Whether you're into country or heavy metal or blues, most of the music you listen to features an electric guitar. Whether you just want to jam with your friends or are serious about starting a band, if you can play the electric guitar well, you'll be in high demand. Before you buy one, though, take the time to learn a little more about these instruments.
The sound of an electric guitar depends greatly on its body type. For instance, hollow-body electric guitars are very much similar to acoustic guitars with built-in pickups. These offer some sound output, but work best when connected to amplifiers. These are perfect for soft musical styles like jazz. Higher-end hollow body guitars are usually made with spruce tops. Maple wood is used for the sides and back.
Another type is the semi-hollow body electric guitar. These feature both electronics and some acoustic output. A wooden block beneath the top decreases feedback and offers a louder sound than those with a hollow body.
The most frequently sold and used kind of electric guitar, however, is the solid body electric guitar. These need an amplifier to play music at a high volume. These are good for playing many types of music, including heavy metal, blues, rock, and country music.
The wood used to make the guitar largely determines the tone and length of a note. Mahogany or maple is typically used. Maple offers a bright, crisp sound, while mahogany produces warmer, more rounded notes. Two other kinds of wood sometimes used are ash and alder. Alder offers a balanced tone, while guitars made from ash usually have ringing tones.
Strummin' the strings
Although six-string electric guitars usually work best for beginners, electric guitars are made with alternative numbers of strings as well. Manufacturers such as Schecter or Ibanelz also make a seven-stringelectric guitar, and 12-string guitars are also sold.
These guitars usually work best for more advanced players, however. The resulting sound is that of two electric guitars playing simultaneously. The Byrds helped to make this sound popular, with their Rickenbackerguitars.
A double-neck electric guitar offers flexibility for beginning or more advanced players. The first neck features the typical six strings, but the other neck has 12 strings.
The purpose of an electric guitar pickup is to relay string vibrations as an electric output signal to an amplifier. Pickups are found underneath the strings, resting between the guitar's bridge and the lower part of its neck. Two different kinds of pickups are manufactured: the humbucker pickups, which are also known as the double coil pickups, and the single coil pickups.
Singlecoil pickups create a "twanging" sound. These result in higher levels of feedback, so playing a guitar with single coil pickups at a high volume is rather difficult. They are popular with Fender electric guitars. In contrast, humbucker pickups offer a powerful sound. These pickups are actually designed to reduce feedback, and are used in the manufacture of the Gibson electric guitar.
Typically, electric guitars are designed with at least two, and sometimes, three or more, pickups. The configuration of pickups differs from manufacturer to manufacturer; some may use two single-coil pickups and one humbucker; while others may use two humbuckers and three single-coil pickups.
Brands and other choices
Often, beginning players prefer new, inexpensive electric guitars. Pros or collectors, however, usually buy used electric guitars, focusing on certain brands or models. The Gibson electric guitar is probably the most popular brand. Another well-known model is the Fender electric guitar. Each features a markedly different sound.
Some of the more popular Gibson models are the Les Paul and the SG. Gibson electric guitars often produce a rounded, bluesy tone. Some famous users of these and other Gibson models, such as the ES-355 electric guitar, include Neil Young, Jimmy Page, or the renowned blues artist B.B. King.
Fender electric guitars were used by famous rocker Jimi Hendrix as well as the great blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn. They are also preferred by other well-known guitarists such as Eric Clapton. The Stratocaster and the Telecaster electric guitar are two popular varieties of Fender guitars.
For those who dream of sounding like their favorite player, an artist signature electric guitar is one way of achieving this. Well-known guitarists work with quality manufacturers in developing a signature electric guitar. Some popular examples of these include Jeff Beck electric guitars and Joe Satriani electric guitars.
Left-handed? Don't worry; manufacturers also produce guitars specially designed for left-handed electric guitar players. Both righties and lefties who are just beginning to play, though, will want to look for electric guitar packages sold for beginning guitarists. These packages usually contain a basic amplifier, guitar picks, a guitar strap, a carrying bag, and, of course, a guitar.
Another alternative for beginners is to consider buying used electric guitars. Choose one that hasn't been previously damaged or repaired. If possible look for a model that looks as if it hasn't seen hard use.
Buying all you need
In addition to their electric guitar, players will need several accessories to get started. First, they should buy a good supply of extra strings, because these break easily. For changing strings quickly, consider investing in a string winder.
Other important accessories needed for play include guitar picks or capos, as well as slides. Guitar straps are necessary unless the player is planning to sit throughout the gig. Electric tuners are also helpful for players who are not able to tune by ear.
Some players like to use effects pedals to offer a greater variety of sound choices. Some different effects include delay, distortion, or fuzz. Chorus effects are also popular.
Decide what type of carrying case to use for protecting the electric guitar. While a hardshell case offers the highest level of protection, these are heavier and harder to carry around than a softshell case. A gig bag is also a good option for players who transport their guitars frequently. Guitar stands offer the best way to display an electric guitar - or set it out of harm's way.
Cables are also necessary. These are used for connecting the electric guitar to an amplifier. Longer cables allow greater freedom of movement during play.
Connect these to a Marshall Amplifier or Fender amplifier to make the guitar's sound much louder and more powerful. Beginners can usually get by with practice amps, but band players will need to buy a larger amp with greater power that delivers more volume.
Whether you're planning to be the leader of the band or the lead guitarist, learn as much as possible about the electric guitar and other instruments involved. Knowing how the sound is made will help you create and put together a better and more unique overall sound for your band. You'll be glad you took the time to learn!