All the Different Types of Acoustic Guitars and the Different Woods They’re Made From: The Ultimate Acoustic Guitar Guide

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If you are new to the acoustic guitar, buying your first instrument may seem quite simple…. Head to your local music store (or e-commerce retailer), reach out and say something like, “Give me a beginner’s guitar now!” Pay your money, take your lessons, Bob is your uncle, isn’t he?

Ah, but suppose you come across one of those things known as a guitar salesman? And to think that person has questions… “Okay, we have traditional style dreadnoughts with a cutaway or without a cutaway. We have concert guitars, parlor guitars, classical, all kinds! And you, once a confident buyer, now find yourself on the high seas. What’s the difference?

They are already talking about the different materials used in making guitars and you check. You imagine a pursuit where you know what you are doing: I could learn the harmonica…. How many kinds are there?

Fear not, rookie YouTube guitar teacher Paul Davids is here to teach us about the types of acoustic guitars we’re likely to encounter in the wild, as well as the different types of “tonewoods” and why they make a difference.

Tonewood simply refers to the types of trees used to make the guitar – maple, mahogany, rosewood, spruce, etc. – and it’s called “tone wood” instead of just “wood” for a reason. Among electric guitar makers and players, an endless dispute persists over the importance of wood tone. There should be little debate when it comes to acoustic guitars.

The sound of an acoustic guitar comes from the pick, or fingers, and the neck, where the contact of the strings with the neck travels down to the resonating chamber of the body and is sent out into the world. At each of these contact points, the properties of the wood in question naturally condition the shape of the sound waves.

By bringing in Eastwood Guitars Pepijn ‘t Hart above, who donated the guitars in the first video for demonstration purposes, Davids undoubtedly demonstrates that different woods used to build the back, sides and top of an acoustic guitar have a huge effect on tone.

From bright to dark, high to low, or whatever you want to call the tonal range, you’ll hear it in these examples of the different materials used to make guitars of the same size. Why is this important? As Hart explains, an acoustic guitar is essentially its own amplifier. While you can tweak the tone somewhat with technique, the first thing you need to do as an acoustic guitarist is figure out the best type of instrument you’ll need for the type of music you’re playing.

Guitarists may also need to consider (possibly) the types of musicians they play with. A heavy rock ensemble with growling bass and drums will require a much brighter guitar to punch through the mix, while backing a banjo player or fiddler will require more bass.

You can always grab the first beginner acoustic guitar you find online and call it a day. But if you really want to learn the instrument — and learn to play in a musical tradition, be it folk, blues, country, classical, rock or otherwise — you’ll need this essential information. Davids and Hart make it fun and easy to pick up in the two-part educational series above.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, North Carolina. Follow him on @jdmagness

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