Prepare to be swept away by the enchanting world of guitars, where melodies are born, and emotions take flight. From the ancient echoes of their strings to the cutting-edge designs of today, guitars have become legendary music heroes. With exquisite types of guitars, whether it’s the soulful blues, the electrifying energy of rock, or the tender serenades of acoustic ballads, they possess an unparalleled ability to captivate and unite.
Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, there are so many different types of guitars, and they all have various tones, woods, looks, and strings.
But, ultimately, they fall into a category somewhere.
So, if you want to know more about the different types of guitars there are, we’ll give you a low-down on them all!
List: All Types of Guitars
- Types of Acoustic Guitars
- Types of Electric Guitars
- Types of Bass Guitars
- Types of Small Guitars
Types of Acoustic Guitars
If you thought choosing an acoustic guitar would be a one-option buying game, you’re wrong! While steel string acoustic guitars are the most popular, time-honored, and memorable guitar instruments, more options should be considered before you play the ignorant card!
Steel String Guitar
The steel-string acoustic guitar is a classic, not classical, but classical guitar of all time! It’s every songwriter’s go-to instrument, beginner guitar, and can even be the cherished prize of an entire collection. It’s versatile, rich in tone and resonance, and is a must-have staple for every guitarist of any skill level.
The evidential steel strings lend the acoustic guitar its music genre versatility. You might have even heard of the acoustic steel string guitar being referred to as a flat top. This comes from the flat face or soundboard of the guitar called the table.
They’re more than suitable for playing in small venues, but pickups, built-in mics, and amplification are necessary for more powerful venue performances.
The classical guitar is often called a Spanish Guitar that takes its name from its origin. They’re considerably smaller than their steel string acoustic cousins that typically feature the large, dreadnought body. But classical guitars have a slimmer waist, making them much more comfortable playing while sitting.
The cutouts are essential to note since playing this guitar while sitting is a grass-root position. Many solos and finger-picking styles are a repertoire of classical git.
Another difference between a classical guitar vs its acoustic steel string cousin is the neck. It has a wider neck and lacks higher frets and dot inlays. Also, it’s strung with nylon strings instead of steel. The nylon strings produce thick, soft, and mellow tones. Only the treble strings are made with plain nylon, while the bass strings typically have a nylon core wrapped in either steel or a nylon winding.
This is another nylon-stringed instrument similar to its classical guitar brother. But, unlike the versatility of a steel string, it’s made for a specific genre of music – flamenco!
A flamenco acoustic guitar must be built to withstand and resonate the sounds of tapping, multi-note playing, and fast runs up and down the neck. The strings are strung for low action for fast playing, and while string buzzing is usually an unwanted trait, it’s the norm on a flamenco guitar – you can get away with it.
The sounds are crisp, the trebles are bell-like and bright, and the basses are deep. The neck is much thinner, lightweight, and more open-sounding than a classical guitar.
Didn’t we already cover this? We’re not talking about steel string guitars but about steel guitars originating in Hawaii! They’re not steel tops, resonators, or dobros; we’ll get to that later.
Steel guitars are mainly made for plucking while changing the pitch notes with a metal bar or slide. While you may be familiar with the technique, steel guitars are made to maximize the use of the sliding process.
Like the classical, they’re played sitting down and on the lap. There are two types of steel guitars: the lap guitar we’ve been talking about and the pedal steel guitar. The pedal steel guitar is a breed that’s more like a harp with extra necks and a stand! As we said, a species of its own!
12 String Guitars
This guitar doesn’t have the standard six strings typical of a guitar; it has 12. The second set of strings is thinner than the usual strings but is placed right next to the corresponding standard string that produces the same note, except it’s an octave higher.
The best 12 string guitars are excellent for full-bodied and thick chord progressions that can often resonate in a way that seems like more than just one guitar is being played!
A resonator might not resemble a conventional acoustic because there’s no soundhole. Instead, a large, perforated disc is mounted onto the guitar table, which houses a resonator cone. The cone is a metal, un-powered amplifier or speaker made from spun aluminum.
But how does it pick up sound? The bridge is mounted by a spider (an aluminum spring) somewhere on the disc, usually on the edge of the middle. The spider picks up the vibrations, gauged through the cone for projected sound.
