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March 13, 2010

How Electric Guitars Work - All you Need to Know

Guitars come in various shapes, sizes, looks and design. The music world has classical acoustic guitars, semi-acoustic guitars, electric guitars, hollow body guitars, jumbo guitars, ‘S' hole guitars etc. Each of these guitars has its own characteristic generic looks, characteristic sound and tonality, which attract their own respective following. Overall, guitars can be classified into two broad categories: acoustic guitars and electric guitars.
How Does a Guitar Work?
To know how guitar work, let us first see what is common to the working of any guitar. Every acoustic guitar has a minimum of six parts - the guitar neck with guitar nut and headstock, fret board, tuning keys, Guitar Bridge, sound box and guitar strings. Each of these parts is crucial to the good working of the guitar and plays its own roles to dole out music.
The guitar strings are long strands of metal or nylon wire, which stretch along through the major length of the guitar. There are normally six strings in a guitar (for the most common six-string guitar). All of these six strings run parallel to each other and are interspersed with a small gap between them. There are the sound generators of the guitar.
Strings generate sound for the guitar by vibrating along their vibrating length. The guitar bridge on one end and the guitar nut on the other end fix the vibrating length of a guitar string. The strings are tied onto a guitar under tension. The strings are plucked by fingers or with a pick. The tension in the string (varied about with the help of tuning keys) makes the string to vibrate.
Up to this point, the working of all guitars is the same. What happens next is what categorizes whether the guitar is an acoustic guitar or and electric guitar.
Working of Acoustic Guitars
All guitars have strings that vibrate which are the principal sound generators of the musical instrument. If you pluck a string tied under tension (no, no! not on a guitar!) you will find that the sound produced is not what you will want to hear again and again as you would like to hear the sound of a good guitar. Moreover, the sound from bare strings is very soft and you will barely be able to hear them. The sound has to be amplified so that people far and near can hear them. This is where the sound box from the acoustic guitar comes in. The sound box of an acoustic guitar is made as an hollow body constructed out of wood. It uses the ‘acoustics' of the shape of the hollow body, material characteristics etc to amplify the sound generated by the string. The sound box of a guitar gives it its characteristic sound.
How Does An Electric Guitar Work?
Electric guitars amplify the sound generated by the guitar strings electronically. Instead of the sound box of an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar has pick-ups and other electronic components. The pick up from an electric guitar picks up the sound waves generated by the strings and converts them into their corresponding minute electrical signals. There are different types of pickups. Commonly used ones are magnetic pickups, piezo electric pickups, condenser pick ups etc.
The converted electric signal then passes through the various electronic components mounted on the guitar and finally into the sound amplifier which electronically amplifies the sound. The electronic components on the guitar modulate the converted electric signal to suit the guitarist. Most commonly found components on guitars are the volume control knob (which enables the guitarist to control the volume of the guitar sound) and tone control knobs (which enables the playing guitarist to determine the sound tonality).


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