The Full Wiki

Steel-string guitar: Wikis

Advertisements

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

(Redirected to Steel-string acoustic guitar article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Steel-string acoustic guitar
AcousticGuitar.jpg
An Aria AW series steel-string acoustic guitar
String instrument
Classification String instrument (plucked)
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 321.322-6
(Composite chordophone sounded by a plectrum)
Playing range
Range guitar.png
Related instruments
Playing a steel-string guitar without a pick (fingerpicking).

A steel-string acoustic guitar is a modern form of guitar descended from the classical guitar, but strung with steel strings for a brighter, louder sound. They are often referred to simply as acoustic guitars, although strictly speaking the nylon-strung classical guitar is acoustic as well. The most common type can be called a flat-top guitar to distinguish it from the more specialized archtop guitar and other variations.

The standard tuning for an acoustic guitar is E-A-D-G-B-E (low to high), although many players, particularly fingerpickers, use alternate tunings (scordatura), such as "open G" (D-G-D-G-B-D), "open D tuning" (D-A-D-F-A-D), or "drop D" (D-A-D-G-B-E).

Contents

Construction

There are many different variations on the construction of, and materials used in, steel-string guitars. The various combinations of the different woods and their quality, along with design and construction elements (for example, how the top is braced), are among the factors affecting the timbre or "tone" of the guitar. Many players and builders feel a well-made guitar's tone improves over time.

Advertisements

Styles

Acoustic guitars are commonly constructed in several different body shapes. In general, the guitar's soundbox can be thought of as being composed of two connected chambers; the "upper bout" and "lower bout", which meet at the "waist", or the narrowest part of the body face near the soundhole. The proportion and overall size of these two parts helps determine the overall tonal balance and "native sound" of a particular body style, the larger the body, the louder the volume.

  • A "00", "Double-Oh" or "Grand Concert" body style is the major body style most directly derived from the classical guitar. It has the thinnest soundbox and the smallest overall size of the major styles, making it very comfortable to play but also one of the quietest. Their smaller size makes them suitable for younger or smaller-framed players. These guitars are commonly called "parlor steels" as they are well-suited to smaller rooms. Martin's 00-xxx series, and Taylor's GC series, are common examples.
  • A "Grand Auditorium" guitar, sometimes called a "000" or "Triple-Oh", is very similar in design to the Grand Concert, but slightly wider and deeper. Many GA-style guitars also have a convex back panel to increase the volume of space in the soundbox without making the soundbox deeper at the edges, which would affect comfort and playability. The end result is a very balanced tone, comparable to the 00, but having greater volume and dynamic range, with slightly more low-end response, without sacrificing the ergonomics of the classical style, making these body styles very popular. Eric Clapton's signature Martin guitar, for example, is of this style. Taylor's GA and x14 series and Martin's 000-xxx series are well-known examples of the Grand Auditorium style.
  • A "Dreadnought", arguably the most common body style, incorporates a deeper soundbox, but a smaller and less-pronounced upper bout (the area of the soundbox between the waist and neck) than most other styles, giving a somewhat wedge-shaped appearance, hence its name, relating to a class of warship. The dreadnought style was designed by Martin Guitars [1] to produce a deeper sound than "classic"-style guitars, with very present bass fundamentals. The body style's combination of small profile with deep sound has made it immensely popular, and it has since become widely copied by virtually every major steel-string luthier. Martin's "D" series such as the D-28 are classic examples of the dreadnought.
  • A "Jumbo" body style is bigger again than a Grand Auditorium but similarly proportioned, and is generally designed to provide a deeper tone similar to a dreadnought (the body style was designed by Gibson to compete with the dreadnought[1]) but with maximum resonant space for greater volume and sustain. This comes at the expense of being oversized, with a very deep sounding box, and thus somewhat more difficult to play. The foremost example of this style would be the Gibson J-200, but like the dreadnought, most guitar manufacturers have at least one jumbo model.

Any of these body styles can optionally incorporate a "cutaway". A cutaway guitar has a redesigned upper bout that removes a section of the soundbox on the underside of the neck, hence, "cutaway". This allows for easier access to the frets that are located on top of the soundbox past the heel of the neck. The tradeoff is reduced soundbox volume, and often a change in bracing, which can change the resonant qualities and hence the tone of the instrument.

