Flat-top or steel-string guitars are similar to the classical guitar, however, within the varied sizes of the steel-stringed guitar the body size is usually significantly larger than a classical guitar, and has a narrower, reinforced neck and stronger structural design. The robust X-bracing typical of the steel-string was developed in the 1840s by German-American luthiers, of whom Christian Friedrich "C. F." Martin is the best known. Originally used on gut-strung instruments, the strength of the system allowed the guitar to withstand the additional tension of steel strings when this fortunate combination arose in the early 20th century. The steel strings produce a brighter tone, and according to many players, a louder sound. The acoustic guitar is used in many kinds of music including folk, country, bluegrass, pop, jazz, and blues. Many variations are possible from the roughly classical-sized OO and Parlour to the large Dreadnought (the most commonly available type) and Jumbo. Ovation makes a modern variation, with a rounded back/side assembly molded from artificial materials.
With so many options available in the world today, buying a guitar that perfectly represents your own style, tastes, and attitude has never been easier. Whether you're a classical guitarist looking for that perfectly balanced nylon flamenco, or a hard rock enthusiast who needs Pete Townshend crunch combined with Jack White power, there is simply no shortage of axes to choose from.
The shape of the neck (from a cross-sectional perspective) can also vary, from a gentle "C" curve to a more pronounced "V" curve. There are many different types of neck profiles available, giving the guitarist many options. Some aspects to consider in a guitar neck may be the overall width of the fretboard, scale (distance between the frets), the neck wood, the type of neck construction (for example, the neck may be glued in or bolted on), and the shape (profile) of the back of the neck. Other types of material used to make guitar necks are graphite (Steinberger guitars), aluminum (Kramer Guitars, Travis Bean and Veleno guitars), or carbon fiber (Modulus Guitars and ThreeGuitars). Double neck electric guitars have two necks, allowing the musician to quickly switch between guitar sounds.
Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, use an amplifier and a loudspeaker that both makes the sound of the instrument loud enough for the performers and audience to hear, and, given that it produces an electric signal when played, that can electronically manipulate and shape the tone using an equalizer (e.g., bass and treble tone controls) and a huge variety of electronic effects units, the most commonly used ones being distortion (or "overdrive") and reverb. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid wood body was eventually found more suitable during the 1960s and 1970s, as it was less prone to unwanted acoustic feedback "howls". As with acoustic guitars, there are a number of types of electric guitars, including hollowbody guitars, archtop guitars (used in jazz guitar, blues and rockabilly) and solid-body guitars, which are widely used in rock music.
Only two or three frets are needed for the guitar chords—major, minor, and dominant sevenths—which are emphasized in introductions to guitar-playing and to the fundamentals of music. Each major and minor chord can be played on exactly two successive frets on exactly three successive strings, and therefore each needs only two fingers. Other chords—seconds, fourths, sevenths, and ninths—are played on only three successive frets.
Unlike many string instruments which use a bow to create a sound, guitars are played by plucking or strumming the strings on the instrument, which vibrate to create a sound. Chords are played when the guitarist holds their fingers down on more than one individual string to change its length, which in turn changes the frequency of the vibration created - in other words, it creates a different note. Performers often use guitar tabs, rather than sheet music, when learning music: this acts as a kind of 'map' to teach guitarists where to put their fingers on the strings.