Although I use product links on this page I am not affiliated to any of the sellers – Jan 2022
Classical guitars or Spanish guitars as they are commonly referred to are most peoples introduction to guitar playing. Often bought by parents for their children or found in the music room at school. They are a little easier on the fingers as they have the top three strings made of nylon, the top strings are tuned to G, B, and E, so from the bass or fattest strings nearest you face when playing they are tuned to EADGBE
The classical guitar has a wide flat fretboard. The lowest three strings are wound strings. This type of guitar is ideal for playing finger style music as the wide fretboard allows plenty of space for the finger picking and fretboard fingering required by that genre. The soundboard does not usually have a pick guard as the style doesn’t really need it. Some people think that adding a pic guard prevents the guitars sound board from speaking clearly.
Folk guitars are probably the most widely seen and have all six strings made from “steel” the top two of which are typically unwound.
The fretboard of the folk guitar is arched and the machine heads are similar to other non classical styles and arranged in two rows above and below the guitar.
The guitars Steel strings create high tension and in order to prevent the neck of the guitar from bowing up under the strain, the neck of the guitar has an adjustable truss rod which pulls the neck back into place. The picture above shows the cover on the headstock which is removed to access the truss rod adjuster. The standard tuning is identical to the classical guitar. EADGBE
Electric guitars became available in the 1930s These guitars were mostly hollow bodied. Gibson sold a range of guitars beginning with the letters ES which stands for Electric Spanish. The original intention of amplifying guitars was just to make them heard, the subtle distortion of overdriving the amplifier was a quality which musicians adopted and exaggerated to create the now highly desired sound of the crunch that a sweet saturated amp circuit emits.
There are lots of quality guitar manufacturers around And thankfully readily playable guitars are widely available. Due to modern technology the quality of guitars has increased massively. Ibanez created a range of guitars called the Artcore and there is no mistaking the pedigree of these instruments.
The ES-335 is still the choice of many blues guitarist, it’s predecessor ES-150 is often thought to be the first electric guitar but it was actually Rickenbacker who had an electric model which they released in 1932 and it was the first to use the title Electro Spanish Its release was the catalyst for other manufacturers to release their own models.
Ibanez Artcore the picture above is my own Artcore and I love it.
The Gibson ES-175, and ES-350 are other popular models in the Gibson ES range. Gibson used a Tune-o-matic bridge similar to that shown below on the Ibanez artcore. Here we see the Tune-o-matic bridge used on a “floating” rosewood foot which is the common way to fit them on hollow bodied guitars.
The Scale length of a guitar is measured from the bridge to the nut. Fenders uses the long scale of 25.5″ and Gibson the short scale of 24.75″ This affects the tension and string bending however players tend to adapt quickly to their guitars. The difference between the two is glaringly obvious when transferring from one to another and can be awkward until the player gets accustomed to the differences, but, like most things, repetition makes the changeover increasingly less noticeable as the brain adapts and “stores” the adjustments.
The electric guitar uses a transducer called a pickup to change the string vibration to a change in voltage. The voltage is only millivolts so the output needs to be made louder hence the need for an amplifier.
Single Coil Pickups
Single coil pickups have a high clarity but are prone to picking up interference. It is possible to limit this in a home setting by turning your guitar to reduce its capacity as an aerial. On stage this luxury is usually denied to the performer, modern circuits have been developed to reduce sensitivity. Some single pole pickups have steel casing around the pickup to shield as much as possible from interference. Fender used a Lace Sensor ® pickup which had significant noise cancelling properties.
Gibson developed twin coil pickups to cancel out the hum hence the term hum bucker these give a higher output and a fat sound which is a very different sound to the single coil so your choice of pickup for certain sounds may well be decided by your preference for a crystal clear bright sound or a fat rich sound.
The tremolo arm
Tremolo the “trem” is actually not a tremolo but is a vibrato. Tremolo is a volume fluctuation and vibrato is a pitch fluctuation. Leo Fender took the original idea from a pair of kitchen weighing scales, the type that has a balance.
Instead of weights and product he substituted string tension and spring tension. Despite many developments the original idea works so well it still has many supporters. It can be set floating or hard down against the guitar face.
Another thing to consider is the feel of a neck. the profile makes a massive difference to how the neck feels in your hands. Letters have been used to try to describe the profile but really the opportunity of visiting a music shop and trying out the guitar should be taken if at all possible. So often used here are the letters U V C they all infer a shape. On some fender necks there are markings that can only be seen when the neck has been removed but they have nothing to do with the neck profile they actually refer to the width of the neck at the nut.
