A Buying Guide to an Acoustic-Electric Guitar

By The String Nation | Guitar Advice

A Buying Guide to an Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Unless you’re a rock star who likes to wave his/her Fender or custom made solid body guitar around in the air between riffs, you can have the very best of the guitar world right at home.

We’re talking about acoustic-electric guitars

Electronics have come a long way since Mr. Edison brought us the light bulb and so many other clever innovations. Today’s electric guitars combine the rich, full tones we love from a good acoustic guitar, with the clean amplification abilities of an electric guitar.

Another big step forward as far as the artists were concerned was that the guitar no longer had to sit quietly back and perform the role of rhythm instrument, but could, just like the sax or trumpet, be featured for a run people could hear and enjoy.

For home use in particular, or for small groups that play for parties, etc., the acoustic-electric guitar can be the perfect instrument. You might well say it’s the best of both worlds.

By means of good amplification, the natural and beautiful sound of the guitar may be heard even at large venues with plenty of noisy attendees.

Every guitar, including acoustic-electric guitars, havetheir own particular and unique quality. The artist, of course, wants to ensure the most satisfaction and best performance.

Therefore, it’s vital that they carefully choose the appropriate instrument to suit their needs and purposes. Music stores typically permit an artist to try out its current supply of guitars.

With luck, the player will find just the right instrument then and there, but often the inventory just doesn’t seem to offer exactly what is needed.

The more stores in a given town, the better, because this allows the player to try out many more guitars.

Every guitar, as indicated above, has its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Learning something of the background of different manufacturers can also be helpful.

An important fact to remember, however, is that whether the buyer is an aspiring beginner or a seasoned performer, the acoustic-electric guitar offers the player an accessible instrument, capable of hooking up to a speaker system when needed.

This article will attempt to help you choose the acoustic-electric guitar that will be just right for you.

Understanding the acoustic-electric guitar

The first acoustic-electric guitar was developed by Ovation Guitar employee Charles H. Kaman. This was in the early 1960s.

At the time, acoustic-electric guitars were considered to be a hybrid musical instrument that could not only function as a rhythm instrument but could be plugged into an amplifier to give the player a lot more sound and presence, especially if a solo guitar section was desired.

Here are the main parts that make up the acoustic-electric guitar.

The body

The body of the guitar absorb the vibrations created by the strings, and the hollow body provides the amplification. This is the natural sound that guitars and similar instruments have created for decades.

Later, the addition of piezo transducers and built-in microphones created the possibility of greater amplification that the loudspeaker could project a lot more sound to the audience (more about this later).

The bridge

The bridge is the lower part of the body; it holds the end of the strings. By vibrating over the sound hole, the vibrations are transmitted into the body and emerge as music.

The neck

The neck of the guitar not only gives the strings adequate length to vibrate properly, but it is also the fingerboard. The metal strips or frets that have been inserted into the neck, shorten the vibrating length of the strings, so that the closer the player gets to the actual body of the guitar, the shorter the string and the higher the pitch.

The head

At the very upper end of the neck we find the head. This is where the tuning pegs have been installed to enable the player to adjust the pitch of the strings. In this way, the player can either raise or lower the pitch of the strings. In a group, it’s necessary to be in tune with the rest of the players.

Types of electronics for acoustic-electric guitars

There are a number of different electronic devices and they vary by the different instruments and guitar makers. Here are the three primary types: the active electronics; the piezo saddle transducers; and the dual-source system.

The active electronic system

This system is used in guitars having a pickup that is called a piezo transducer which connected to a battery-powered preamp to transmit the sound to a full amplifier.

The piezo saddle transducer

For this method, the endpin jack contains a built-in preamp and this is where the player inserts the guitar cable. Saddle transducers are not able to make any adjustments by themselves.

Dual-source systems

The dual-source system has both the piezo transducer along with a built-in microphone. This setup clearly allows for greater amplification, which is perfect for the guitarist who prefers the pluck-style of playing.

How do you choose an acoustic-electric guitar?

With so many different brands and models of guitars, the guitarist has an extremely wide selection from which to choose. This can, of course, be a real chore.

A quality instrument may cost close to $1,000, or even more. That’s a considerable investment and the buyer wants to be sure there will be no buyer’s remorse in a week.

Often, the manufacturer’s name and reputation can help greatly to narrow the search.

The consumer should look at the instruments made by a reputable luthier and then carefully examine a given instrument, noting the construction and then actually playing the guitar. These can immenselyhelp to enable the player to find the guitar that’s “just right.”

Standard and classical guitars

Standard-size acoustic-electric guitars will normally have steel strings. Most players who strum the blues, folk music, country and even rock might prefer this sort of guitar.

Many prefer classical guitars which have nylon strings, a much softer sound, and since they’re more flexible, they’re easier on the fingers, thus making it great for plucking.

Number of strings

Most will want a six-string guitar. Acoustic-electric guitars may be had with six strings as well as twelve strings. The twelve-string guitar is normally used for certain special styles of playing, and require a more advanced player.

The top

Referred to as the top, this is the face of the guitar. It contains the sound hole and the strings pass down over that. Just as with the traditional acoustic guitar, the acoustic-electric characteristics of tone are very much influenced by the top.

Some guitars have a solid top built from a single piece of wood, or two matched pieces that have been glued together. A cheaper top is laminate, meaning several layers of wood have been stacked and glued together.

This type of acoustic-electric guitar will have less vibration, and therefore the sound won’t equal the fuller, richer sound of the solid-top guitars.

The size

Naturally,the size of the guitar will affect the sound and playability of the instrument. Smaller acoustic-electric guitars usually have a pickup and may be amplified through a sound system. Obviously, a larger acoustic-electric guitar will produce a richer and more vibrant tone.

The style

When you choose your style of guitar, you may be encouraged by the dealer to try out the different options that will be available to you before making the decision about which guitar will be right for you.

The many different types may be better suited to one style over another. One style is the archtop guitar.

This has a curved top and a hollow body, and many like this for country music and jazz. The flat-top guitar looks more like the classical guitar, and most feel it’s more suitable for rock music, folk music, and the blues.

Conclusion

The acoustic-electric guitar can be an enjoyable and versatile instrument for beginners and long-time players as well. This is an instrument that is suitable for home as well as in large venues.

These instruments are also quite versatile and come with a wide range of options. Given the immense variety of styles, sizes, as well as types of construction offered, the guitarist has almost too many options, enough to keep even the most demanding player satisfied.

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