So ok, you’ve decided to take on the challenge of learning how to play the guitar. First off, congratulations! You’re about to head on a journey that will lead to a great deal of personal gratification—being able to play guitar may be one of the most satisfying things that you’ll do. If you haven’t yet decided which guitar type is right for you, great, let’s look at all popular guitar types available.
That being said, there’s no doubt that there’s a lot to learn. One of the first things you’ll ask is ‘What type of guitar do I need to hit the ground running? It may be a bit more involved than you think. There are numerous styles, enough to make you dizzy. Picking the best guitar for you may seem like a hard decision to make.
No need to let yourself get overwhelmed – we’ve got you covered! Let’s take a few minutes and look at all of the different available types of guitars. So, Once you are well informed, you can make the best decision as to which guitar type is the right one for your needs.
Make an informed decision.
Our guide will give you all the information you need to make your buying decision. In addition, you will find even more details in our guitar buying guides that dive into more points for your chosen guitar type. At any rate, you will see them listed lastly at the end of this guitar types guide.
When buying a guitar, we always say write down all your requirements. Especially if this is your first guitar. Having your notes on hand is particularly useful if you plan to try a bunch of guitars in various stores.
Decide on a budget, set your minimum and maximum spend. We say buy the best guitar you can afford. For the most part, the law of diminishing returns does apply here.
Your Playing style
It’s helpful to know the playing style that you are after. Some guitars lend themselves better than others for specific musical styles.
Are you going to play:
- Fingerstyle, Flatpicking, or just strumming.
- Are you seeking a specific tone?
- Do you plan to sing and play the guitar?
Acoustic guitars | Steel-string acoustics
We’ll start where it all began – the time-honored acoustic guitar.
This is where the rubber hits the road. Various guitar types suit different requirements.
Acoustic guitars are extremely popular guitars. Compared to electric guitars, the acoustics are as simple as possible. In essence, there is an acoustic for every playing style imaginable. There’s no need to buy amplifiers, effect pedals, cables, etc. Acoustics are incredibly versatile, there honestly pick up and play. If your budget is tight, they are a great choice; no additionals need to be purchased.
“When you play the 12-string guitar, you spend half your life tuning the instrument and the other half playing it out of tune. – Pete Seeger”
Acoustic guitar – 6 string
An acoustic guitar is about as simple as you can get from a construction standpoint. The overwhelming majority of models are made entirely of wood. However, a select few use more modern materials.
Overall construction consists of a wood ‘neck’ and a hollow ‘box’ called the ‘body.’ The body has a top, back, and formed sides that can be found in a wide variety of sizes and shapes—each with its characteristics.
For example, a dreadnought style tends to be bigger, giving more volume projection and deeper sound. In contrast, you can also get much smaller parlor models. Parlor guitars are potentially better to play for those with smaller hands. In addition, they are easier to transport as well.
There aren’t many options other than using steel as far as strings are concerned. Furthermore, other metal materials are used, such as nickel and bronze. For the most part, you’ll hear acoustic guitars referred to as ‘steel-string acoustics.’
Acoustic guitar – 12 string
12 string acoustics are perfect for strumming; they have great depth and sparkly sound. There not miles apart from six-string acoustics, however. However, they play very much the same; the strings being so close together might take some time.12 Strings are used for the most popular genres of music, pop, rock, and Country especially. In addition,12 strings are tuned a little differently, giving that unique sound.
Popular acoustic manufacturers are Martin, Taylor, and Yamaha. Each has a complete line of various acoustic guitar types with different sizes, features, and options.
Acoustic lap steel guitars (Hawaiian guitar)
Typically played across the performer’s lap in a horizontal position. The pitch of the string is changed by pressing a polished metal bar onto the plucked strings of the instrument. This instrument does not have frets. However, position markers look very similar to frets. The acoustic lap steel should not be confused with a pedal steel guitar. Unlike the pedal steel guitar, the acoustic laps stell does not use a pedal.