D is the widest at 1..875 inches (47.6mm) and
A the narrowest at 1.5 inches (38mm)
There are different types of Fret which have quite strikingly different feels when you play them. The jumbo frets do not require you to squeeze down until your fingers hit the neck wood where as the others do, so this can get take some getting used to.
Jim Dunlop originally from Glasgow and also the Designer of the Cry Baby Pedal, has a fret wire manufacturing co in California. Here are descriptions of his fret wire with sizes
6230: The smallest fret wire found on older Fender necks (.078″ x .043″).
6150: Vintage jumbo. Much wider but not as tall as 6230 (.102″ x .042″).
6105: Modern narrow and tall; currently very popular (.090″ x .055″).
6100: Jumbo. The largest fret wire available (.110″ x .055″).
6130: Medium jumbo (.106″ x .036″).
The tuners or Machine heads
Machine head ratio varies from 7:1 on the squire modern telecaster to 18:1 naturally the 18:1 is easier to tune as it is sensitive. The 7:1 is quicker to string up but is quite coarse when it comes to tuning. 14:1 is another popular turn ratio.
There success comes from its ability to trap the string allowing very few turns around the capstan of the machine head, as we know more turns means more chance for the string to slip.
This is a massive subject and one well worth investigating, some songs rely heavily on the fact that they are played on a guitar with a certain tuning which is the basis for the chords or picking patterns. Below are just a few tunings. Chords fingerings will need to be revised in most cases to utilise the tunings to their full potential.
EADGBE DADGBE DADGAD
For electric 9s are my go to. They allow reasonable intonation with ease of string bending and less pressure to hold down. 10s are great for more chord work where the combination of tone and intonation are more imperative than bending strings. 11s are an option for the stronger hands – they keep tuning better but make the vibrato a little more demanding for me!
I have added some links to my favourite strings, remember to choose your gauge when ordering.
For acoustic the gauge will be higher I have tried everything from 11s to 14s and currently using 12s. I’ve tried strings that sounded great at £6 and some that sound great at double that price, I would add that for acoustics the guitar is setup for a specific string gauge and moving away from that can have unexpected results. With electric guitars the saddle have adjusters but most acoustics have a fixed length. String materials can vary from steel copper bronze coated I coated cryogenically treated and a lot of other features one of which was a piano wound style where only the bare core of the string passes over the bridge. What I would say is that I have never regretted trying out a set of strings even if after a while I return to my old favourites. Currently I have Martins but I have tried D’Addario, Ernie Ball, Dean Markley. Earthwood were a favourite of mine too for a time. Elixir do a nanoweb coated string which lasts longer before going dull, also as a last point even the cheapest strings will sound better than a tired worn set. They go dull quickly so keep them clean and hands too to get the best from them.
Earthwood Acoustic Guitar Strings Warm sounding- I am going to try these again!
Elixir Nanoweb Acoustic Guitar Strings Came fitted to my Taylor 314ce
D’Addario Acoustic Guitar Strings Great Strings
Martin Acoustic Guitar Strings Remember to choose you choice of gauge
Remember every player will have their own preferences based on strength of fingers, hour of practise, style of playing, preference for tone, choice of guitar etc.
So I was bought this as a gift and have used it ever since. This link is the actual one but others are available. Sometimes if I get nervous which I am pleased I still do before a gig, my palms can get a bit sweaty, gross I know but this makes sliding up and down the neck harder, I use this to help and it is amazing. Sometimes its the little things adding up that make the difference.
When selecting your acoustic remember that the sizes are another aspect worth considering, Parlour, Auditorium, Grand Auditorioum, Jumbo and Dreadnought. Plus 1/2 size and 3/4 size and also 3/4 size with a full size neck.
Travel guitars have been developed and worth googling if you wish to buy a smaller guitar to take on holiday or even business trips.
I have a Yamaha Guitalele which I bought in York when on holiday as I wanted to sit in with some local ukulele players. I didn’t play ukulele at that time and hadn’t made the leap, which I fully recommend you do by the way, don’t hang on to the guitar mentality but learn the uke as a completely new instrument. It’s great fun and a really social scene for those looking for something new. Anyway the Yamaha Guitarlele has six strings and packs in to the baggage without being noticed too much, so you can satisfy the urge for a good twang whilst away…
I really hope this page has satisfied your urge to read about something that we have in common, and been more than just a little helpful, now stop reading and get playing, unless its midnight in which case you can plug in your headphones and get on YouTube for some more inspiration. Thats probably where I am right now.
Although I use product links on this page I am not affiliated to any of the sellers – Jan 2022