Types of guitars: electric, acoustic and classical and more
How many types of guitars are there? The big question when you want to learn to play the guitar, we show you the different types of guitars there are, characteristics and differences.
The best type of guitar
There are many different types of guitars and each one plays, feels and sounds different. Choosing the correct type of guitar for your style of music is critical to make learning easier and allow you to sound good. Through this guide, we show you all the types of guitars out there, and which types are good for beginners, for each style of music, and more.
How to choose the right type of guitar?
The type of guitar that is right for you depends on the music style you want to play, the sounds you want to get out of your guitar, and what you really like. A big mistake that often occurs is to believe that getting a nylon string acoustic will be the best option because it is easier on the fingers. This does not consider what kind of music you want to play.
So if you want to play some solos and play heavy riffs with a distortion, an electric guitar will be the right choice for you. Thus, a classical acoustic guitar is the worst guitar you can buy if that is your goal. If you want to play very modern or distorted sound guitar songs, you should buy an electric guitar. If you want to play chords to accompany your singing, you like clean bright tones, then you should get an acoustic guitar. We will guide through the different types of guitars and their characteristics and differences so you can think what type of guitar suits the style of music you want to play and the tones you like.
Another issue is the tone or sound that attracts you the most. There are several types of electric or acoustic guitars, and so on. Therefore, the right type of guitar for you is one that adapts to the style of music you want to play and that gives you the audio you are looking for. Thus, an excellent tip is to look at which guitarists your favorite musicians use.
How many types of guitars are there?
There are three main types of different guitars:
- Classical or Spanish guitar with nylon strings
- Steel String Acoustic Guitar
- Electric guitar
When you look at each of these types of guitars, they can be broken down into many different subtypes based on body shape, type of pickups, hardware characteristics, number of strings, and other characteristics. Classical guitars, for example, have a variant that is the flamenco guitar, which at first glance is the same, but has some different characteristics. There are two type of acoustic guitars, the acoustic and electro-acoustic, in turn they are available in many different forms. There are endless types of electric guitars: solid body, semi-hollow, and hollowbody, among other characteristics.
Classical or Spanish guitar -Nylon string acoustic-
The first of all types of guitar are classical or Spanish guitars. The classical or Spanish guitar is also known as nylon string acoustic guitar since they have a sound or sounding box and use nylon strings. This type of guitar is acoustic, which means you don’t have to plug it in to play it. The way to tell if a guitar is classical is to take a close look at the guitar strings.
Classical or Spanish guitar strings
The classical guitar has three of the nylon strings, 1, 2 and 3, while the other three are nylon wrapped with wire. If you see a guitar with strings like this, it is definitely a classical guitar. This is the big difference from acoustic guitars that have steel strings. Which has the six strings made of metal. Four of the strings are wound in wire and the last two are a single wire.
What styles of music can you play with classical guitars?
As expected, this type of guitar is the main choice with classical music and for flamenco. But they are also widely used for styles such as folk, pop, jazz, among others.
Classical guitars produce a softer tone than other types of guitar due to the nylon strings. You can hit the strings harder to produce a harder tone, but the overall tone is smooth and mellow compared to other types of guitars.
Can beginners learn to play classical guitar?
As explained above, there is a belief that beginners should start with classical guitars. This is because these are easier to learn to play than other types of guitars. This is due to the low string tension and wide fingerboard found in classical guitars. Thus, less force is needed to pluck a string and there is more space between strings. This means that your fingers are less likely to hurt at first when playing a classical guitar. While everyone gets over the sore finger stage of learning to play the guitar, learning to play a classical guitar makes the journey a little easier.
However, do not forget the type of music you want to play. The classical or Spanish guitar will not allow you to play Rock or Blues styles where you bend the strings, play at the high frets and use distortion.
Steel String Acoustic Guitar
The second type of guitar is acoustic guitars, also known as steel-string acoustic guitars. As we have already seen, the main difference with classical guitars is the strings. Since the classical guitar uses nylon strings, while the acoustic guitar uses steel strings.