Acoustic guitar sizes
There are a wide variety of acoustic guitar body types available from manufacturers. There are plenty of variations to choose from; let’s look at the main types now. Generally speaking, the larger the guitar’s body, the louder the volume.
The 00, double-O is also known as the grand concert body. The Grand Auditorium acoustic guitar is also referred to as the triple-O (000). Very is much like the ‘Grand Concert.’ Many of the 000-guitar types come with a convex back to enlarge the physical volume of the soundbox.
The result is a balanced tone similar to the 00 but with more dynamic range and volume and a little more low-end. It’s those features that have made this classic-shaped body extremely popular.
Martin’s 000-xxx series and the Taylor guitars type x14 series are much-appreciated examples of the Grand Auditorium style.
The Jumbo acoustic
They are generally the most prominent acoustic guitar of them all. Jumbos suit players who have are strong strummers. They have a big, powerful sound.
Dreadnoughts are a prevalent guitar because they have a lot to offer. They suit various strummers, fingerstyle, bluegrass, and flat pickers. Furthermore, they also provide big strong bass and are loud. Dreadnoughts are also very popular with more prominent framed people and much less for smaller framed people. Smaller, framed people often complain about the discomfort of draping their arms over the instrument’s body.
Parlor is old-style and popular with guitarists seeking a smaller guitar. The Parlor guitar is a narrow-waisted and compact guitar often used as travel guitars. Its name is derived from the rooms often played in the late 19th century. They are appreciated by players who seek a lightweight and small guitar.
Travel acoustic guitars
A small and light guitar for people who travel a lot. Not known for their tonality or high volume output. A popular guitar for people who travel often is the Taylor GS Mini; it is smaller without sacrificing its sound.
Mini acoustic guitars
Designed with children in mind, they are 3/4 to half the average size of most guitars—a popular choice for kids learning to play.
Guitar manufacturers have variations of guitar types and sizes.
- With an acoustic electric (A/E) guitar, you’ll have the ability to take the classic steel-string acoustic (not to be confused with a ‘classical’ guitar…more on that later) and add the ability to amplify the sound easily.
- A/E guitars have some pickup and preamp systems installed right off the shelf. This allows you to plug it into a guitar amplifier or a direct box to a PA for live performance. You can also use it directly into an audio interface if recording a guitar is your thing.
- Pickup types differ from units that fit under the bridge saddle and transfer the vibrations to models that use a tiny microphone inside the guitar’s body. Some of the best setups have both, as each provides its unique tones that can be blended into a very rich, complete, and defined tone.
- A/E guitars are typically extended models of traditional acoustic guitars, so all significant manufacturers offer them as part of their product lineups.
Acoustic guitars | Cutaways
Acoustic-electric guitar allows access to the upper frets on the neck of the guitar by designing a “cutaway” into the guitar body. Some traditionalists frown upon cutaway acoustic guitars; some say it’s abominable. However, if you plan to play up the neck, we won’t hesitate to say get an acoustic cutaway.
Archtop acoustic guitars
An Archtop guitar is usually a full-bodied semiacoustic guitar or hollow-bodied; they have been named Archtops because of their distinctive arched top. The Archtop is very popular amongst Blues, rockabilly, and jazz players. They are loved for their sound, which is punchy with enhanced projection. There are many variations of Archtops and typically have the following features.
- As with most guitars, the guitar’s top is arched rather than flat.
- An Archtop is usually a semi-acoustic or hollow body.
- It has six steel strings.
- F-holes in the body, not unlike a violin in style.
- It has a moveable adjustable bridge.
- A rear-mounted tailpiece, a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, or stop-tail bridge.
- The neck is joined at the 14th fret.
Flat top acoustic guitars
A Flattop guitar is a guitar that uses a flat top as opposed to a carved top or an arched top. The majority of your traditional acoustics are constructed with a flat soundboard. The term “flattop” is sometimes stated to clarify that the guitar uses a flattop.
