Acoustic Guitar Basics

Understanding some acoustic guitar basics can help you understand some of the distinguishing features of the acoustic guitar as opposed to an electric or even classical instrument. While it may seem obvious, the main characteristic of an acoustic guitar is that its primary sound  is produced acoustically in the body of the guitar itself rather than electrically like an electric guitar and amplifier combination.

When you, say, strum a chord on an acoustic guitar, you can literally feel the sound resonating through the body, which is one of the joys of playing acoustic guitar. Still, one should note that there are a wide range of acoustic-electric guitars that amplify the guitar's acoustic signal, usually with microphones placed inside the guitar body, underneath the bridge, or some combination of the two.


The acoustic guitar's construction makes its sound possible. Two of the primary components in this construction are the guitar's top (also called a soundboard) and its body (also called a sound box). While the guitar's core sound is produced by the vibration of the strings, the means to make this sound heard is needed. With an electric guitar, it's the pickups (primarily). With an acoustic, it's the vibration of the top coupled with the sound box.

However, the sound-box is only part of the guitar's overall construction. How to construct and affix the neck is another construction concern. Most acoustic guitars use a glued-in set neck construction, though some builders (most notably Taylor Guitars) use a type of bolt-on construction that facilitates neck resets when necessary.

So, depending on its purpose, acoustic guitars are constructed using a wide range of body shapes, thicknesses, and construction types, all of which affect the guitar's tone.


Without getting too technical, several facets of the top/sound box affect both the volume and timbre of the acoustic guitar sound. The type of wood used has a great effect on the instrument's timbre. For example, a maple top makes the guitar sound bright and punchy whereas a cedar top has a warm and more mellow tone. The size of the sound box, as one would expect, also affects the volume. Guitars with a large sound box (often called "jumbo" guitars) project much more volume than a "parlor" sized guitar. However, onboard pickups and equalization can make a small guitar sound huge simply by virtue of external amplification.

Acoustic Guitar Basics - Questions?

In short, there are numerous types of acoustic guitars available to suit various player's needs. Hopefully, this brief discussion of the acoustic guitar was helpful. If you have any questions or would like to have a topic explored in greater detail, please let me know!

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