The Acoustic Guitar Explained
Acoustic Guitar can be thought of in three major sections:
The hollow body
The neck with frets running up it.
The head where the tuning pegs are located
Central to the guitar’s sound, however, is the Soundboard – the wooden piece hitched on the front of the hollow body. The soundboard makes the guitar sound loud enough to be audible. In the soundboard is a round (or D Shaped as here) centred hole, which simply enough, is referred to as the ‘hole’.
Further down from the hole and on the soundboard is the bridge. The bridge is the anchor-end for all the ends of the six strings. Inside the bridge is a hard piece of material where the string rests, known as the Saddle.
When plucked, the strings make a vibration that travels through the saddle, to the bridge and onto the soundboard. The entire soundboard vibrates making a hollow sound box out of the body which amplifies the sound. Tapping a tuning fork against the bridge proves that it is the vibrations of the soundboard that produces the sound of an acoustic guitar.
Other features of the acoustic instrument are concerned with controlling the tone of sound.
The narrowing of the body makes it easy to rest a guitar on the knee but where it widens like a female - these are are called the Bouts - the upper Bout being where the neck connects and the lower Bout where the bridge is attached. The shape of the Bouts controls the tone the guitar produces – two unalike bodied and differing sized-bout guitars will sound different.
Bouts influence the sound in two ways: the lower bout accentuates lower tones and the upper bout accentuates higher tones.
Where the strings are located over the face of the neck is called the Fretboard and it is where the sound pitch can be manipulated along specific intervals. Pressing a sting down onto a fret changes the length of the string therefore changing the intonation that it vibrates.
The grooved area where the strings are slotted between the neck and the head is called the Nut, therefore, the saddle and the nut are bookends for the strings, and the distance between the two are known as the scale length of the guitar.
As the strings pass over the nut, they are then anchored to the tuning heads which work as a worm gear that turns a string post that allows the player to ‘tune’ by increasing or decreasing the tension of the strings.
A musical note.
Because it is a musical instrument, the guitar produces tones. Music is the arrangement of tones into spatial patterns that the human brain finds pleasing or, at least, intriguing. A tone is made up of one or a few sound frequencies that become a musical note.
A musical note comes from an incremental selection of tones that are pleasing to the ear alone and together with others. The tones run on frequencies such as 264 Hz, 297 Hz, 330 Hz, 352 Hz, 396 Hz, 440 Hz, 495 Hz, and 528 Hz - which the frequencies of the major scale.
Each tone is a part of a scale that is multiplied by a certain fraction to make the next tone upwards: such as, 9/8 = 297 Hz, 10/9 = 330 Hz , 16/15 = 352 Hz, 9/8 = 396 Hz , 10/9 = 440 Hz, 9/8 = 495 Hz, 16/15 = 528 Hz – respectively.
The fraction increments are also known to us all as the doh re mi so far la ti doh of music.
These tones for
Musicians are officially written as a scale via a letter of the
alphabet starting with the letter C and finishing with G
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. - now sing it
Put simply, these fractions were decided on for the Major Scale because they sounded the best in harmony. The space between the first frequency and the last is known as an Octave. It is between low and high Cs or the two dohs in the rhyming slang. The frequency is separated by a factor of two, where 264 Hz is one half of 528 Hz. However, semi tones (sharps and flats) are a fraction calculated with C as the starting point. The musical world came to other agreements over time, such as the tempered scale and the minor scale.
These are the foundations on how the guitar is tuned. Twelve Frets, Three Octaves with six different weighted strings make 37 unique notes. But there are also multiple ways of finding identical notes across the Fretboard.
The B flat major scale
Individual strings are under a specific tension and will vibrate a specific frequency controlled by the string’s length, its tension and its weight. When you press a string down on a fret, you changed its length, its tension and therefore its frequency.
The strings are weighted and spaced so the proper frequencies are produced when it is played along the frets. The guitar can not only make a tone, but add Harmonics to it, i.e. plucking one string is a pure note but when strings vibrate harmonically two, three and four times it makes the pure tone.
As different notes start to ring at the saddle at once, the saddle adds its own vibration making the tones sound as many blended frequencies.
The Guitar has primitive roots starting in Babylonia, circa 1850 BC, progressing through early Spain until its current electric manifestation of today. However, throughout its history, a guitar can still be identified by its body and neck. Even during its time in Egypt, the guitar had frets.
The Guitarra Morisca or Guitarra Saracenica (Moorish/Muslim) came to Spain with the invading Moors and it had an oval soundbox with many sound holes on its soundboard. Despite incarnations as a lute, changing from 4 to 5 strings and undergoing a heavy Italian influence in the 17th century, Antonio de Torres of Spain developed the Spanish Guitar in the 19th century to what we know it today.
An evolution from the Spanish design even provided the model for the electric guitar - with a deal of contribution to design, comfort and accessibility added by Leo Fender and his team.
International Guitar Festival
City of Derry Guitar Festival Aug 08
Gower Guitar Festival
Lewes Guitar Festival July 30th - 5th August
Walton's Guitar festival - Classic & Jazz - Dublin
Wirral International Guitar Festival
International Guitar Festival & Bath Classical Guitar Festival
North Wales Guitar Festival
Kirkmichael International Guitar Festival - Ayrshire - not during 2007
Ullapool Guitar Festival
Limerick Guitar Festival - August 08