Often associated with Gypsy Jazz, the acoustic Selmer Maccaferri Style guitar has a distinctive D-shape soundhole.
The semi-acoustic (Thinline or hollow-body electric)guitar is different from a standard acoustic guitar in the following ways:
It uses a pickup. However, it can be played with or without amplification.
Classical guitars (Nylon Strings)
Classical guitars may be considered a derivative of the traditional acoustic, as the overall construction is the same. Just as with a conventional acoustic, you’ll find a hollow wood body and neck, but there is where the similarities end.
The shape of a classical guitar’s body tends to be more of a traditional form without having larger sizes. The neck is more of a departure as it typically is broader and flatter, making it potentially more comfortable to play for some.
Another big difference is the type of strings that you’ll find. Nylon is the material of choice, with the thicker (lower sounding) strings wrapped with a thin steel wire. Nylon strings take less tension to get them to pitch (that is, sounding the right note when tuned). That makes them a more attractive choice for beginners as they are easier on the fingers.
And as any beginner will tell you, your fingers will get sore at first. This is a good reason why many choose classical guitars to start with – every little bit helps, right? Classical guitars are more of a niche end of the market. Most of the significant acoustic manufacturers do offer them, but there are other players to contend with, such as Cordoba.
Classical guitars are very different from standard acoustic guitars. A crossover guitar is like an acoustic guitar with nylon strings. A crossover guitar’s dimensions, style, and specs are very similar to a standard acoustic guitar with a cutaway. These guitars are ideal for the playability, comfort, and sound of nylon strings. In short, a crossover guitar offers the sound of a Classical guitar in an acoustic cutaway guitar construction and style.
The Flamenco guitar is a Classical guitar with less neck relief (see guitar setup). Flamenco guitars also spruce tops and use sycamore or cypress for the body’s backs and sides, enhancing volume and emphasizing the note’s attack.
Electric guitars are extremely popular types of guitars, and yep, they have their advantages and disadvantages.
While acoustic-type guitars are very functional and capable instruments, electric models are a different beast altogether.
There are several types to consider, but the most popular may be the solid-body electric. Yeah, it has a body and a neck like any acoustic you’ll find, but the overall design is entirely different. The body is – as the name implies – made out of a solid piece of wood, and it’s almost always much thinner than what you’ll find on an acoustic.
Electric guitars of all kinds use pickups to amplify the sound coming from the strings. The design of an electric guitar pickup is different from an A/E pickup in that it is based on a magnet with a large amount of copper wire wrapped around it, which creates a magnetic field. Strings within that field are ‘picked up, sending the signal to the output jack.
Solid-body guitars are also used in almost any genre of music. From the snap and twang of a country guitar to the snarl and growl of an over-the-top rock concert, they tend to lead the pack as the ‘guitar of choice.’
Yeah, you can try to rock it out (or twang it up) on an acoustic, but trust us – it just isn’t the same.
Without a doubt, Fender and Gibson are the two heavyweight brands for the solid-body electric guitar. Fender has iconic models such as the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, and Gibson has made its mark with varied offerings like the Les Paul, the SG, and the Flying V.
Electric lap steel guitars
This instrument is often played horizontally on the performer’s lap. Unlike acoustic lap steel guitars, electric lap steel guitars use electric pickups.
Electric hollow body
Hollow body guitars are a way of taking most of what’s great about a solid body electric and having a little acoustic influence.
Not to be confused with an acoustic-electric guitar, a real hollow body uses the same guitar pickups found in a solid body. They happen to be mounted on a top on – you guessed it – a hollow body.
Semi-hollow body guitar types are variants with center support going through the entire body. This can increase sustain by having a more solid mount for the bridge and pickups.
Hollow body guitars tend to have a warmer tone than solid bodies. They are prevalent in jazz and big band music. However, don’t let that pigeonhole your perception. They are just as commonplace in rockabilly, Country, and some straight-up rock applications.
