Acoustic guitars form several notable subcategories within the acoustic guitar group: classical and flamenco guitars; steel-string guitars, which include the flat-topped, or "folk", guitar; twelve-string guitars; and the arched-top guitar. The acoustic guitar group also includes unamplified guitars designed to play in different registers, such as the acoustic bass guitar, which has a similar tuning to that of the electric bass guitar.
Before the development of the electric guitar and the use of synthetic materials, a guitar was defined as being an instrument having "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides." The term is used to refer to a number of chordophones that were developed and used across Europe, beginning in the 12th century and, later, in the Americas. A 3,300-year-old stone carving of a Hittite bard playing a stringed instrument is the oldest iconographic representation of a chordophone and clay plaques from Babylonia show people playing an instrument that has a strong resemblance to the guitar, indicating a possible Babylonian origin for the guitar.
In major-thirds (M3) tuning, the chromatic scale is arranged on three consecutive strings in four consecutive frets. This four-fret arrangement facilitates the left-hand technique for classical (Spanish) guitar: For each hand position of four frets, the hand is stationary and the fingers move, each finger being responsible for exactly one fret. Consequently, three hand-positions (covering frets 1–4, 5–8, and 9–12) partition the fingerboard of classical guitar, which has exactly 12 frets.[note 1]
MIDI converters use a hexaphonic guitar signal to determine pitch, duration, attack, and decay characteristics. The MIDI sends the note information to an internal or external sound bank device. The resulting sound closely mimics numerous instruments. The MIDI setup can also let the guitar be used as a game controller (i.e., Rock Band Squier) or as an instructional tool, as with the Fretlight Guitar.
The neck joint or heel is the point at which the neck is either bolted or glued to the body of the guitar. Almost all acoustic steel-string guitars, with the primary exception of Taylors, have glued (otherwise known as set) necks, while electric guitars are constructed using both types. Most classical guitars have a neck and headblock carved from one piece of wood, known as a "Spanish heel." Commonly used set neck joints include mortise and tenon joints (such as those used by C. F. Martin & Co.), dovetail joints (also used by C. F. Martin on the D-28 and similar models) and Spanish heel neck joints, which are named after the shoe they resemble and commonly found in classical guitars. All three types offer stability.
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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.