonant body to project a sound wave through the air. The original, general term for this stringed instrument is guitar, and the retronym 'acoustic guitar' distinguishes it from an electric guitar, which relies on electronic amplification. Typically, a guitar's body is a sound box, of which the top side serves as a sound board that enhances the vibration sounds of the strings. In standard tuning the guitar's six strings are tuned (low to high) E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4.

Tonewood refers to specific wood varieties that possess tonal properties that make them good choices for use in woodwind or acoustic stringed instruments.

Tacoma Guitars was an American manufacturing company of musical instruments. It was founded in 1991 as a division of South Korean company Young Chang. Instruments were manufactured in Tacoma, Washington. The company and brand name were later acquired by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. The Tacoma plant closed, and production ceased, in 2008.

Bridge (instrument) Part of a stringed instrument

A bridge is a device that supports the strings on a stringed musical instrument and transmits the vibration of those strings to another structural component of the instrument—typically a soundboard, such as the top of a guitar or violin—which transfers the sound to the surrounding air. Depending on the instrument, the bridge may be made of carved wood, metal or other materials. The bridge supports the strings and holds them over the body of the instrument under tension.

Guitar bracing refers to the system of wooden struts which internally support and reinforce the soundboard and back of acoustic guitars.

Breedlove Guitars is an American acoustic instrument company based in Bend, Oregon. Breedlove produces acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitars, and ukuleles.

Lichty Guitars

Lichty Guitars is an American company based in Tryon, North Carolina, that has been making custom acoustic guitars and ukuleles since 2009. It was founded by musician Jay Lichty, who honed his craft with luthier Wayne Henderson.

References

  1. October 02, Rick Turner; 2013. "Acoustic Soundboard: The Sonic Effect of Time and Vibration". www.premierguitar.com. Retrieved 2019-09-12.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  2. 1 2 "Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide". www.sweetwater.com. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  3. Mottola, R.M. (1 January 2020). Mottola's Cyclopedic Dictionary of Lutherie Terms. LiutaioMottola.com. p. 165. ISBN   978-1-7341256-0-3.
  4. 1 2 Denyer, Ralph (1992). "Ovation guitars (Acoustic guitars)". The guitar handbook. Special contributors Isaac Guillory and Alastair M. Crawford; Robert Fripp (foreword) (Fully revised and updated ed.). London and Sydney: Pan Books. p. 48. ISBN   0-330-32750-X.