Now, this is where things can get a little tricky. Some resonator guitars are often referred to as steel guitars. Steel guitars from Hawaii are named thus for their use with a steel bar for sliding or the glissando technique – just to sound fancy! But resonator steel top guitars refer to the steel construction of the guitar.
They’re large and closer to their steel string dreadnought cousins in body size, but in sound, they’re more immediate kin to their classical brothers. The sounds are similar but warmer and exaggerated than the classical guitars because of the obvious, durable, and resilient steel top.
Types of Electric Guitars
To any beginner player, being able to strum any new electric guitar is going to be an exciting feat! As you add to your collection, you’ll pay more attention to the different kinds of guitars and body styles, types of woods, the genre of music you play, and even what fashionistas have to say about it! Here’s each electric guitar type so you can one day have them all!
Solid Body Guitars
This is the most common type of electric guitar sold and played because it’s the most versatile. Depending on the skill level of the user and extra electric guitar accessories used, you can play anything from jazz, indie, and blues to rock, country, and heavy metal!
As the name implies, the guitar is a solid piece of wood that lacks a soundhole characteristic of its acoustic cousin. Because of this, it’s less prone to feedback than its semi-hollow electric brothers, which gives off an entirely different sound. Pickups and electric parts are mounted on the guitar versus inside.
The most famous solid body guitars body shapes are the Les Paul, Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Gibson SG.
If you’re leaning towards a “semi,” then you probably have a thing for the sounds of blues and jazz. Semi-acoustic electric guitars resemble traditional solid-body guitars but have varying shapes, sizes, body depths, and chamber cutaways.
The hollow or semi-hollow chambers provide an acoustic fullness and warm tone versus their electric solid body brothers, but they’re more prone to unwanted feedback. Typically rock and heavy metal players won’t play a semi-acoustic electric guitar, but blues, indie, and jazz players will.
A semi-acoustic guitar still gets the louder tone and volume played unplugged than a solid-body electric guitar, but it must be plugged in and amplified to project the best sound.
Some semi-acoustic guitars will house hardware and pickups in the hole chambers.
B.B. King and Chuck Berry favored their semi-acoustic Gibson ES-335 – a stunning, photogenic lush guitar!
Electric-acoustic, acoustic-electric, same thing. Many people get confused between this type of electric guitar and a semi-acoustic electric guitar. While we’ve already delved into a semi-acoustic, the electric-acoustic guitar is somewhat different.
First, it’s an acoustic guitar that can sound just as magnificent when plugged in or played naturally. They can be constructed with pickups, built-in microphones, or even sensitive Piezo sensors to pick up vibrations to be amplified or sent to a mixer or some other recording device.
Regarding looks and body shape, it features the typical soundhole of an acoustic guitar since it is acoustic at heart, but it’s pimped out with electronics.
Archtop guitars, whether acoustic or electric, look the same. To an untrained eye, some would say they look like huge violins! Thanks to the violin-style f-holes or wings outfitted on the guitar’s soundboard. Internal sound blocks have been built into hollow-bodied guitars to provide a mellow, smooth, warm tone that jazz players adore.
On an electric guitar, archtops feature pickups of some kind and pots. The full-bodied archtops provide the warmth and rich tones of its acoustic archtop brother when unplugged, but its thin-lined twin can minimize unwanted feedback better than the rich when hooked up to an amp.
The only downside to the electric thin-line archtop is that it sacrifices resonance and acoustic tones as it delves into electrically amplified depths.
One of the most notorious archtop electric guitars is the Gibson ES-175, played on stage by Steve Howe, Wes Montgomery, and Joe Pass.
Types of Bass Guitars
While we stand in awe at the big string bass that looks like a viola on steroids, we’re here to spotlight the bass guitar, the other type of bass. The kind of bass guitar that a hot guy straps up and turns the crowd on with deep, low tones that make women crazy over Josh Turner’s voice!
Electric Bass Guitar
When most people opt for a bass guitar, it’s typically an electric one. And, with electric guitars, it’s going to need amplification. For an electric bass guitar, you’ll need a bass amp if you want any chance of being heard.
The electric bass guitar has a solid body, all its hardware and pickups on the face, and can come with a fingerboard that’s fretted or fretless.