Another variation on the standard acoustic guitar is the 12-string guitar, which sports an additional doubling string for each of the traditional six strings. This guitar was made famous by artists such as Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, and Leo Kottke.

All of the above guitars are relatively traditional in looks and construction, and are all commonly referred to as "flattop" guitars. Virtually all of these are commonly seen and heard in popular music genres including rock, blues, country, and folk. However, other styles of guitar have been introduced and enjoy moderate popularity, generally in more specific genres:

  • The archtop guitar incorporates a top, either carved out of solid wood or heat-pressed using laminations, that is arched like instruments in the violin family, usually with f-holes rather than a round sound hole. These guitars are most commonly used by swing and jazz players and often incorporate electronics in the form of a pickup. However, many other kinds of acoustic guitars may incorporate these kinds of electronics as well.
  • The "Selmer-Maccaferri guitar" is usually played by those who follow the style of Django Reinhardt. It is an unusual-looking instrument, distinguished by a fairly large body with squarish bouts, and either a "D"-shaped or longitudinal oval soundhole. The strings are gathered at the tail like an archtop guitar, but the top is flatter. It also has a wide fingerboard and slotted head like a nylon-string guitar. The loud volume and penetrating tone make it suitable for single-note soloing and it is frequently employed as a lead instrument in gypsy swing.
  • The resonator guitar or resophonic guitar produces sound with one or more metal cones (resonators) instead of the wooden soundboard (guitar top/face). Resonator guitars were originally designed to be louder than conventional acoustic guitars which were overwhelmed by horns and percussion instruments in dance orchestras. They became prized for their distinctive sound, however, and found life with several musical styles (most notably bluegrass and also blues) well after electric amplification solved the issue of inadequate guitar sound levels.

Tonewoods

Traditionally, steel-string guitars have been made of a combination of various "tonewoods", or woods that have pleasing resonant qualities when used in instrument-making. Foremost is Sitka spruce, the most common and sought-after wood for the making of guitar tops. The same wood is generally used for the back and sides of a particular guitar; Brazilian rosewood and American mahogany are traditional choices, however maple has been prized for the figuring that can be seen when it is cut in a certain way (such as "flame" and "quilt" patterns). A common non-traditional wood gaining popularity is sapele, which is tonally similar to mahogany but slightly lighter in color and possessing a deep grain structure that is visually appealing.

Due to decreasing availability and rising prices of premium-quality traditional tonewoods, many manufacturers have begun experimenting with alternate species of woods or more commonly available variations on the standard species. For example, some makers have begun producing models with redcedar or mahogany tops, or with spruce variants other than Sitka. Cedar is also common in the back and sides, as is basswood. Entry-level models, especially those made in East Asia, often use nato wood, which is again tonally similar to mahogany but is cheap to acquire. Some have also begun using non-wood materials, such as plastic or graphite. Carbon-fiber and phenolic composite materials have become desirable for building necks, and at least one high-end luthier (Composite Acoustics) produces a line of all-carbon-fiber guitars, prized for their high stability in changing climates that would cause wood instrument panels to swell and shrink.

Taylor steel-string guitar.

Assembly

The steel-string acoustic guitar evolved from the nylon- or gut-string classical guitar, and since steel strings have higher tension, heavier construction is required overall. One innovation is a metal bar called a truss rod, which is incorporated into the neck to strengthen it and provide adjustable counter-tension to the stress of the strings. Typically, a steel-string acoustic guitar is built with a larger soundbox than a standard classical guitar. A critical structural and tonal component of an acoustic guitar is the bracing, a systems of struts glued to the inside of the back and top. Steel-string guitars use different bracing systems from classical guitars, typically using X-bracing instead of fan bracing. (Another simpler system, called ladder bracing, where the braces are all placed across the width of the instrument, is used on all types of flat-top guitars on the back.) Innovations in bracing design have emerged, most notably the A-brace developed by British luthier Roger Bucknall of Fylde Guitars.

Most luthiers and experienced players agree that a good solid top (as opposed to laminated or plywood) is the most important factor in the tone of the guitar. Solid backs and sides can also contribute to a pleasant sound, although laminated sides and backs are acceptable alternatives, commonly found in mid-level guitars (in the range of US$300–$1000).