Types of shapes and body sizes of acoustic guitars
There are three main body types for steel-string acoustic guitars: Dreadnought, Parlor or Palour and Jumbo. There are other variations and forms such as Travel, Orchestra and Auditorium and mini, less popular. Travel guitars are also becoming popular and are ideal for guitarists with small hands.
The most popular acoustic guitar body type is a ‘Dreadnought’, that is a big body, but not as big as a Jumbo type. But the correct body type depends on what is comfortable for you. Ed Sheeran is well known for playing downsized acoustic guitars similar to the previous travel guitar, so you have a lot of options on which type you want.
What styles of music can you play on steel-string acoustic guitars?
Steel-string acoustic guitars have a brighter, more “metallic” tone compared to classical guitars. This brighter tone makes them a popular choice for styles of music such as folk, country, blues, pop, rock, bluegrass, and others.
Can Beginners Play Steel String Acoustic Guitars?
Beginners can successfully learn on steel-string acoustic guitars. While steel strings require more pressure with your fingers, since they have more string tension, it is not something you really need to worry about.
A very simple and used trick to make a steel-string acoustic guitar feel more comfortable and easier to play right from the start is to use a capo. This allows you to play on smaller frets that require less finger spread. So put a capo on the fifth fret and suddenly you no longer have to press hard with your fingers. Then, as your finger strength improves, you can move the capo downward until it is no longer needed.
In short, steel-string acoustic guitars are more difficult to learn compared to classical guitars, and even electric ones. But if the music you want to play is played on steel-string acoustic guitars, feel free to choose this option and discard the rest of the guitar types.
The ‘acoustic-electric’ or ‘electro-acoustic’ guitar is simply a steel or nylon string acoustic guitar that you can plug to an amplifier, or mixing console. These guitars are not usually the choice of a beginning musician, as these are the choice for the acoustic guitarist who needs to be amplified.
Thus, they are identical to a normal acoustic guitar, but has two additional features. These are a jack where you can plug it in and a control panel where there are the volume and equalization EQ knobs, the battery slot, and sometimes includes a built-in tuner.
What styles of music can you play on electro-acoustic guitars?
It could be argued that you can play more styles of music on an electro-acoustic guitar compared to a normal acoustic guitar. Being able to connect your acoustic guitar to an amplifier means that you can add effects and set different tones that are normally impossible to play with an acoustic. Effects can enhance your pitch or completely change the feel and vibration of what you are playing.
If you plan to play live in the future, being able to connect an acoustic guitar to an amp or pedalboard gives you great control over your tone. Another advantage of the electro-acoustic guitar is that you can play with a looper pedal, making yourself the bases and even arrangements, to play on top.
Can Beginners Play Electro Acoustic Guitars?
Of course, just like you can play on a classical or steel-string acoustic guitar. Electro-acoustic guitars feel exactly the same as normal acoustic or classical guitars. If you have the opportunity to invest a little more in an amp and even effects pedals, it can be a great option. Especially from what we saw that you can add effects and use a looper, expanding your musical universe.
Solid Body Electric Guitars
Solid body electric guitars, or simply called electric guitars, are a versatile type of guitar made from solid wood. These come in many different shapes and sizes, different types of pickups among other differences that make there a wide range of tones available.
Electric guitars unlike previous types of guitar, its body is made with solid woods. The strings are nickel rather than steel for acoustic and nylon for classical. The type of hardware used in electric guitars can be significantly different from guitar to guitar. This means that each electric guitar feels different to play and can do different things. The same goes for pills.
You can find guitars with fixed bridges like the Telecaster or the Les Paul, or you can find tremolos like the Stratocaster and Superstrats. The pickups can be single coil, P90 or Humbuckers. As if that were not enough, in each of these categories for both bridges and pickups, there are subtypes. This makes the universe of the electric guitar almost infinite, with different combinations of hardware.
Thus, the electric guitars can have different designs, shapes and sizes. Also the tones of each style of electric guitar has a different sound. There is a wide range of tonal options. You can even get electric guitars with piezo pickups that make your guitar sound similar to an acoustic one.
What styles of music can you play on electric guitars?
