If you want to learn to play guitar, it’s important you understand the different types of guitars. There are many different types of guitars, and each one feels and sounds different when played. Choosing the wrong type of guitar for your style of music can make learning more difficult and result in a poor sound.
In this guide, I’ll go over all of the different types of guitars and explain which ones are best for beginners, as well as the music styles that work best with each one. After you’ve finished reading this guide, make sure to check out this Guide to Guitar Sizes to ensure you get the right size guitar for you.
If you want to learn how to play the guitar, check out the 8 Steps to Learn Guitar. The guide will take you from having no prior knowledge of guitar to playing your first full song.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF GUITAR
The right guitar for you is determined by the type of music you want to play, the sounds you want from your guitar, and what you like the look and feel of. As a guitar teacher, the worst piece of advice I frequently hear about what type of guitar beginners should buy is “get a nylon string acoustic because it’s easier on your fingers.”
For a variety of reasons, this is the worst advice. The main reason it’s bad advice is that it doesn’t take into account the type of music you want to play. Assume you want to learn to play electric guitar so you can rip solos and play heavy riffs with thick distortion. If that’s your goal, a classical acoustic guitar is the worst possible choice.
The best guitar for you is one that is appropriate for the type of music you want to play. Get an electric guitar if you want to play heavily distorted songs. Get an acoustic guitar if you want to fingerpick chords to accompany your singing. As you read through this guide, consider each type of guitar and whether it is appropriate for the type of music you want to play.
8 DIFFERENT TYPES OF GUITARS
1. TYPE OF GUITAR: CLASSICAL (NYLON STRING ACOUSTIC)
Due to the use of nylon strings, classical guitars are also known as nylon-string acoustic guitars. The guitars shown above are classical guitars. This type of guitar is acoustic, which means it does not need to be plugged in to be played.
Take a close look at the guitar strings to determine if it is a classical guitar. In the above photo, the guitar on the right is a’steel-string acoustic.’ All six strings are made of metal, as can be seen. Four of the strings are wound in wire and the last two strings are a single wire.
The classical guitar on the left is for sale. Three of the strings are unmistakably nylon, while the remaining three are nylon wrapped in wire. If you see a guitar with these strings, it is most likely a classical guitar. All six strings on a classical guitar are nylon, but the lower three strings are wrapped in wire, giving the impression that only three strings are nylon.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Classical Guitars?
As one might expect, this is the most common type of guitar used in classical music. Classical guitars are used in a variety of styles other than classical music, including folk, Flamenco, pop, and jazz. Because of the nylon strings, classical guitars produce a mellow tone.
When compared to other types of guitars, you can hit the strings harder to produce a harsher tone, but the overall tone is soft and mellow.
Can Beginners Play Classical Guitars?
As I previously stated, some guitar teachers believe that beginners should always begin with classical guitars. While this is unwise advice for many, classical guitars are easier to learn on than other types of guitars.
The low string tension and wide fretboard of classical guitars make them easy to play. The low string tension simply means that you don’t have to press your fingers down hard to play a note.
This means that when you first start playing classical guitar, your fingers are less likely to hurt. While everyone gets past the stage of sore fingers when learning to play the guitar, learning on a classical guitar makes the journey a little easier.
2. TYPES OF GUITAR: STEEL-STRING ACOUSTIC
Acoustic guitars are classified into two types: classical and steel-string. Classical guitars have nylon strings (as previously explained), whereas steel-string guitars are self-explanatory. Steel-string acoustic guitars are classified into three body sizes: dreadnought, parlour, and jumbo.
Outside of these three, there are other variations and shapes, but these are the most common. Travel guitars are also gaining popularity, and they are ideal for guitarists with small hands. More information on travel guitars can be found here, as well as tips for guitarists with small hands.
The most common body type is a ‘Dreadnought,’ but the best body type for you is determined by what feels comfortable to you. Ed Sheeran is well-known for playing smaller-sized acoustic guitars (similar to the above travel guitar), so you have plenty of options.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Steel-String Acoustic Guitars?
When compared to classical guitars, steel-string acoustic guitars have a brighter tone. Because of their brighter tone, they are a popular choice for music styles such as folk, country, blues, pop, rock, bluegrass, and others.
Can Beginners Play Steel-String Acoustic Guitars?
Steel-string acoustic guitars are ideal for beginners. While steel strings require more finger pressure, a good guitar teacher will know how to properly introduce you to the guitar and help you build up your finger strength.
