What is different about an acoustic-electric guitar?
To be honest, the major differences are simple. The normal acoustic guitar is not as loud as the acoustic-electric. The acoustic-electric guitar is a normal acoustic guitar fitted with functional electronics. These electronics (preamp and input) allow you to plug into an amplifier to make the sound louder. They also allow you to add some effects depending on the kind of music you are playing.
Features such as volume control and equalizers are never far behind. They are there to tune the music you are playing. You can record your music seeing to that the music sounds good even when amplified.
The other difference is present in the physical appearance. Many acoustic-electric guitars have cutaways. These cutaways are present to facilitate easier access to the upper frets of the guitar. They also affect the resonance and volume the guitar produces when played. You can still consider playing an electric guitar, but be ready to pay extra for a good-sounding instrument, as well as accessories. Even though some of the amplifiers can be found for under 200 and 300 dollars, as well as find the electric guitar under $1000.
Other features to consider
You might be curious as to which features in an acoustic-electric guitar enable the best sound. Each feature in the instrument has a specific function to carry out. The quality of these features is also as important in ensuring you get the best out of the instrument. Let us look at the different features.
Number and quality of strings
What is a string instrument without the strings? Absolutely nothing. The number and quality of strings are vital to the quality of sound produced. Poorly made strings will produce low-quality sound and affect playability.
When it comes to strings, you have two options. nylon or steel. Nylon strings are preferred for classical and flamenco styles. These strings produce a mellow tone that is distinct to the ear.
Steel strings are the standard nowadays in making acoustic-electric guitars. Depending on the composition, these steel strings produce a louder, brighter tone to the notes in play. Whether you want to play rock or dive into pop music, the secret is in the strings.
Steel strings are comprised of a core and outer section. The inner steel core is wound in different materials that produce different sound effects. The outer material may be any of these materials below:
- Bronze– Bronze strings are commonly comprised of 20% copper and 80% zinc. They produce a bright tone especially when brand new. The tone will become dull after some time thus needing replacement. These strings are vulnerable to oxidation due to their construction. They tend to wear out quickly leaving you with no other choice but to replace them.
- Steel and silk combo– For these, the concentration is on the bass wires. The steel and silk core is woven in a silver-plated copper wire. This gives the notes played a sweet and mellow sound. The bright overtones are hard to miss as you strum the low tension strings. They are easy on your fingers and durable.
- Phosphor bronze– These are bronze strings basking in the protection of phosphorous. These strings are resistant to corrosion caused by sweaty hands and elongate the life of the tone in the strings. The tone is certainly warmer but less bright compared to the bronze strings.
One also needs to be on the lookout for string gauges/thickness. String gauges present a wide range of light to heavy measurement wise. These gauges are measured in thousands of an inch. Lighter strings may start at .010 as the heavier strings can go up to .059. How light or thick the string is will affect the sound produced and playability.
Lighter springs are easier to play but tend to break more easily. Heavier strings need more finger pressure to strum but they produce a higher volume and sustain. Depending on the style of music you play, you can select light, medium or heavy strings.
Traditionally most acoustic-electric guitars have six strings. However, it is possible to get models with twelve, seven or four strings. Depending on your level of skill the choices are unlimited.
Body and neck materials
The body of an acoustic-electric guitar can be created out of a wide range of materials. Some materials will produce a better tone than others while some are more durable than others. You can select whether to have a solid or laminate body/soundboard. Laminate tops that consist of several layers of wood stuck together do not produce musical notes that are as loud or rich as compared to the solid soundboards. They are however cheaper and make a great choice for beginners.
In some cases, you find that different woods have been used for different parts. This affects the overall tonal quality. The body of the guitar is crucial to the quality of sound produced. Here are some of the popular materials used:
- Rosewood is popular and wins favor for bridges and fingerboards. The wood provides complex overtones even when the bass is in play. It presents the right environment for adequate projection, cutting attacks and distinctive ringing tones.
- Koa emphasizes mid-range tones and offers a golden color that is distinct to it. Originally from Hawaii, the wood can be utilized to construct major parts of the body. It is quite costly though.
- Cedar is popular softwood that possesses a bright tone. Due to its quick response, it is more suited for classical or flamenco guitars soundboards. It can also be used for the back of the guitar and the sides.
- Mahogany is quite a dense wood and therefore expect a slow response. If mahogany is used for the soundboard, the sound produced will put more emphasis on the high-end tones. If you want to play the blues or some country music, this material makes good company. The Best Choice Products Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar is a good example of a mahogany model.
- Ebony makes excellent fret material. It is strong and offers a sleek feel for the player to enjoy.
- Maple produces a high sound that often puts more emphasis on the high-end notes. It has a low resonance which makes it a great addition to live band settings. Often, you will find this wood used on the back and on the sides.
- Spruce is lightweight but durable. The wood produces clarity and good resonance. It has become a standard in acoustic guitar tops. The range in color and distinct tones make it even more special.
- Walnut makes a good substitute if you have no mahogany around. It adapts well to emphasizing mid-range notes and projecting the top tones.