Electric guitars have been used in almost every style of music at some point. They are the preferred choice in countless styles of music including rock, metal, blues, punk, and more.
There are two reasons why electric guitars can be used in almost any musical style. The first is the different tonal options of the guitars. The type of guitar and the pickups on the guitar change the tone you hear significantly. You can even install different pickups to access different tones on the same guitar.
The second is the equipment to which you can connect an electric guitar. There are many types of amps that shape the tone of your guitar in different ways. You can go from a vintage blues tone to a modern metal tone by flipping a switch on an amp. Additionally, you can use pedals to shape your tone in different ways to create different tones. Thus, the electric guitars are the most versatile type of guitar.
Can Beginners Play Electric Guitars?
Beginners often find it easy to start learning on an electric guitar. While some electric guitars are more difficult to play than others, the string tension is generally lower than on a steel-string acoustic guitar.
If you want to play music that is typically played on an acoustic guitar, don’t start with an electric guitar just because it might be easier to do so. Choose the type of guitar that suits the style of music you want to play. If you like the sounds that an electric guitar can produce and you want to play music that is normally played with an electric guitar, do not hesitate, this is your choice of type of guitar to learn how to play it.
Hollowbody and Semi-Hollow Electric Guitars
Hollow and semi-hollow body guitars, also known as semi-acoustic, are electric guitars with a hollow body. These are the first electric guitars within the different groups or types of guitars.
The difference between a hollow body and a semi hollow guitar can be seen in the internal cavity of the guitar body. A semi-hollow guitar generally has a block of wood running through the body under the pickups and bridge. A hollow body guitar does not have this block and is completely hollowed out.
Hollow body guitars are very susceptible to feedback and don’t work very well with overdriven pickups and amps. Semi-hollow guitars are designed to greatly reduce those feedback problems while maintaining the unique tone of a hollow body. This shade is warmer and “woody.”
By having a soundboard, when you play one of these guitars, be it semi-hollow or hollow disconnected, it produces enough volume to play disconnected, which with a solid body electric guitar does not happen. But never is that volume as loud or as clear as that of a real acoustic guitar.
When you plug in a semi-hollow guitar, you get a electric guitar tone with warmer and more acoustic sound. The tone is smooth and has a unique resonance not heard on solid body electric guitars. This is because the strings are nickel, which has an audio not as bright as a steel string.
Thus, a hollow or semi-hollow electric guitar is warmer and less shiny and “metallic” than an acoustic one, but less so than a classical guitar.
What styles of music can you play with hollowbody or semi-hollow guitars?
Hollow body guitars were all the rage in the 1930s and 1950s. In contrast, semi-hollow guitars were designed in the late 1950s; after solid body guitars such as the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Les Paul became popular. The goal was to appeal to the traditional hollow guitar player, who resisted solid body electric guitars.
These guitars are great for any style of music that doesn’t require tons of distortion. They are an extremely versatile type of guitar, especially the Semi-Hollow. The most prominent styles played on these hollow guitars are blues, jazz, classic rock-n-roll, rockabilly, and similar styles.
Can beginners play semi-hollow or hollow body guitars?
A hollow or semi-hollow body guitar feels very similar to a normal electric guitar. Some beginners will find these types of guitars easy to play, while others may have problems with a large body.
Other types of guitars
Resonators are a rare type of guitar that you may not see very often, depending on the style of music you listen to. These are basically acoustic guitars with a metal cone in place of where the soundboard’s mouth is normally located, and where the bridge rests.
As you might expect, this metal cone helps the guitar resonate and project whatever notes you play. The result is a very high, metallic, clear tone that can be surprising if you’ve never touched one before. You may have heard of a Dobro, which is a way of calling a resonator. They can be played like an acoustic guitar, but are usually played on a slide. In addition, there are round neck resonators, and others with square neck, designed to play like a Lap Guitar lying on your lap.
What styles of music can you play on resonator guitars?
Resonators are commonly used in bluegrass, country, Hawaiian, blues, and jazz music. There are different resonator guitars with different types of cones. Each type of resonator cones is better suited to different styles of music.