If you want to learn on a steel-string acoustic guitar but your guitar teacher says you can’t, find another teacher. Steel-string acoustic guitars are more difficult to learn on than classical or electric guitars. However, if the music you want to play is performed on steel-string acoustic guitars, a classical guitar will not suffice.
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3. TYPES OF GUITAR: ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC
An ‘electro-acoustic’ or ‘acoustic-electric’ guitar is simply an acoustic guitar that can be connected to an amplifier or a mixing board.
Aside from two additional features, they resemble a standard acoustic guitar. An electro-acoustic guitar has a jack for plugging it in, a control panel for adjusting the volume, EQ, inserting the battery, and sometimes an inbuilt tuner.
The main thing to remember about electro-acoustic guitars is that they only have one difference. You can plug them in whenever you want, but you can also play them unplugged. Classical guitars can be purchased as electro-acoustics, as can steel-string guitars.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Electro-Acoustic Guitars?
You could argue that an electro-acoustic guitar can play more types of music than a regular acoustic guitar. The ability to plug your acoustic guitar into an amp allows you to add effects and set up different tones that would otherwise be impossible to play with an acoustic.
You can hear guitar effects used on acoustic guitar in this guide. The effects can improve your tone or completely alter the feel and vibe of your music. If you intend to perform live in the future, being able to plug an acoustic guitar into an amp or pedalboard gives you excellent tone control.
Can Beginners Play Electro-Acoustic Guitars?
Electro-acoustic guitars have the same feel as traditional acoustic guitars. This means you can buy an electro-acoustic guitar with either a classical guitar or a steel-string guitar.
4. TYPES OF GUITAR: HOLLOWBODY & SEMI-HOLLOW
Electric guitars with a hollowed-out body are known as hollowbody and semi-hollow guitars (also known as semi-acoustic). The internal cavity of the guitar body distinguishes between a hollowbody and a semi-hollow guitar.
As shown above, a semi-hollow guitar typically has a block of wood running through the body beneath the pickups and bridge. This block is not present in a hollowbody guitar. Hollowbody guitars are prone to feedback and do not work well with high output pickups and amplifiers. Semi-hollow guitars significantly reduce feedback while retaining the distinct tone of a hollowbody.
When one of these guitars is played unplugged, it produces an acoustic-like tone. It’s not as loud or clear as an acoustic guitar, but it’s noticeably louder than a solid-body electric guitar. When a semi-hollow guitar is plugged in, the tone is somewhere between that of a regular electric guitar and that of an acoustic guitar.
The tone is more electric than acoustic, but it has an acoustic quality to it. The tone is mellow and has a distinct resonance not found in solid-body electric guitars.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Hollowbody or Semi-Hollow Guitars?
Because of the vintage appearance, you can probably guess what types of music are popular on these types of guitars.
Hollow Body guitars were popular from the 1930s to the 1950s, and semi-hollow guitars became popular after that as amplifiers became available to guitarists. Semi-hollow guitars are commonly used in old blues, jazz, early rock-n-roll, rockabilly, and other styles.
Can Beginners Play Hollowbody or Semi-Hollow Guitars?
A hollow body or semi-hollow guitar has a similar feel to a standard electric guitar. Some beginners will find these guitars simple to play, while others may struggle with the large body.
5. TYPES OF GUITAR: ELECTRIC
Electric guitars are a versatile type of guitar that can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes. The above guitars only scratch the surface of what electric guitars are capable of.
The hardware used on electric guitars can vary significantly from one guitar to the next. This means that each electric guitar has a unique playing experience and can accomplish a variety of tasks.
Not only can electric guitars have vastly different shapes and designs, but the tones produced by different electric guitars can be diametrically opposed. While acoustic guitars all sound the same, electric guitars have a much wider range of tonal options. You can even get electric guitars with piezo pickups that mimic the sound of an acoustic guitar.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Electric Guitars?
Electric guitars have been used in almost every genre of music at some point. They’re the go-to option in a wide range of musical genres, including rock, metal, blues, punk, and others. It’s difficult to imagine a heavy metal or rock band without electric guitars.
Electric guitars can be used in almost any musical style for two reasons. The first is the various tonal options available in guitars. The tone you hear is affected by the type of guitar and the pickups in the guitar. To access different tones, you can even install different pickups.
The second category is the equipment into which an electric guitar can be plugged. There are numerous types of amps, each of which shapes your guitar tone in a unique way. By flipping a switch on an amp, you can switch from a vintage blues tone to a modern metal tone.