- Ovangkol is of African descent but is similar to rosewood. Usually integrated into the back and on the sides, the wood accentuates the mid-tones producing a well- rounded sound.
The neck is supposed to be strong. The material used should be able to support the guitar strings and the fretboard. In many cases, the neck is constructed with hard and dense woods. The harder the wood, the fewer vibrations are driven to the soundboard. Mahogany, maple and khaya are considered the best for the neck regions.
Let us not forget the fretboard. The material that creates the fretboard needs to be durable and facilitate easy playability. This is enabled by selecting a smooth material with adequate density. The denser the material, the lesser damage it will incur during various music sessions. Also, the denser the material, the fewer tones are absorbed into the soundboard. In many cases, the material used for fretboards is rosewood or ebony. Synthetic materials are also used see to it that the quality is not compromised.
Choice is the spice of life. Not all of us are right-handed and therefore there is a need to make products for the left-handed people. In this case, you need to understand how to tell a right-handed from a left-handed acoustic-electric guitar.
You need to look at the thickness of the strings. Stand the guitar against the wall with the strings facing you. If the thicker/bass strings of the guitar are on your left and the treble/thinner strings on your right, then that is a right-handed guitar. If the bass/thicker strings are on your right and the treble/thinner strings are on the left, then that is a left-handed acoustic-electric guitar.
Dimensions and weight
The size and body type of your acoustic-electric guitar matters. It affects how comfortably you can play the instrument and the kind of sound produced. When you look at the guitar, it is clear to see how big the top/soundboard is. Naturally, the bigger the top/soundboard, the deeper and louder the notes become. Here are some common body shapes with their corresponding dimensions.
- Concert and grand concert
Concert acoustic guitars have been around for some centuries. They usually measure around 13-1/2 inches and are thought to offer the perfect balance. Volume, comfort, shape, and size come together to offer the player a strainless experience. When using these concert acoustic guitars expect to hear a bright sound and experience a midrange with a bit of a kick.
Grand concert style acoustic guitars are a bit louder and bigger than the concert-style acoustic guitars. Size wise they measure around 14 to 14.25 inches and are good at emphasizing the mid-range notes.
It is all in the name. Jumbo acoustic guitars are big. Like the general rule indicates the wider the soundboard, the deeper the sound. This loud instrument is hard to miss with the deep base seeping everywhere.
The dreadnought is the versatile one of the group. It blends in well in different music genres. Named after an English warship, the guitar features rounded shoulders. The body is designed to bond with the neck around the 14th fret. It makes a comfortable one to play and the volume is adequate for clear audibility. One such example is the Donner DAG-1E Electric Acoustic Guitar or the Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar.
These are the tiny acoustic guitars you see your favorite indie or folk artists use. These smaller sized acoustic guitars are comfortable to play and portable. You will notice that in most parlour guitars the neck joins the body around the 12th fret.
- Grand auditorium and auditorium
If the parlour and the dreadnought had a baby, it would probably be the auditorium acoustic guitar. Sometimes referred to as an “orchestra” body, it provides a perfect balance of comfort and balance. The wider bottom and tiny waist make it a sweetheart when strumming for some folk music.
A distinct hourglass silhouette characterises grand auditorium. They are thought to offer the perfect balance between shape, size, body and volume.
Smaller guitars are bound to weigh less than larger acoustic guitars. Finding the right guitar size for your body size is crucial for comfort. Ensure that the width of the neck corresponds well with the width of your hand. Struggling to get to the frets is rather frustrating.
Acoustic-electric guitars have preamps and equalizers installed to enable you to tweak your sound. Some models come with pre-set effects to emulate legendary songs. These amps can be installed inside the instrument itself while others are mounted in the sound hole. It is possible to get models that have tuners, equalizers, microphone, piezo pickups and the preamp included. The quality of electronics affects how long they last so be careful. Cheap, in the end, becomes expensive.
What is in the box?
The acoustic-electric guitars need accessories. There are accessories intended for maintenance and others for regular use. In your case, you are likely to find, a gig bag, guitar strings, capos, guitar picks, polishing cloths, guitar straps, stand, and tuners among many more. Read the product description of the model you want to buy. This is to see if you will get all the accessories you need before purchasing. The Martin LX1E Acoustic Guitar provides a gig bag for you to carry your acoustic-electric guitar around.
How to take care of your acoustic-electric guitar?
Taking care of your guitar should be part of your routine. Look at the few pointers provided to make sure that your acoustic-electric guitar stays in tip-top shape.
- It is a good idea to keep your instrument in a case. It will keep it away from dust and prevent impact damage.
- Cleaning the guitar after every use will maintain your guitar’s appearance.
- Use the appropriate cleaning cloth to avoid damaging sensitive surfaces.
- If you are using any cleaning liquid, the chemicals used should be safe to the particular surface in question.
- Tighten any loose screws or bolts.
- Replace old strings with appropriate new ones as soon as they wear out or snap.
Once in a while, you can take a dust blower to remove pent-up dust on the inside.