One thing to consider when cranking up any hollow body – they are notorious for producing feedback at high volumes. So consider that if you intend to use one for, say, a metal guitar that will melt steel.
Popular hollow-body guitars are made by brands such as Gretsch and D’Angelico and offerings by most other major electric guitar manufacturers.
Think about that thump in a song like ‘Another One Bites The Dust by Queen…that, friends, is the bass guitar. Bass is different from a traditional six-string in that it typically has only four, and they are tuned an octave lower to get that low-frequency rumble.
As far as the bass guitars themselves, you’ll find different types that mirror what is available with six strings. Solidbody basses may be the most common, but acoustic and acoustic-electric models are also readily available.
Since the strings are meant to be tuned lower, they are thicker. That means a somewhat different approach is needed to play it correctly. However, you can still shred some fantastic bass lines if you know what you’re doing!
One big plus: bass guitarists are in the minority compared to regular guitar players. Furthermore, there should be no problem finding a spot in a great band. It’s like having built-in job security!
Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, all big guys, have bass guitars in their portfolio, and they are great choices if you decide that playing the bass may be your calling.
Other guitar types
Extended Range Guitars (ERG)
All extended range guitars are equipped with seven strings or more.
A regular guitar has a fingerboard fixed to the neck the guitar. The fingerboard incorporates metal frets; the player presses the strings behind a fret to sound a note. A fretless guitar uses a fingerboard that has no frets. The player presses the strings down onto the fretboard anywhere of their choosing. A violin is another instrument that does not use frets.
Hybrid guitars are electric solid-body guitars that tonally sound like acoustic guitars. Technically the sound is achieved by using a piezoelectric pickup.
Examples of hybrid guitars: The American Acoustasonic Stratocaster
Often referred to as a National (steel-body) or its cousin, the Dobro-type (wood-body) guitar. The resonator guitar is most often played using a bottleneck. The style is extremely popular for Blues and Bluegrass music, just a couple. Each has a distinctive tone achieved by the string’s vibration, which is transmitted from the bridge to one or more spun metal cones (resonators) instead of the guitar sounding board.
These guitars are very basic electric or acoustic guitars. They are designed to be played in quiet environments, acoustically, or amplified.
Other stringed instruments
Technically not part of the guitar type (Lute) family, they are stringed instruments and very popular. They, in a way still part of the guitar family, so let’s have a look at these, shall we?
Mandolins are small instruments when compared to most other stringed instruments. They have unique trebly and bright tones and are used in various music styles.
Without a doubt, the ‘Uke” is one of the most popular stringed instruments of all. Ukuleles feature in traditional Hawaiian music; they are small, light, and relatively easy to play. Uke’s are adored by people all around the world.
Their distinctive Twinkly trebly sound is instantly recognizable. Comparatively cheap instruments that suit everyone.
Guitars – Further considerations
I will not go into the small variables between guitar manufacturers’ sizes and models. That would be beyond the scope of this article. I want to make you aware of certain qualities typically associated with the size of a guitar.
Looking at the different guitar types may not tell you the whole story when deciding which one is your best choice. Regardless of which type you tend to prefer, there are some other things that you should consider.
When setting out to buy a guitar, be sure to consider the size of the guitar. Guitars come in various sizes that affect the instrument’s comfort, playability, and tonal qualities. Generally speaking, big guitars are louder but more cumbersome and less comfortable to play for the smaller framed people.
As you might expect, smaller guitar types have less volume but are more comfortable to play for smaller framed people. For example, most young children would find a Jumbo or Dreadnought acoustic guitar challenging to handle and play.
Does not always equal quality. Yeah, it’s typically true that ‘you get what you pay for.’ But when it comes to all guitar types these days. It’s getting harder to draw a hard line between what you get at the spectrum’s high and low end.
