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One of the most prominent instruments seen and heard, guitars are used in practically every genre of music, ranging from blues, bluegrass, country and flamenco to folk, jazz, metal, punk and reggae. These versatile stringed instruments have been evolving since ancient Greece and continue to progress, as experiments in sound persist in the hands of musicians and instrument makers worldwide. Guitars have had a heavy hand in defining the voices of generations and their sentiments, as heard through the hands of cultural icons, such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Victor Jara.

Guitars come in four different variations, and each contains subcategories of its own. While the acoustic guitar relies solely on its strings’ vibrational energy to the air to produce sound, the electric guitar uses an amplifier, which can electronically manipulate and shape tone. The acoustic-electric was invented so that songs requiring an acoustic guitar could be amplified to a wider audience. Rounding out the list, the anchor of most harmonic framework and establishment of beat, the bass guitar’s looks and construction are similar to an electric guitar, but has a longer neck and scale length.

No matter the type of guitar, the tonal signature is highly dependent upon its body construction. For example, acoustic guitars are typically made of tone woods, such as spruce or cedar, which are chosen for their strength and ability to transfer mechanical energy from the strings to the air within their bodies’ resonant cavities. The electric and bass guitar design and construction varies, depending on the shape of the body and configuration of the neck, bridge and pickups.

Portable, versatile and mostly affordable, the guitar is the most prolific instrument on the music scene, as it can be plucked in front of a campfire or used to deafen a whole stadium.