Body size, shape and style has changed over time. 19th century guitars, now known as salon guitars, were smaller than modern instruments. Differing patterns of internal bracing have been used over time by luthiers. Torres, Hauser, Ramirez, Fleta, and C. F. Martin were among the most influential designers of their time. Bracing not only strengthens the top against potential collapse due to the stress exerted by the tensioned strings, but also affects the resonance characteristics of the top. The back and sides are made out of a variety of timbers such as mahogany, Indian rosewood and highly regarded Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra). Each one is primarily chosen for their aesthetic effect and can be decorated with inlays and purfling.
Almost all guitars have frets, which are metal strips (usually nickel alloy or stainless steel) embedded along the fretboard and located at exact points that divide the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula. The exceptions include fretless bass guitars and very rare fretless guitars. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings' vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Standard classical guitars have 19 frets and electric guitars between 21 and 24 frets, although guitars have been made with as many as 27 frets. Frets are laid out to accomplish an equal tempered division of the octave. Each set of twelve frets represents an octave. The twelfth fret divides the scale length exactly into two halves, and the 24th fret position divides one of those halves in half again.
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The playing of (3-5 string) guitar chords is simplified by the class of alternative tunings called regular tunings, in which the musical intervals are the same for each pair of consecutive strings. Regular tunings include major-thirds tuning, all-fourths, and all-fifths tunings. For each regular tuning, chord patterns may be diagonally shifted down the fretboard, a property that simplifies beginners' learning of chords and that simplifies advanced players' improvisation. On the other hand, in regular tunings 6-string chords (in the keys of C, G, and D) are more difficult to play.
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On guitars that have them, these components and the wires that connect them allow the player to control some aspects of the sound like volume or tone using knobs, switches, or buttons. The most basic electronic control is a volume knob. Some guitars also have a tone-control knob, and some guitars with multiple pickups have pickup selector switches or knobs to determine which pickup(s) are activated. At their simplest, these consist of passive components, such as potentiometers and capacitors, but may also include specialized integrated circuits or other active components requiring batteries for power, for preamplification and signal processing, or even for electronic tuning. In many cases, the electronics have some sort of shielding to prevent pickup of external interference and noise.
A capo (short for capotasto) is used to change the pitch of open strings. Capos are clipped onto the fretboard with the aid of spring tension, or in some models, elastic tension. To raise the guitar's pitch by one semitone, the player would clip the capo onto the fretboard just below the first fret. Its use allows players to play in different keys without having to change the chord formations they use. For example, if a folk guitar player wanted to play a song in the key of B Major, they could put a capo on the second fret of the instrument, and then play the song as if it were in the key of A Major, but with the capo the instrument would make the sounds of B Major. This is because with the capo barring the entire second fret, open chords would all sound two semitones (aka one tone) higher in pitch. For example, if a guitarist played an open A Major chord (a very common open chord), it would sound like a B Major chord. All of the other open chords would be similarly modified in pitch. Because of the ease with which they allow guitar players to change keys, they are sometimes referred to with pejorative names, such as "cheaters" or the "hillbilly crutch". Despite this negative viewpoint, another benefit of the capo is that it enables guitarists to obtain the ringing, resonant sound of the common keys (C, G, A, etc.) in "harder" and less-commonly used keys. Classical performers are known to use them to enable modern instruments to match the pitch of historical instruments such as the Renaissance music lute.
The headstock is located at the end of the guitar neck farthest from the body. It is fitted with machine heads that adjust the tension of the strings, which in turn affects the pitch. The traditional tuner layout is "3+3", in which each side of the headstock has three tuners (such as on Gibson Les Pauls). In this layout, the headstocks are commonly symmetrical. Many guitars feature other layouts, including six-in-line tuners (featured on Fender Stratocasters) or even "4+2" (e.g. Ernie Ball Music Man). Some guitars (such as Steinbergers) do not have headstocks at all, in which case the tuning machines are located elsewhere, either on the body or the bridge.
Solid body seven-string guitars were popularized in the 1980s and 1990s. Other artists go a step further, by using an eight-string guitar with two extra low strings. Although the most common seven-string has a low B string, Roger McGuinn (of The Byrds and Rickenbacker) uses an octave G string paired with the regular G string as on a 12-string guitar, allowing him to incorporate chiming 12-string elements in standard six-string playing. In 1982 Uli Jon Roth developed the "Sky Guitar", with a vastly extended number of frets, which was the first guitar to venture into the upper registers of the violin. Roth's seven-string and "Mighty Wing" guitar features a wider octave range.
Ze first began his journey playing original music and top 40s pop tunes around the country's popular venues. Eventually, through the music of John Mayer, he found a strong attraction to blues music. Ze has years of experience teaching beginners and intermediate guitarists. Currently with Liberty Park Music he is teaching Introduction to Guitar Playing for Complete Beginners, Rhythm Guitar to learn about strumming, chords and more, Guitar Essentials as a fast-track review course, and lots of Song Lessons on pop and rock hits.
Inlays are visual elements set into the exterior surface of a guitar, both for decoration and artistic purposes and, in the case of the markings on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th fret (and in higher octaves), to provide guidance to the performer about the location of frets on the instrument. The typical locations for inlay are on the fretboard, headstock, and on acoustic guitars around the soundhole, known as the rosette. Inlays range from simple plastic dots on the fretboard to intricate works of art covering the entire exterior surface of a guitar (front and back). Some guitar players have used LEDs in the fretboard to produce unique lighting effects onstage. Fretboard inlays are most commonly shaped like dots, diamond shapes, parallelograms, or large blocks in between the frets.
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Are you stuck in a musical rut? New tunings and tricks can help you keep learning guitar in fresh, fun ways. Try one of these great tips from guitar teacher Samuel B. to breathe new life into your guitar playing... One of the first things I tell any new student is that I don't specialize in a formal discipline. If jazz or classical training is your objective, then I'm not your guy. Instead, I specialize primarily in American roots music (that which we tend to casually lump together as "folk"