The history of acoustic guitars dates back to 2000-1500 BC. They have since become among the most popular instruments among musicians. Despite the rich history and extreme popularity of the acoustic guitar, there is always more to learn.
The Guitar Sumo team has compiled information about the best acoustic guitars in the industry, the different types of acoustic guitars available, and much more. Enjoy.
Top 10 Acoustic Guitars
Types of Acoustic Guitars
Ever since 1964, when the Rooftop Singers released a song called “Walk Right In” that introduced millions of people to the 12-string guitar, the instrument has become a major part of the music industry we know and adore today. The 12-string guitar has been featured in well-known songs like “Free Fallin’” and “Hotel California.”A 12-string acoustic guitar typically features twin sets of strings that are paired close together on the neck, while tuned octaves apart. This allows the instrument to create a louder and fuller tone, as well as a sound that is much richer overall.
Traditionally, 12-string guitars are played in rock, folk, and other forms of popular music. Most notably, performers like Tom Petty, Melissa Etheridge, John Lennon, and Bob Dylan have used the 12-string guitar to produce some of the most remarkable music ever created.
A resonator guitar is an acoustic guitar that uses the conduction of string vibrations through the bridge to one or more resonators, instead of the top of the guitar, to produce sound. Resonator guitars were first created to be louder than traditional acoustic guitars and became popular because of their distinctive tone among bluegrass and blues musicians.
There are two styles of resonator guitars: square-necked and round-necked. Square-necked resonator guitars are played in lap steel guitar style, while round-necked resonator guitars are played more conventionally.
The three resonator designs include:
- The tricone with three metal cones
- The single-cone “biscuit”
- The single inverted cone (spider bridge)
Acoustic-electric guitars are acoustic guitars that have a magnetic pick, a piezoelectric pickup, or a microphone. They are also known as “plug-in acoustic guitars” because you can plug them into a soundboard to amplify the sound without using a microphone. Typically, acoustic-electric guitars are used when the musician wants the sound of an acoustic guitar but needs more volume, such as during a live performance.
Travel Guitars & Small Guitars
Travel guitars, also described as small guitars, are designed for guitarists seeking a more conveniently-sized instrument. Similar to the Parlor, another type of acoustic guitar, travel acoustics are incredibly popular among guitarists who want high quality in a smaller package. Most travel guitars have a full-size fretboard and an almost full-size scale length of around 23 inches. Despite their smaller size, some travel guitars cost more than a standard acoustic.
You can find travel guitars in all sorts of shapes, but what truly sets the majority of them apart is their materials. Travel acoustic guitars are usually made of laminated woods to keep them light while allowing them to resist temperature and humidity changes.
The Parlor is a more petite type of acoustic guitar. Parlor guitars became popular in the late 1800s but lost much of their fanbase to other kinds of acoustic guitars after the 1950s. However, many musicians still prefer Parlor guitars, particularly those made by Washburn, Fender, and Ibanez. Parlor guitars are genuinely shorter overall, with an elongated body, but their standard nut width allows for any playing style. While a Parlor produces less bass, it emphasizes midrange tones and provides a light, well-balanced sound.
Vintage guitarists particularly enjoy the “boxy” sound produced by a Parlor guitar — the sound appeals most to folk, blues, and slide players. A Parlor guitar is an excellent option for a smaller player or a child, because of its size. However, some guitarists may be disappointed by a Parlor’s lack of dynamic range and volume.
A type of acoustic guitar with a body style that features a significantly-sized soundboard is the Dreadnought. The Dreadnought is the most popular acoustic guitar body shape and is used for guitars of all prices. The Dreadnought was created by Martin in 1916 and was named after the British battleships. The distinctive feature of a Dreadnought guitar is the square bout. A Dreadnought also has a wide waist and 14-fret neck. Typically, a Dreadnought guitar will be 20 inches long and 16 inches wide, with a scale length of 25.4 inches.
Dreadnoughts are especially popular among bluegrass musicians because of their bold, powerful sound. The larger shape also produces a powerful low-end, fiery midrange, and sharp trebles.
The classical guitar features nylon strings instead of the more common steel strings. Guitar manufacturers around the globe make classical guitars, but brands like Yamaha, Cordoba, and Kremona have made them their specialties. But steel strings isn’t the only feature that makes a classical guitar unique. A classical guitar has a wider neck and fretboard, creating a larger playable surface area. This surface area is also flatter than the fretboard of an acoustic guitar with steel strings.
