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Acoustic guitar: the musical chameleon

First developed during the late 18th century, the acoustic guitar was adapted from earlier instruments like the lute. Due to its portability, pleasing sound quality and the ability to deliver both harmony and melody, sometimes simultaneously, the acoustic guitar has become one of the most popular instruments in the world.

The variety of musical genres in which the acoustic guitar is featured is staggering. From classical (Beethoven famously referred to the guitar as a “little orchestra” of its own) to jazz, folk, country, pop, and numerous other styles, the acoustic guitar has become a mainstay of music and musicians everywhere.

Nylon String vs. Steel String

Although there are thousands of brands and models, acoustic guitars fall into two main categories: nylon string (also called classical guitars) and steel string (sometimes referred to as western) guitars. Nylon stringed guitars have a softer, mellower tone, and are nearly always used in classical music. Steel string guitars have a sharp, ringing tone that can stand on its own or cut through an ensemble.

Both types may be played using fingers (finger picking) or a pick. Each creates a unique tone and feel.

Modern Days: The Acoustic Electric Guitar

Like electric violins and cellos, acoustic electric guitars may be created by simply adding a pickup to an existing model (sometimes termed an “electric acoustic guitar”) or designed with the electronics built in. Either way, the goal is to recreate the original sound of the acoustic guitar, but with the ability to amplify the sound to any level required.

Best Acoustic Guitars

Well-crafted models combine a rich, resonant tone with ease-of-playability, all housed in an attractive package. Acoustics can range from simple, inexpensive models (starting at just over $100) to hand-crafted masterpieces, featuring complex wood inlays and other details.

Finding the best acoustic guitar for you is a matter of style and taste; an instrument may be perfect for one player, yet unsuited to another. In the end, the only way to know for sure is to play the instrument. When buying a guitar online, it’s essential to purchase from a guitar shop that allows you to try the instrument out.

A Word about Left-Handed Acoustic Guitars

If you currently play a left-handed acoustic guitar and are in the market for a new instrument, the number of models available to you will be more limited. New guitar students should consider the obstacles they may face before choosing to learn the guitar left-handed instead of the “regular” way, including the need to play everything in reverse. Players who are left-handed, but do not play the guitar left-handed, may have an advantage as the left hand is generally the one responsible for more complex tasks.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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The Johnson String Project

Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in underserved communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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The Johnson String Blog

JSI Blog

Information and helpful articles about the music and instruments we love.

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