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Types of Acoustic Guitars and the Woods used to make them

Acoustic The acoustic class of guitar is made to generate enough volume to be heard in close quarters and small rooms. It is primarily used by folk and country and western singers these days. Some acoustic guitars make beautiful sounds.

Acoustic Dreadnought Six and 12 string (12-string acoustic guitars have six string courses, each with two strings that are tuned to produce a chiming, chorus effect. Usually, the string pairs in the bass courses are tuned an octave apart while all treble strings are tuned in unison. Some guitarists prefer tuning the the second string in the third course (G) in unison while others opt to tune it an octave higher for bell-like ringing tones.)

Flat top guitars come in five different sizes: O, or Concert is the smallest, about the same size as a classical guitar. OO, or Grand Concert is the next size up and OOO, or Auditorium is the next size up from that with the Jumbo and the Dreadnought being the largest. All these guitars except the Dreadnought have pronounced waists, the waist on the Dreadnought being just a slight indentation of the sides.

Acoustic Bass     Acoustic Classical     Acoustic Cutaway Dreadnought    Acoustic Parlour     Acoustic Resonator

Electric The electric guitar requires an amplifier to be heard at any distance. The invention of the electric guitar made it possible to play modern music in front of large crowds. Amplifiers allowed the volume to be increased and adjusted between players and instruments changing both tone, pitch and frequencies in some cases so that bands could make distinctive sounds.

Electric acoustic guitars are actually acoustic guitars that have been fitted with a pickup or a mic (usually inside the body) to amplify the body vibrations produced. Usually there are a number of pickups of various types used in an electric acoustic guitar. The important difference between these and semi acoustic guitars is that these do not use the regular pickups found on electric guitars. Also the pickups used on these is more to capture the body vibration rather than the string vibration.

Electric Acoustic     Electric Bass     Electric Hollow-body     Electric Lap Steel     Electric Pedal Steel      Electric Solid-body

Different Kinds of Wood for Acoustic Guitars

The kind of wood used to make an acoustic guitar has a major affect on the tone of the instrument. Because of this, guitar makers have experimented with many types of wood when building guitars. Most guitars, though, are made out of a handful of time-tested woods.

Alder and Basswood
Although slightly more common in electric instruments and basses, alder and basswood are sometimes used in the creation of acoustic guitar bodies. These types of wood tend to emphasize lower-end tones as opposed to the higher tones emphasized by many other woods.

Koa Koa
Koa-koa wood is a time-tested wood that emphasizes upper midrange and high end frequencies. Because of these characteristics, guitars made out of Koa wood are well-suited for rhythm guitar playing. Koa wood is used primarily as a body wood. Although Koa is naturally quite abundant on the islands of Hawaii, most Koa forests have been cleared for grazing pastures; and since young Koa seedlings are edible for grazing animals, most new trees are prevented from growing to lumber-harvestable size. As a result, mature Koa trees are either scarce, or in hard-to-access mountainous locations, and the price of Koa is likely to only increase further in the future. Australian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is considered to be a more sustainable, and visually/mechanically similar substitute. Koa is widely considered to be the most beautiful and useful of Hawaii’s native hardwoods.

Mahogany is used as an acoustic guitar top, body wood and neck wood. As a top, mahogany accentuates higher end frequencies while producing a fairly even tone. Mahogany as back or side wood generally emphasizes the highs and the lows. As a neck, mahogany helps to create a warm, smooth tone.
While many people admire mahogany for its beauty and strength, some may hesitate to purchase this material due to environmental concerns. To alleviate this problem, consumers can look for wood stamped with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) stamp of approval. The FSC is an independent, non-profit agency concerned with responsible forestry worldwide. This organization certifies wood harvesters and exporters based on their efforts to protect old growth forests, minimize their impact on local wildlife, and limit the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. By purchasing wood certified by the FSC, shoppers can enjoy the benefits of this product while helping protect its future availability.

Maple is used in the creation of acoustic guitar bodies and acoustic guitar necks. Maple necks tend to give a guitar a bright, snappy sound, while maple bodies tend to bring out the tonal characteristic of the top wood, which is used for the face of the acoustic guitar. When buying maple from your supplier, you'll hear plenty of names for the wood: tiger maple, curly maple, birds-eye maple, fiddleback maple, red maple, soft maple, hard maple - it goes on and on. First of all, soft maple and red maple are basically the same thing. And the term soft maple is a bit of a misnomer, as soft maple is harder than many other hardwoods (such as cherry). Soft maple is also often referred to as "tiger maple" for the tiger-like stripes in the wood, or curly maple, if the stripes are a bit more of a curly nature. Hard maple varieties will often have more small knots that appearing along the grain. This quite often gets referred to as "birds-eye maple". For years, maple was the wood of choice for building musical instruments. The term "fiddleback maple" came from this industry, as properly matched boards would be used to make the large back panels of guitars and fiddles.
The two major types of rosewood used to build guitars are Brazilian rosewood and Indian rosewood. Brazilian rosewood guitar bodies are known to have excellent clarity and strong highs and lows. Brazilian rosewood necks help to strengthen midrange frequencies. Indian rosewood is similar to Brazilian rosewood except, when used as body wood, it has a darker tonal quality and emphasizes the midrange more than the lows. Rosewood is a characteristically dark, highly grained wood from trees in the genera Tipuana, Pterocarpus, or Dalbergia. Trees from other species may also be sold with this name, since this wood has been traditionally prized for fine woodworking and musical instruments for centuries. Unfortunately, due to unsustainable harvesting practices, some rosewoods are in critical condition, and some ecologists believe that forests in regions like Brazil should be allowed to recover before any more is harvested. Rosewood has been prized historically because it has a close, dense grain that makes it extremely strong and durable. Some types, such as Honduran rosewood, also have excellent resonance that makes them ideal for musical instruments like guitars and pianos. The wood also takes polish very well, and it holds up to a range of uses. No agency regulates the naming of “rosewood.” As a result, consumers can buy an assortment of products labeled with the term, and it can be difficult to tell whether or not wood from one of these genera was used. Some things to look for are close grain and a weight which feels heavy for the object's size.

Spruce guitar bodies are very common. Sitka spruce is a stiff wood that amplifies the guitar's sound extremely well. Sitka gives a guitar a well-rounded tone that sounds best when the guitar is played with a heavy hand. Red spruce is similar to Sitka spruce except it is louder and even more tonally complex. Red spruce is one of the best materials used to make any part of a guitar body. This wood species is characterized by a creamy, bright gold-tone in colour and has – resulting from geographic-climatic realities – a very homogeneous annual ring growth (this, in fact, is positively affecting the wood’s tonal qualities). German Spruce is a tonewood featuring exceptional stiffness together with low weight and, furthermore, outstanding sound-forming factors. With the famous luthier Antonio de Torres, a man having done his handicraft on the highest artistic level possible, only using German Spruce for his tops, the question which wood to choose for one’s guitar should be made decisively easier. In comparison to other tone woods, German Spruces tend to have the best balanced amplifying/damping abilities for the optimal range in sound of an acoustic guitar. This species of wood is used for building master grade guitars for Spanish and classic music as well as for high quality fingerstyle- and western-guitars.


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