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Guitars

Guitars

Electric guitars

Electric guitars are designed to produce sound via an electrical signal. Unlike acoustic guitars, electric guitars don’t rely on a hollow sounding body to amplify the sound of the strings, allowing them to be built in a much wider variety of shapes, which in turn means that they can be designed with maximum ease of playing in mind.

The development of the electric guitar was driven by simple necessity: musicians needed a louder, more audible instrument. This had become necessary because jazz guitarists playing purely acoustic guitars had great difficulty in being heard over brass instruments, or even over a piano. The electric guitar was thus developed in stages, its design being initially based on the already-established acoustic guitar. The term „electric guitar“ therefore refers to both hollow-bodied guitars with surface-mounted pickups (as played by jazz musicians) on the one hand, and to fully solid-bodied guitars on the other. Between these two extremes is a whole spectrum of guitar designs that blend both types together. These are commonly referred to as „semi-hollow“ or „semi-acoustic“ guitars, and their contribution to music today is as significant as ever.

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Steel acoustic guitars

As their name suggests, steel acoustic guitars have strings made of steel, which have a significantly higher string tension than nylon strings. The neck, similarly to that of an electric guitar, is usually slim and contains a metal truss rod (common to almost all guitars designed for steel strings) to counterbalance the tension of the strings on the neck. Steel acoustic guitars most frequently have six strings (though both 7 and 12-string variations also exist) and a significantly larger body than nylon-string guitars. They come in various shapes, known as  Dreadnought, Jumbo, Grand Auditorium, Auditorium and Parlour. The fingerboard is usually curved, and the top is most commonly made of spruce or in some cases cedar. A variety of woods are used to make the back and sides, including rosewood, mahogany, North American walnut, zebra wood and padauk. However, many manufacturers also offer instruments with bodies made partially or entirely from high-grade composite materials. The leader of this revolutionary development was Charles Kaman, founder of the Ovation guitar company.

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Classical guitars

The term „acoustic guitar“ refers to any guitar that physically amplifies the sound of the strings without the use of electronics. The notes are played by plucking or striking the strings, and are then amplified by the instrument’s hollow body. The quality of the guitar’s top (the side that faces the strings) and the material from which it is made are particularly important factors in determining how the instrument will sound. If a pearly, hard-edged sound is desired (such as that heard in Spanish guitar music), then cedar wood is commonly used. If, on the other hand, a softer, singing sound is desired (e.g. for romantic music), then spruce is preferred. Cheaply-priced guitars are also made using wood laminates or simple plywood.

A design that has also been around for a long time is the so-called „electro-acoustic“ guitar – an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup which allows the sound to be amplified, the same as with an electric guitar.

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The Maccaferri “Selmer guitar” (Django model)

In 1932 the Selmer Company collaborated with the Italian guitarist and guitar-maker Mario Maccaferri to produce a steel-string guitar based on Maccaferri’s unusual design. Maccaferri’s partnership with Selmer lasted until only 1934, but Selmer built several models of this guitar up until 1952. The model became synonymous with its most famous player – Django Reinhardt.

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Electric bass guitars

The electric bass guitar (or bass for short) is a stringed instrument that is most commonly made of wood. Similarly to the electric guitar, the electric bass guitar uses pickups to convert the vibration of the strings into an electrical signal which is then amplified to audible volume by an amplifier and speakers, rather than using a hollow body to physically amplify the sound.

Bass players pluck the strings either with their fingers or using a plectrum, and unlike its predecessor (the upright double bass), the bass guitar is held in a horizontal position in front of the player using a strap slung over one shoulder, allowing the instrument to be played standing up. As a bass instrument in a musical ensemble, the bass guitar carries the bass line, as typically heard in jazz, blues, country, pop and dance music.

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