Exclaimer: Some of the information below are taken from the great book by Ralph Denyer called: The guitar handbook.
It’s considered common knowledge that we have three types of guitars today: The electric guitar, the classical guitar, and the acoustic guitar.
However, the acoustic guitar and the classical guitar is basically the same instrument, with different type of strings, and a slightly different body structure to accommodate for its louder and sharper tone than that of the classical guitar.
With that being said, what is the acoustic guitar really? And how is it different than the classical and the electric guitar? And what makes it special and so appealing to the majority of guitar lovers today? Let’s figure this out.
What is the Acoustic Guitar?
Short and simple answer is: It is a classical guitar, with steel strings instead of nylon. Additionally, you will notice that most acoustic guitars are manufactured in a way to make it sound louder than the classical guitar and have a much sharper and “ringing” tone.
The classical guitar with the nylon strings being used mainly to play classical and flamenco music, while the acoustic steel strings guitar to play mainly folk, blues, jazz, and rock.
The acoustic guitar can be played either with a plectrum or with your fingers using the fingerstyle picking technique. It partially depends on the style of music you want to create. For jazz, for example, most guitarists use the plectrum. For country and rock, some use a plectrum, while others prefer picking the strings with their fingers, or both techniques combined.
In the end, how you play the acoustic guitar is totally a personal preference matter, and you can play any style of music on it any way you like. In that regard, the acoustic guitar is very versatile.
Perhaps the biggest example of the versatility of this instrument, is Django Reinhard himself, the gypsy jazz legend and one of the greatest guitar players of all time, where he used to play jazz on the acoustic guitar using only the index and the middle fingers of his left hand after the other fingers got paralyzed from a fire accident.
Django Reinhardt not only played the jazz, he invented a whole new guitar genre in the style of jazz called the “hot” jazz, and many of his compositions have become jazz standards today, including “minor swing”, “Djangology” and more. He also co-founded the jazz band called “Quintette du Hot Club de France“, which is considered by many critics to be one of the most original jazz bands in the history of the genre.
Django Reinhardt Playing “Minor Swing”
Meet Django Reinhardt
Another great acoustic guitar player that I feel I must mention here is Tommy Emmanuel. It’s hard not to mention this guy when talking about acoustic guitars.
Tommy is an Australian guitarist and songwriting, and is famous for his innovative and unique style on the acoustic guitar, and his amazing picking and fingerstyle technique capabilities.
He is mainly a solo guitarist artist and has been regarded a few times as “best acoustic guitarist” by the Guitar Player Magazine’s readers’ poll. Another prodigy of the guitar that I recommend following if you’re a big fan of the acoustic guitar.
Here he is playing “Daphne” in collaboration with a Violinist:
The Anatomy of the Acoustic Guitar
Unlike electric guitars, all acoustic guitars have a hollow body. That hollow body plays the role of a “soundbox” for the guitar, meaning it is the “box” that is responsible for creating (or more accurate to say: “amplifying”) its unique voice that you hear every time you pluck or strum its strings.
Each acoustic guitar manufacturer structures the soundbox differently from the outside, as well as from the inside. And the design of the soundbox and the type of wood picked to construct each part of it, plays a huge role in the overall quality and cost of the guitar.
From the inside, the guitar isn’t just an empty box. There are plenty of “bracing” or “strutting” patterns for the soundboard (which is the front part of the guitar) and the back of the guitar, that impacts the tone of the guitar through changing the way the air flows inside the soundbox and eventually make it vibrate. It also plays a part in strengthening the wood to prevent from distorting over the years.
Check the images and illustrations below for the complete anatomy of the guitar:
How the Acoustic Guitar Works?
The acoustic guitar generates sound “acoustically”, unlike with the electric guitar where the sound is generated electronically through the pickups and the inner electronics inside the body of the guitar, and then to the guitar amplifier via the guitar cable.
When you pluck a string on the acoustic guitar, the string vibrates at a constant frequency. However, that alone is not enough to create an audible sound.
You need an additional “item” to transmit the energy of the vibrating string to the surrounding air more efficiently to create a clear audible sound, and that “item” is the soundbox of the guitar.
The energy of the vibrating string is transferred to the soundbox via the saddle and the bridge over which the strings pass. The soundbox then vibrates in sympathy with the guitar strings to create amplified air-borne sound waves that can be heard up to a reasonable distance from the guitar.
