There are many different styles of play. Chords are played by strumming all of the strings. Classical guitarists pluck the strings with their fingers and always play sitting down. Slide guitarists slide along the strings with a slide made of metal or glass. Whether you're interested in classical, bluegrass, flamenco, folk or blues, the acoustic guitar is something you can enjoy playing alone or in a group.
A guitar's frets, fretboard, tuners, headstock, and truss rod, all attached to a long wooden extension, collectively constitute its neck. The wood used to make the fretboard usually differs from the wood in the rest of the neck. The bending stress on the neck is considerable, particularly when heavier gauge strings are used (see Tuning), and the ability of the neck to resist bending (see Truss rod) is important to the guitar's ability to hold a constant pitch during tuning or when strings are fretted. The rigidity of the neck with respect to the body of the guitar is one determinant of a good instrument versus a poor-quality one.
An open tuning allows a chord to be played by strumming the strings when "open", or while fretting no strings. The base chord consists of at least three notes and may include all the strings or a subset. The tuning is named for the base chord when played open, typically a major triad, and each major-triad can be played by barring exactly one fret. Open tunings are common in blues and folk music, and they are used in the playing of slide and lap-slide ("Hawaiian") guitars. Ry Cooder uses open tunings when he plays slide guitar.
Guitars have been played since the Renaissance era, after descending from the ancient Greek instrument, the kithara. Or, at least, that's how the theory goes: the only real proof for this is the similarities between the Greek word and the Spanish word, quitarra. Early guitars often had four strings, evolving into the six-string version we know today in the late 1600s. Anton Stradivari, the famous violin-maker, also had a hand in making guitars. There's now only one Stradivarius guitar left in existence.