Guitar manufacturer’s use has evolved dramatically over the years. That means a guitar at the lower end of the spectrum may have a quality level close to models that cost much more. It’s not uncommon to come across a cheaper model that will more than serve its purpose, with excellent sound, build quality, and impressive tone.
Guitar playing styles
Various playing styles are the result of mixing multiple guitar techniques.
- Down strokes picking
- Extended technique
- Guitar showmanship
- Guitar solo
The following specifications are relevant to most types of guitars. They will have huge implications on a guitar’s playability and comfort. Take the time to understand the various specifications fully.
The guitar neck
One of the most critical components of a guitar is the neck. We would like to say that there is no perfect neck to suit everyone. Personal preferences vary for guitar components; most players can access the neck simply by feel.
Chunky vs. Slim
In a nutshell, players often describe the feel of a guitar neck as chunky or slim. Most players like to know the specifications for any guitar they might be interested in. So let’s dive into the guitar neck’s specifications and see what they mean.
Width of the neck
Neck width: A guitar’s neck width varies between guitar types; neck width is typically between 1.61″ (41mm) and 2″ (51mm) wide. The most common neck width is usually somewhere in the middle, typically 1 11/16″ (43mm) or around 1.73″ (44mm)
Neck types are described by their profile type; the more common ones are:
“u” Shape | “V’ shape | “D” shape | “C” shape
Neck radius refers to a slight curve on the neck’s fingerboard.
The bottom line is that the best guitar neck for a player is what a player prefers. A neck should feel “right.” The specs can then be noted for future reference by the player.
The guitar’s action
All the guitars strings need to be a set distance from the bottom of a given string to the top of a fret. If the space is too much, it’s difficult for the player to push the string down and against the top of the fret. If the distance is too little, it’s easier for the player to “fret the strings.” However, any stings may unintentionally touch the strings causing a buzzing sound.
The action needs to be adjusted so that the stings are low enough so that the player can fret the strings easily. But not so low that the sting might buzz.
A guitar’s action is crucial for the guitar’s playability.
The guitar’s intonation
Correct intonation ensures that all the notes play accurately regardless of where they are played on the fretboard.
The nut is cut into the top of the fingerboard. It locates and correctly spaces each string and ensures the correct height also.
The headstock is fixed to the top of the neck. The guitar string tuners are fixed to the headstock.
The body style will vary significantly with each guitar type.
Guitar types scale length
- Scale length is another crucial consideration when choosing a guitar.
- Scale-length not only playability but tonality also.
- Scale length for guitars refers to the approximate distance between the saddle and the nut.
- A scale’s lengths of 25.4 inches or more are considered long.
- Scales lengths less than 25.4 inches are considered short.
- A scale length may have a significant on playability and the sonic qualities of the guitar.
- The longer the scale length, the higher the string tension. This becomes noticeable when bending strings or strumming particularly.
- For some, a longer scales length can be uncomfortable; consider scalelength when evaluating guitars.
Weight and size
A guitar’s weight and size are variables between guitar types. It significantly affects the guitar’s playability and playing comfort.
Various tonewood is used in the construction of most acoustic guitars. Tonewoods are wood types that are thought to influence the guitar’s sound.
They are typically the following guitar components.
Back and sides
The guitar’s top
Acoustic guitar aesthetics
Many guitars use various elements which beautify the guitar.
Fingerboard position markers
The visual elements
Body Bindings and Purflings
There are plenty of guitar accessories in the marketplace.
All guitars are susceptible to humidity, acoustic guitars especially. From an acoustic guitar’s perspective, relative humidity ideally is between 45% to 55%. Less than 45% relative humidity can potentially wreak havoc on an acoustic for long periods. A dry climate can cause the guitar’s wood to dry to a point where it may crack. We have a lot more to say about relative humidity and guitars.
Guitars need to be set up from new if the guitar’s playability is compromised. Guitars are usually constructed from wood which can move because of changes in humidity.