Classical guitars are also usually longer than their counterparts, with an average scale length of 26 inches. Nylon-stringed classical guitars are typically attached to the body at the 12th fret and have open-geared tuners and a slotted headstock.
Acoustic Guitar FAQ
How long it takes to learn how to play a guitar depends on one major factor: how much you practice. Exactly how long it will take you to learn to play also depends on what skill level you want to reach.
If you have no musical experience and set aside 20-30 minutes, 3-5 times a week to practice, you should be able to play a few easy songs within two months. Within 3-6 months, with regular practice, you will likely be able to play more difficult songs. After about two years of consistent practice, you will likely be able to play most songs.
- Identify the strings. Each string in a set of guitar strings is labeled by its gauge. Remember, the higher the number, the thicker the string. The string with the highest number will be the low E string, while the smallest number matches the high E string.
- Thread the strings. String the low E string first, then string the A string, then the D string, and so on. Once the strings are through the tuning peg, winding should be relatively easy. Your string winder should simplify this step.
- Stretch and tune your strings.
If you play the acoustic guitar for long enough, there will come a time when you will need to change your guitar strings. We broke down the process into six easy-to-follow steps. But first, before you get started, make sure you have the following essential items:
- String Winder
- Wire cutters
Once you have those three items, you should be ready.
- Loosen the strings. Make sure you loosen them until they no longer produce any sound.
- Cut the strings with your wire cutters. It is best to cut the loose strings around the sound hole.
- Remove the strings. You will likely have to remove the bridge pins first, but then you should be able to easily remove the ball-end of the string. Once it is removed, completely unwind the other half of the string that is attached to the headstock, but be careful because the strings are sharp. Once the strings are removed, follow the same steps as mentioned above for stringing a guitar.
- Identify the strings. Each string in a set of guitar strings is labeled by its gauge. Remember, the higher the number, the thicker the string. The string with the highest number will be the low E string, while the smallest number matches the high E string. 5. Thread the strings. String the low E string first, then string the A string, then the D string, and so on. Once the strings are through the tuning peg, winding should be relatively easy. Your string winder should simplify this step. 6. Stretch and tune your strings.
- To tune an acoustic guitar, you will need to know the notes for each string. You should first identify the notes, starting with the lowest, thickest string. This string, when the guitar is held correctly, should be the one closest to the ceiling. From low to high, the notes are as follows: E, A, D, g, b, e
- You will then need to identify the right tuning pegs for each string. You can find the tuning peg for each string by following the string up to the peg. You can pluck the string a few times and turn the peg clockwise to make it go up or counterclockwise to make it go down.
- If you are using an electric tuner, such as an app on your phone, make sure you hold it close enough to the guitar that it can accurately pick up the sound. Repeatedly pluck the string and turn the tuning peg until it matches the pitch.
- If you are tuning a guitar after putting on new strings, play and retune it for 15-20 minutes to accommodate any stretching that may occur.
To set up an acoustic guitar, you will pay close attention to the nut, bridge, and neck adjustments. First, take a close look down the edge of the fingerboard and note how straight it is.
Also check for any back-bow, forward bow (relief), humps, and high or uneven frets. Also check the nut to ensure the slots aren’t too deep. The bridge saddles should fit properly and work efficiently. Make sure the fingerboard and bridge match. You will then need to loosen the strings and truss rod to clean and lubricate the truss rod. Make sure you loosen the truss rod nut first to avoid shearing off the nut.
Then, use a small brush or compressed air to clean out the surface, then apply a small amount of lubricant to the threads on the inside of the truss rod nut, but be careful not to get any on the wood. Then reinstall the nut until it is snug.
Next, hold the guitar in the playing position and use an 18-inch straightedge to determine relief. If the neck is bowed forward, tighten the nut until the straightedge lays flat on the frets. If the neck is in a back bow, loosen the but until the straightedge lies flat on the frets.
There are plenty of incredibly easy songs beginner guitar players can practice playing, including:
- “Love Me Do” by The Beatles
- “Proud Mary” by CCR
- “Wonderful World” by Sam Cook
- “Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
- “Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette
- “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
- “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley
- “Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars
- “Otherside” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
- “Good Year For The Rose” by Elvis Costello
- “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
- “Zombie” by The Cranberries