Acoustic Bass Guitar
Less common than an electric bass guitar is the acoustic bass. Instead of using pickups for amplified sound and being a slave to electronics, the bass guitar depends solely on the soundhole to project sound. They typically require four steel strings, but you can find some with five or six strings for tone variation.
If you get an acoustic bass guitar that doesn’t necessarily have a conventional soundhole, it will feature f-holes instead. Although, these seem to be more common on a semi-acoustic bass guitar.
Semi-Acoustic Bass Guitar
Semi-acoustic basses are just the bass versions of their semi-acoustic electric guitar cousins. They’re louder when played unplugged than the electric bass guitar but require a power source for the best sound.
The semi-acoustic bass guitar has a semi-hollow body where the pickups, sensors, and hardware are installed. Usually, it’s in the form of f-holes.
Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar
If you prefer the acoustic tones and richness of an acoustic bass but want the option to be heard when plugged in, then the acoustic-electric bass guitar is your hybrid must-have.
It looks like your acoustic bass guitar with four strings and a hollow body, but it sports the electrical combos you need for amplification!
Types of Small Guitars
Yes, they exist, and they’re efficient and essential to the guitar world! If you’re not familiar with small-sized guitars or you’re snubbing your nose up at one, get off your high horse and be ready for a rude awakening!
The traveler can’t necessarily be described to a T since they’re often sought after for custom specifications that cater to the traveling guitarist’s needs.
Although the neck and fretboard will remain consistent with a typical acoustic guitar, the body shape varies.
They can have strange, a-typical, and silent body shapes since they’re made to be compact, lightweight, and highly portable.
Mini Acoustic Guitar
You might consider a mini acoustic if you’re traveling abroad, and a traveler guitar is a little outlandish. The mini acoustic is an excellent gift for all those who want to get their child a beginner guitar!
They feature the same look and shape as a full dreadnought acoustic but are scaled down in size and frets.
Besides their convenient size for traveling, they’re also much easier to wield, reduce the learning barriers for beginner players, and the smaller fretboard is much more playable for smaller hands and fingers.
Parlor model guitars were a thing in the 1800s, especially in Europe. Back then, they were outfitted with nylon strings.
In the early 1900s, early blues musicians made their signature with a parlor sized guitar.
While they never hit the United States in popularity as they did in Europe, brands like Martin and Taylor encourage a come-back for the parlor guitars. They’re also making them more durable and putting on steel strings!
Blasphemy, you say? Welcome to the resurgence!
Ah, the tenor isn’t your ordinary six-string guitar; it has four.
While it’s more akin to the ukulele and played for its bright and twangy tones in folk music, its body is shaped like a concert or orchestra acoustic guitar.
A tenor may be acoustic and electric, solid-bodied, or resonator.
Interest in the tenor has increased in recent years.
Don’t Judge Types Of Guitars By Their Covers
Or do! Seriously though, it’s more about what you’re looking for, the kind of music you play, and if you’re looking to be plugged in or play au natural.
Sometimes it’s not about what looks rad or what’s in the fad. It might be more about what the guitar contributes to your playing signature. So, what’s your type? Are you shallow, or do you look for a deeper meaning?
How many different types of guitars are there?
There are so many different types of guitars, and they all have various tones, woods, looks, and strings. But they can be classified into four main types: Acoustic, Electric, Bass, and small guitars.
How do acoustic guitars differ from electric guitars?
Acoustic guitars produce sound relying on the resonance of the hollow body, while electric guitars require amplification to produce sound and often have a solid body with pickups.
What distinguishes bass guitars from other types of guitars?
Bass guitars typically have fewer strings (usually four) and are designed to produce lower-pitched sounds, providing the rhythmic foundation in many music genres.
What is the difference between small guitar types?
Small guitars include traveler, mini acoustic, parlor, and tenor guitars, which are often designed for portability and may have distinct tonal characteristics compared to their full-sized counterparts.
How do electric guitar types vary from one another?
Electric guitars come in various forms such as solid body, semi-acoustic, electric-acoustic, and archtop, each offering different tones and suited for different musical styles.
Which guitar type is best for beginners?
For beginners, choosing between acoustic and electric often depends on personal preference. Acoustic guitars may offer ease of portability and straightforward playability, while electric guitars might be more comfortable due to their slimmer necks and lighter strings.
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Trent is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado.