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Learn About How A Guitar Works And Makes Sound
By Gray Rollins
How Guitars Work

Many people, guitarists included, have probably wondered how exactly Guitars work. However, they probably also are confused by all of the terms used to describe how a guitar produces the sound we hear. There is quite a bit of physics involved in it, and those who haven’t taken a day of physics in their life probably wouldn’t understand it. This is where this article comes in handy. In this article, we will describe how both Acoustic and Electric guitars work in terms that everyone will understand.

How the Acoustic Works:

To start with, when a string vibrates (when you play it), it produces vibration at a certain frequency. The frequency at which a string vibrates is determined by the weight, length, and tension of the string.

The body of the guitar takes in the vibration of the strings and then puts the sound out into the air. This is the sound that is heard when the guitar string is played.

On an Acoustic guitar, there is a soundhole. This soundhole serves to amplify the sound of the vibration produced by the strings. Without the soundhole, the sound would be practically inaudible, which is the case with a solid body Electric guitar.

To alter the length (and therefore change the sound that is heard) of the string, you’ll alter the tension of the string. You do this by pressing down on the string on any of the frets and then playing that string. Doing so changes the frequency of the vibration, which, in turn, alters the sound that is heard.

How the Electric guitar Works:

Electric guitars really aren’t that much different from Acoustic guitars. In fact, the main difference between the two is that one is made of solid wood (with no holes), while the other has a hollow-body (with a soundhole). How Electric guitars work is a bit different than how


Acoustic Guitars do.

Just like with the Acoustic guitar, when a string is played, it vibrates. That vibration produces the sound that we hear. The frequency of the vibration is, again, determined by the weight, length and tension of the string.

With no soundhole, the Electric guitar is unable to self-amplify the sound produced by the vibration of the strings. Thus, the sound heard from an un-amplified Electric guitar is minimal. This is why guitar pickups and amplifiers are necessary to produce the sound loud enough for people to hear.

Pickups basically take the vibration of the strings and convert it into a useable electrical current. This current is then fed into the amplifier by way of a cable which is then interpreted by the amplifier. The sound that results comes out of the amplifier speaker.

Amplifiers that have pre-built distortion (and practically all of them do now) can distort the electrical current (vibration) by clipping it. The sound that results from this clipping is what is called distortion.

Other types of guitar effects found on amps and pedals do pretty much the same thing—they alter the electrical current which is fed to them by the pickups of the guitar.

And there you have it. That is, in a nutshell, exactly how guitars work. No physics necessary.

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This page was updated on Nov 2009 and is Copyright © 2003 by Global Com Consulting Inc.

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