Can Beginners Play Electric Guitars?
Beginners usually find it simple to begin learning on an electric guitar. While some electric guitars are more difficult to play than others, the string tension on an electric guitar is generally lower than on a steel-string acoustic guitar.
If you enjoy the sounds that an electric guitar can produce and want to play music that is typically played on an electric guitar, it is strongly advised that you begin learning on an electric guitar.
If you want to play music that is typically played on an acoustic guitar, don’t start on an electric guitar simply because it is easier to learn on. Choose a guitar that is appropriate for the type of music you want to play.
6. TYPES OF GUITAR: RESONATOR
Resonators are a unique type of guitar that is not commonly seen (depending on the style of music you listen to). They’re essentially acoustic guitars with a metal cone in place of the soundhole.
This metal cone, as you might expect, helps the guitar resonate and project any note you play. The result is a very loud and clear tone that, if you’ve never played one before, can be surprising. A Dobro is a type of resonator that you may have heard of.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Resonator Guitars?
Bluegrass, country, Hawaiian, blues, and jazz musicians frequently use resonators. There are various models with various types of cones that are better suited to various musical styles. Many resonator guitarists use a slide, but you can play a resonator like any other guitar.
Can Beginners Play Resonator Guitars?
Resonators can be more difficult to learn at first, but this is dependent on the type of music you want to play. For some beginners, the high action height (learn more about action height and why it’s important) and string tension can be a problem.
7. TYPES OF GUITAR: 12-STRING GUITARS
12-string guitars can be acoustic or electric, and they play similarly to a regular 6-string guitar. The idea behind 12-string guitars is that instead of six strings, each string is doubled. As a result, you have six pairs of strings.
If you’re curious about how 12-string guitars are tuned, check out this guide. If you already know how to play the guitar, a quick read of that guide will show you how to play a 12-string guitar.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on a 12-String Guitars?
12-string guitars were popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and they are still used today. The sound of a 12-string guitar is distinct. Once you learn to recognize it, it will stand out in any song that uses one.
Can Beginners Play 12-String Guitars?
To properly fret the notes on a 12-string guitar, a lot of finger pressure is required. It is more difficult to play than a regular 6-string guitar because you must press down hard enough for two strings to make contact with the fret under each finger.
Start with a regular 6-string guitar if you want to learn how to play a 12-string guitar (acoustic or electric). You can progress to playing a 12-string guitar once you’ve developed your finger strength.
8. TYPES OF GUITAR: EXTENDED-RANGE ELECTRIC
7-string guitars have been around for a long time, but they only became popular in the 1990s. Today, you can find a wide variety of 7, 8, and 9 string guitars (mostly electric) from a variety of manufacturers.
These extended-range guitars allow guitarists to play anything that can be played on a standard six-string guitar, as well as lower notes that can reach as low as bass guitar notes.
What Styles of Music Can You Play on Extended-Range Guitars?
An extended range guitar can technically be used to play any style of music. An extended range guitar simply adds more strings, allowing you to play anything you would normally play on a six-string guitar.
However, extended range guitars are commonly used by guitarists who play heavy music as well as technical styles such as progressive metal. Many styles of music do not benefit from the lower range available on an 8 or 9 string guitar, but there are plenty of guitarists who use them in unexpected places.
Can Beginners Play Extended-Range Guitars?
Many beginners will struggle at first with extended-range guitar playing. The extra strings necessitate a wider fretboard, which can be difficult for a beginner to navigate.
If you want to learn to play music on an extended-range guitar, start with a 7-string. If you can comfortably learn to play on a 7-string guitar, 6-string guitars will be easier to learn on.
These are the most common guitar types available on the market today. Keep in mind that the actual number of variations on this lovely instrument is much greater. Many of them are made to order and are not available in music stores.
FAQs About Guitar Types
What are the differences between the types of guitars?
The most noticeable distinction between these three types of guitars is their strings. Nylon strings are used in classical guitars, while steel strings are used in acoustic and electric guitars. Nylon strings have a much warmer and fuller sound than steel strings.
What is the most common guitar style?
Acoustic guitars are the most popular and widely used instrument in the world. It has a hollow body that emits a deep and resonant sound. They are primarily divided into two types: steel string and classical. Steel string acoustic guitars, also known as flat tops, produce a metallic sound that is distinct.
What is a 4 string guitar called?
A tenor guitar is a four-string, short-scale guitar with roots dating back more than a century to the golden age of acoustic instrument manufacturing.
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