The size of the soundbox, the type of materials comprising it, the strutting inside and its design concept all contribute to the quality of the guitar’s unique tone, and thus its price.
You will find acoustic guitars ranging from 50$ up to several thousand bucks all in accordance with the criteria mentioned above.
What is the Best Acoustic Guitar?
It’s hard to pick only one best acoustic guitar, because there are several companies that have been up and running in the industry of guitars making, and they are equally known worldwide for their quality work and commitment to creating the best guitars in the world.
If I have to pick the top three acoustic guitar brands, I’d have to go for:
Martin and Gibson being the expensive elite brands of the acoustic guitars, where you can spend over a thousand dollar for a cheap acoustic guitar, while the Yamaha have a little bit of everything. There are some great Yamaha acoustic guitars that cost between 200-500$, which make an excellent pick for serious beginners who are looking for a quality inexpensive acoustic guitar to start learning the instrument.
Other brands that make great acoustic guitars are:
These brands are close to the level of Yamaha if not on the same level. They make excellent acoustic guitars that cater to beginners and advanced guitarists, and they have some very reasonable prices as well.
So if the Yamaha does not look appealing to you, I suggest looking into these two brands instead.
I have already selected a number of classical and acoustic guitars from Yamaha, Seagull, and Corte, and wrote reviews on them. If you wish to see these reviews and which guitars I selected, then click below:
If you have other acoustic guitar suggestions in mind, or are good with writing guitar reviews, you can contribute to our community by sending your reviews to us (after we examine your review and the selected guitar, we’ll post it with your name as the author).
How to Play the Acoustic Guitar
As we stated earlier, the acoustic guitar can be very versatile in terms of how you can play on it. Tommy Emmanuel and Django Reinhardt are great examples that highlight the versatility and the capabilities of the acoustic guitar. Such a great instrument to learn to play on!
You have to ask yourself first, what style or what genre of music feels more appealing to you? Then you’ll have to buy the appropriate guitar for you and start your journey.
Learning the acoustic guitar is an exciting thing to do, and certainly is a wise decision to make. Some of the benefits you’ll be getting are:
- Big self-esteem boost
- Enhances your social skills
- Enhances your mind, your motor skills, and memory
- And MUSIC: I believe that people who are deeply connected to music and its creation are healthier spiritually and mentally. Music is like healing to the body. Do you agree?
If you are serious about learning the acoustic guitar and get to a point where you can play songs comfortably, then you’ll have to develop the right mindset for it first. The right mindset includes believing in yourself that you are up to the challenge, stay motivated and set goals for yourself. Read more here.
After that, you are ready to start. In the past years, the only way to really learn to play the acoustic guitar properly was with the help of a private guitar instructor, who would normally charge you between 25-50$ for a single lesson of 45-60 minutes. Now the times have changed, a private guitar teacher is still a great option if you want to learn the instrument, but additional great options have also emerged.
Online guitar training has been the most viral guitar-related trend in the past 5 years, and it’s still surging for many reasons, including being extremely cheap compared to a real private instructor (starting from 9$ only for a whole month subscription!), and the fact that most of these programs have dozens of professional teachers with different musical backgrounds that can teach you every existing style of music on the guitar.
The acoustic guitar is the modern name of the classical guitar, with steel strings installed instead of nylon ones. It is also built and designed a bit differently than that of the traditional classical guitar so it can generate an even louder voice and a sharper tone that suits your desired style of music.
Many times you can’t tell the difference between an acoustic guitar and a classical one if put near to each other, but when you play both simultaneously, you will immediately notice the difference in tone and volume.
The anatomy of each guitar and its unique design contribute the most to its tone and the overall quality of the guitar and its price. Additionally, the quality of the strings and their age and condition also play a big role in the tone quality.
Some of the best acoustic guitar players of all time are in my opinion: Django Reinhardt (The gypsy jazz phenomena, 1910-1953) and Tommy Emmanuel (I’ve heard him play every style so far). I highly recommend learning more about them and checking their music and contributions to the music industry if you’re an acoustic guitar fan.
Eventually, learning the acoustic guitar is both an exciting endeavor and a challenge. I presented to you with the best options I know that can help you have a smooth and easy start for learning the guitar, the only thing left is your own will and dedication, and how much effort and time you are willing to sacrifice in order to successfully learn to play this amazing instrument.
If you have any feedback or additional information to say about the acoustic guitar, please feel free to drop it in a comment below.