Could you imagine modern music without the guitar? Probably not!
It’s certainly one of the most popular musical instruments played around the world today. Its popularity stems in part from the fact that the same instrument can be used to create many different types of music, from rock to country to classical to jazz to flamenco!
Although there are major differences between acoustic and electric guitars, they also have several things in common. Both have six strings strung along 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.
Acoustic guitars have large hollow bodies with a sound hole just below the strings. The wooden front of the guitar — called the "soundboard" — is made of thin wood, often spruce or red cedar, which is chosen for its sound quality.
When the strings of an acoustic guitar are strummed, their vibrations transmit through pieces of wood, called the "bridge" and "saddle," to the soundboard. The soundboard transfers the energy of the vibrating strings to the air within the guitar body, which then amplifies the sound and makes it loud enough to hear. The sound hole helps to project the amplified sound from within the hollow body.
As you’ve probably noticed, electric guitars have thinner, solid bodies without sound holes. As a result, the body of an electric guitar does not transmit and amplify the sound of its strings when they are strummed. If you strum the strings of an electric guitar that isn’t plugged in, you’ll barely be able to hear any sound.
Instead of a hollow air cavity, electric guitars use transducers — called "pickups" — to convert string vibrations to an electric signal, which is then sent to speakers that amplify the signals and turn them into the sounds we hear.
The pickups on an electric guitar consist of bar magnets that are wrapped with more than 7,000 turns of fine wire. Vibrating strings cause vibrations in the magnets’ magnetic fields. The coils of wire then turn these vibrating currents into an electric signal that can be sent to an amplifier to produce sound via a speaker.
Of course, just when you think you understand the difference between acoustic and electric guitars, we should mention that there are also guitars known as acoustic-electric guitars! These guitars look like regular acoustic guitars, but they also have electronic components that can transfer sound to an external amplifier.
These guitars are popular in settings where an acoustic sound is preferred but most of the other accompanying instruments are amplified.