A unique construction method is that of Ovation Guitar Company, which uses a rounded one-piece composite plastic bowl for the back and sides of virtually all of their guitars (the top and neck are usually still wood, though newer models have introduced phenolic necks). The resulting instrument is relatively durable, and the materials costs and luthier's labor drastically reduced, however the tone of such a guitar is different from one with an all-wood soundbox.

Electronics, such as pickup systems and electronic tuners may be installed in modern instruments.

See Guitar for more details on the construction of acoustic guitars.

Guitar Makers

Guitars can be factory-built or made in smaller operations focusing on handcrafting and tailoring to individual customers' requirements. The latter are often referred to as luthiers.

There are several prominent American makers of steel-string acoustic guitars. Martin, Guild, Taylor, Washburn and Gibson are known for both the quality and price of their instruments. A recent newcomer, started by former craftsmen at Taylor, is Breedlove; other less-recognized but popular North American luthier shops include Larrivee and Godin (both based in Canada). In Europe, several steel string acoustic guitar makers have gained a worldwide reputation, although their production output is small relative to US and Asian makers. Among the leading European brands are Avalon (Northern Ireland), Brook, Tanglewood (UK) and Lakewood (Germany).

In East Asia, many prominent, quality brands have been introduced to the U.S. and are popular with players of many skill levels. Yamaha, which produces a large assortment of musical instruments, Morris, Ibanez, and Takamine, other popular Japanese companies which specializes in guitar-making. Alvarez Guitars, another quality brand, are made in China or Japan. In addition, many traditionally U.S.-centered brands have outsourced the production of their low-cost models to Asian firms; Fender/Squier, Gibson/Epiphone and Breedlove all own or contract with Asian factories to produce many of their entry-level and even intermediate-level instruments.

In Australia top-end guitars are manufactured by Maton and Cole Clark.

Amplification

A steel-string guitar can be amplified with a

  • a microphone, possibly clipped to the guitar body
  • a detachable pickup, often straddling the soundhole and using the same magnetic principle as a traditional electric guitar.
  • a transducer built into the body.

In the last case, guitars are commonly called "acoustic-electric" or equivalently "electro-acoustic" guitars, as they can be played either "unplugged" as an acoustic, or plugged in as an electric. The most common type is a piezoelectric pickup, which is composed of a thin sandwich of quartz crystal. When compressed, the crystal produces a small electrical current, so when placed under the bridge saddle, the vibrations of the strings through the saddle, and of the body of the instrument, are converted to a weak electrical signal. This signal is often sent to a pre-amplifier, which increases the signal strength and normally incorporates an equalizer. The output of the preamplifier then goes to a separate amplifier system similar to that for an electric guitar.

Specialised acoustic guitar amplifiers can be obtained which are designed to give undistorted and full-range reproduction.

Steel-string guitar music and players

Until the 1960s, the predominant forms of music played on the flattop, steel-string guitar remained relatively stable and included acoustic blues, country, bluegrass, folk, and several genres of rock. The concept of playing solo steel-string guitar in a concert setting was introduced by such performers as Davey Graham and John Fahey in the early 1960s, who used country blues fingerpicking techniques to compose original compositions with structures somewhat like European classical music. Fahey contemporary Robbie Basho added elements of Indian classical music and Leo Kottke used a Faheyesque approach to make the first solo steel string guitar "hit" record. Steel-string guitars are also important in the world of flatpicking, as utilized by such artists as Clarence White, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, Doc Watson, and David Grier.

Luthiers have been experimenting with redesigning the acoustic guitar for these players. These flattop, steel-string guitars are constructed and voiced more for classical-like fingerpicking and less for chordal accompaniment (strumming). Some luthiers have increasingly focused their attention on the needs of fingerstylists and have developed unique guitars for this style of playing.

Many other luthiers attempt to recreate the guitars of the "Golden Era" of C.F. Martin & Co. Bill Collings, Marty Lanham, Dana Bourgeois, Randy Lucas, Lynn Dudenbostel, and Wayne Henderson are but a few of the luthiers building guitars inspired by vintage Martins, the pre-World War II models in particular. As prices for vintage Martins continue to rise exponentially, upscale guitar enthusiasts have demanded faithful recreations and luthiers are working to fill that demand.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ a b http://www.sweetwater.com/shop/guitars/acoustic/buying-guide.php Sweetwater Music - Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message