Many resonator guitarists use slide, but you can play a resonator just like you would a normal guitar.
Can Beginners Play Resonating Guitars?
Resonators can be more difficult to learn at first, but it depends on the style of music you want to play. High action height and string tension can be a problem for some beginners. Normally, a resonator is an alternative to your first guitar, so we do not recommend considering it as the first or only guitar.
12-point guitars can come in acoustic or electric types in hollowbody or solid bodies. These are basically guitars that have 6 pairs of strings and are played the same as a six-string guitar. The big difference is that they are mainly used for playing chords and arpeggios. Like the resonator, it is a complementary guitar, normally, you will not have a 12-string as your sole or main guitar.
What styles of music can you play on a 12-string guitar?
12-string guitars were extremely popular in the 60s and 70s, but are still used today. A 12-string guitar has a unique and distinctive sound. Once you learn to recognize it, it will stand out in any song that uses it. The most used styles are soft-rock, ballads, pop, country, and of course acoustic concerts of any style of music.
Can Beginners Play 12-String Guitars?
12-string guitars require a lot of finger pressure to play the notes correctly. This is because each note is made up of two strings. You should press down hard enough for two strings to contact the fret under each finger. This makes playing a 12-string guitar more difficult than playing a 6-string.
Also, as we said, this style of guitars is basically used for playing chord bases and arpeggios. Therefore, you will be very limited in the things you can touch. This is why we recommend that you always start with a normal 6-string acoustic or electric guitar. Once you develop your finger strength, you can move on to playing a 12-string guitar.
Lap steel, pedal steel, and Hawaiian steel guitars are a variant of the guitar and are independent instruments. In fact, if we consider the way of playing them, it is quite different from a guitar.
Lap Steel is basically a guitar that is played by resting it on the skirt and using a steel bar, similar to a slide. Hence its name Lap Steel Guitar, since Lap is skirt in English and Steel is steel in English. These guitars do not have frets since the steel bar does the job. The frets you see on the fretboard are actually benchmarks. Some Lap Steel Guitars come with legs for comfort.
What styles of music can you play on a Lap Steel?
The name ‘Hawaiian Steel Guitar’ should give you a good idea of the typical type of music that is played on these instruments. In addition to Hawaiian music, you can listen to lap steel and pedal steel guitars – a variant that includes pedals – that are used in country, folk, and bluegrass music, as well as rock, jazz, blues, and other styles.
Can beginners play Lap Steel?
A lap steel and a regular guitar are two different instruments. Although their fundamental are the same, the techniches are different. Just because you play guitar doesn’t mean you can play a lap steel. Beginners can learn to play a lap steel guitar, but keep in mind that is a completely different instrument.
Frequently asked questions about types of guitars
These are the most common questions beginners often have about the types of guitars: electric, acoustic and classical.
What type of guitar is best for beginners?
The best type of guitar for beginners is the one that best suits the style of music you like to play. If you like music that sounds good on an acoustic guitar, get an acoustic one. If you like music that sounds better on an electric guitar, get an electric one. The best advice is to look at your favorite guitarist and choose a guitar of the same style that you usually use.
What is a normal guitar called?
As we saw, classical, acoustic, and six-string electric guitars are often considered a normal guitar. Thus, for a classical guitarist, a normal guitar will be a classical, Spanish, or nylon-string guitar. For a folk or country guitarist, a steel string acoustic will be a normal guitar. For a blues, rock, or metal guitarist, a six-string solid-body electric guitar will be a normal guitar.
What type of guitar is easierst to learn to play with?
Nylon string guitars are generally considered the easiest type of guitar to learn to play. Nylon strings and low string tension make it easier on the fingers. Electric guitars can also be very easy to learn for similar reasons. But the right question would be: what is the best type of guitar to play the music I want to learn? Thus, the answer is the type of guitar that suits what you want to play. We repeat the advice, look at your favorite guitarists. Why do you think the big brands spend so much money paying famous guitarists like Slash, John Mayer, Joe Bonamassa and others?
Related Notes: Best Easy Guitar Songs For Beginners