Well known guitar manufactures
We can’t list them all here, but the guitar manufacturers listed below are well-known for building quality acoustic guitars.
It’s essential to try as many guitars as you can; how it sounds is usually the first thing most players will be concerned with. After all, no matter how comfortable the guitar feels to play, you are not likely to buy it if it does not have the sound you’re looking for, right? However, even if the guitar sounds excellent, you are unlikely to buy it if it is uncomfortable to play either.
Don’t be embarrassed to carry a small notebook and write down the guitar’s name. What you do and do not like about that particular instrument. Do this even if you have a great memory. It will serve you well for all the years to come, well into your guitar-playing future.
How many guitars types do you need?
Going along with the total price vs. quality discussion, you should look at how ‘good’ of a guitar you need. That’s going to vary greatly depending on what your overall goals are. As a beginner, it may make more sense to stay at the lower to mid-end of the market. Why? Because more expensive models may have features that you may not need. If you’re looking for a decent guitar to get your feet wet, spending thousands on a top-shelf model doesn’t make much practical sense.
This is particularly true if the beginner is a child. Children and younger players may have great intentions to become the next Eddie Van Halen. Furthermore, they can be notorious for losing interest and dropping out of the game. The number of expensive guitars that have been purchased with good intentions is now sitting around gathering dust. Maybe more than you think?.
New or used?
You can look at the whole ‘new vs. used’ debate just as you would when looking to buy a car. Many used cars will get you from point A to point B, all with a touch of style and reliability. And you can potentially save a ton of money, right?
The same is true with guitars. There is certainly nothing wrong with buying a guitar with some playing time under its belt. As long as the overall condition is good, the sound is correct, and the value is there, what’s to debate?
At the same time, there is something cool about that ‘new guitar smell’… don’t discount how good a used guitar can be.
Going shopping: Store vs. Online
Shopping options can vary a lot, much depending on your location.
Trying out guitars and buying online will be the preferred option in most cases. It’s not uncommon to find acoustic guitars’ same make and model sound differently. Ideally, it’s essential to play the guitar you intend to buy. However, that is not always an option; you may live in a region too far to commute to a guitar store.
Sometimes buying online is the only option because of the locality. Buying online is the only other practical option in that case. However, plenty of reliable and reputable guitars stores sell guitars online. If you know exactly what you want when buying your guitar, sight-unseen might be your only option. The keypoints is to check the store return policy. Does the store except for a return if the guitar does not meet your expectations. Think of all the what-if scenarios that might happen. Ask questions ahead of time.
Guitar service and support
Service and support options for the store are super important. That’s regardless of whether you buy online or from the store. Ask the salesperson about the guitar and stores warranty obligations; most online guitar stores have their service and repair commitments on their website. Make sure you understand what the store will or won’t do if something goes pearshaped.
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t let a high price make you think the guitar you’re looking at is ‘better than the rest. Conversely, I don’t believe that a cheaper guitar doesn’t have anything to offer. Take the time to try out models all across your budget range. You may be pleasantly surprised at the guitar you can get at a relatively attractive price.
Well, there you go. Each guitar type offers its own set of benefits and features. Hopefully, the information we went over will help guide you along. We won’t deny that there’s a lot that you should keep in mind. However, keeping an open mind and evaluating all factors will lead you to make the right choice.
- A great guitar will inspire you to pick it up and play.
- It should sound great.
- It needs to be comfortable to hold and play.
- Not too heavy so that it will tire you out after a short while.
- Ideally, it will look nice also.
- The right guitar will speak to you; do not buy it if it does not inspire you. Find another.
Once you have decided upon the types of guitars that will suit your preferences, read our detailed guitar buying guides:
Ask one of our guitar advice Facebook group members for an opinion or help.
1. Outline of guitars | Wikiwand. Wikiwand. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Outline_of_guitars. Published 2020. Accessed May 1, 2020.