How Guitars “Work”

Guitars come in many different shapes, sizes, design and style. The world of guitars has nylon string classical guitars, steel string acoustic guitars, solid body electric guitars, hollow body guitars, etc. Each type has its own looks & style, sound and purpose. Generally speaking guitars can be put into two broad categories: acoustic guitars and electric guitars.

How a guitar works: To know how a guitar works, lets take a look at what is common on every guitar. Every acoustic guitar has basically six components – the neck with nut and a headstock, a fret board (fingerboard), tuners (also called machines), a bridge, body and last but certainly not least…..strings.

Guitar strings are long metal “wires” or can be made of nylon for classical guitars, which stretch almost the entire length of the guitar. There are six strings on a standard guitar E-A-D-G-B-E from low to high. You can read an article about guitar string construction here. Strings generate sound by vibrating when plucked, picked ot strummed. On one end at the headstock you have the nut. On the other end the guitar’s bridge.  The tension and thickness (guage) of the string determine the strings pitch or note.

How an Acoustic Guitar Works

All guitars have strings and generate sound by vibration. The sound from a bare string is barely audible. The strings vibrations have to be amplified so that they can be heard. This “amplification” prduced by the “sound box” body of the guitar. The sound box of an acoustic guitar is hollow and made of wood. There are some that are made of composite materials however. The “acoustics” of the sound box is what gives amplifies the strings and the materisl give each guitar it’s own characteristic sound..

How an Electric Guitar Works

Electric guitars electronically amplify the sound generated by the guitar strings. In place of the sound box like an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar has one or more pick-ups and other electronic components for converting the string vibration energy into electrical energy. The pickup detects the strings vibrations and converts them into electrical signals. There are many different types of pickups to accommodate different types of sounds and applications.

The electric signal then passes through a series of electronic components such as potentiometers (volume and tone controls) and the output jack mounted on the guitar. From there the signal passes through a cable and into the guitar amplifier.

There you have it. The basics of the acoustic and electric guitar. Each component of the two different types of guitar plays a part in making them unique.

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