The guitar is one of the most popular and widely played musical instruments in the world. This instrument allows you to play chords, harmonies and melody line all the same time! The guitar is portable, affordable and buying a guitar is easy. Let’s take a look into the world of guitars!
History of Guitars
Where did the guitar start? Guitars were developed and played in all parts of Europe as early as the 12th century and later in the Americas. There is even a 3,300 year old carving of an ancient Hittite playing an instrument that resembles a guitar! Now guitars are one of the most widely played instrument in the world, second only to the piano.
The guitar is used by those who want to play many types of music including country, rock, folk, traditional melodies, blues, and others. The guitar can be loud or soft, tender or harsh. A beginner can learn to play a few chords in just hours, although learning the guitar at an expert level requires much practice and expertise.
Types of Guitars
Guitars can be divided into two categories, electric and acoustic, but there are many, many varieties under each category. Let’s look first at the acoustic (non-electric) guitar.
The classical guitar is the most widely known acoustic guitar. Classical guitars are made with hollow wooden bodies, six nylon strings, are plucked with the fingers and have a wide, flat neck which allows the musician to play scales, runs and chords more easily and with less interference from the neighboring strings than other guitar types. It’s the easiest kind of guitar to start out on, and the most widely played worldwide.
Another form of classical guitar is the flamenco guitar, used to play traditional Spanish music. It has a lighter construction, with a cypress body and spruce top. Tuning pegs like those of a violin are traditionally used for the strings.
Twelve-string guitars are used widely for popular music such as rock and roll and folk music. Twelve strings are used rather than six strings and the strings are tuned in octaves. This type of guitar is very difficult to play and only the most skilled can master the twelve-string. The twelve-string guitar can be either acoustic or electric.
Flat top guitars fall under the classical guitar category, but use steel strings and are usually larger than a classical guitar. The steel strings produce a stronger, brighter, louder tone. This steel-string variety is used in folk, country, bluegrass, pop, blues and jazz. They’re usually strummed with a flat pick, but are also played with bare fingers or finger-picks.
The Dobro guitar is similar to a flat top guitar but the body can be made of steel, brass, or wood. It is designed to resonate and create the effect of a loudspeaker without electrification, but today’s amps and loudspeakers have largely replaced the need for a Dobro guitar.
The electric guitar is used extensively in jazz, blues, R & B, and rock and roll. Electric guitars can have solid, semi-solid or hollow bodies. The solid body guitar has little volume without electronic pickups to amplify the sound. There are also semi hollow body electric guitars, hollow body electric guitars, and acoustic electric guitars. Each type is used for special types of music, as the electric guitar is preferred by rock musicians and hollow body electric guitars are often used for jazz, and can be used “unplugged” or electrified.
Rock and roll bands use the electric guitar and bass guitars, and many young people want to play electrics because their favorite bands play them.
Choosing a Guitar
All guitars, whether acoustic or electric, are played in the same way. The fretboards on the neck are all the same. Steel strings are harder to play because they are harder on the fingertips, though the fingertips do toughen up with regular playing. Beginners often choose guitars with nylon strings because of the finger-friendliness.
Be sure to choose a guitar that fits your hands. Again, all sizes and shapes are available and the easier it is to hold the instrument, the more likely you are to truly learn to master it.
Buying a Guitar
If you decide to take up the guitar, hopefully you will have had the opportunity to begin learning on a friend’s guitar to be sure it is an investment you really want. Most music stores have guitars for sale, both new and used. Invite someone with you to the store who knows about guitars. There are many styles and a large price range, and it is helpful to have a knowledgeable friend to guide you through the purchasing process. Make sure you like the way it looks, and there are no noticeable scratches, rough edges or flaws in the guitar, and make sure the instrument has a straight neck and feels good in your hands.
Here are some things to look for:
• A decent price. Sales people will want to sell you the more expensive models, but make sure to stick within a budget.
• Good workmanship. Again, check for rough edges or flaws.
• Easy playability. If the “action” (the distance between the strings and the fretboard) is too great, the guitar will be hard to play and hurt your fingers.
• Sound. The guitar should have a nice tone. Beware of a guitar that sounds tinny or cheap.
• Brand. It is easy to research the most popular brands and models of guitar. A few minutes of research can earn years of satisfaction with your instrument. The more satisfactory the instrument, the more likely you are to stick with it and enjoy years of playing.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy a very good instrument. An acoustic guitar with nylon strings offers the best learning experience and with proper care can last many years. Electric guitars may seem cooler but are harder to learn and play, so save the electric guitar for your next purchase. Between $150 – $200 US should buy a very decent guitar on which to learn.
Learning the Guitar
All guitars, whether acoustic or electric, are played in the same way. The fretboards on the neck are all the same. Beginners often choose guitars with nylon strings because of the finger-friendliness. There are many avenues to learning to play the guitar. Private teachers are available in any city, or you may have a friend who plays and would be willing to teach you. In today’s world there are many websites online that will help you learn chords and guide you through the process.
There are two very important things a beginning guitarist needs to learn: One, to be patient. While a few chords can be learned quickly, becoming an accomplished musician takes a lot of time and dedication and there are no shortcuts to learning. Second, try to play a little every day or every second day. Your fingers will be sore for a while, but eventually you will develop callouses and play with no discomfort. Learning the guitar will be a very satisfying experience if you take the time to do it right!
Whether you decide to learn the guitar to play for your own pleasure, or to join a band, or to share music publically with others, the guitar is a wonderful choice. It is affordable, portable and pleasing.