Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Tyler. Tyler Wonders, “What is the difference of an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Tyler!
Could you imagine modern music without the guitar? Probably not! It’s one of the most popular instruments in the world today. Why? One reason may be that it can make many different types of music—from rock and country to classical and jazz.
There are major differences between acoustic and electric guitars. However, they also have several things in common. Both often have six strings. Both also have a long neck that’s divided into sections by pieces of metal called “frets.” Acoustic and electric guitars are also both tuned using tuning pegs.
What are the big differences between acoustic and electric guitars? Most have to do with the body of the instrument. The first guitars ever made—sometime in the 1500s—were acoustic guitars. They have large hollow bodies with a sound hole just below the strings. The wooden front of the guitar is called the “soundboard.” It’s made of thin wood, often spruce or red cedar, which is chosen for its sound quality.
How does an acoustic guitar make sound? When the strings are strummed, they vibrate. These vibrations move through pieces of wood, called the “bridge” and “saddle,” to the soundboard. It transfers the energy of the vibrating strings to the air within the guitar body. This amplifies the sound and makes it loud enough to hear. The sound hole helps to project the sound from within the hollow body.
Electric guitars were first made in the 1920s. They have had a huge impact on the worldwide popularity of the guitar. Have you ever seen one? If so, you know they have thinner, solid bodies without sound holes. As a result, the electric guitar does not transmit and amplify sound on its own. Have you ever strummed the strings of an electric guitar that wasn’t plugged in? If so, you were barely able to hear any sound.
Instead of a hollow air cavity, electric guitars use transducers, also called “pickups.” They’re made of bar magnets wrapped with fine wire. These turn string vibrations into electrical signals. The signals are then sent to speakers that amplify them and turn them into the sounds we hear.
There are also acoustic-electric guitars. These look like regular acoustic guitars, but they also have electronic components. They send sound to an external amplifier. Why would someone want an acoustic-electric guitar? They’re common in cases where an acoustic sound is preferred but the other instruments involved are amplified.
It’s no secret that the guitar is a pretty big deal in the music world. Have you ever played one? Maybe one of your favorite songs features a guitar solo. Either way, you know just how moving the music from this instrument can be.
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2