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Guitars: Electric or Acoustic?

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Guitars: Electric or Acoustic?

Jeff Calci '16, Contributor

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 When buying a new guitar, everyone asks the same question: electric or acoustic? Answering this question is not as simple as it seems, and people must examine both the instruments they are buying, and themselves, in order to fully answer this question. Electric guitars and acoustic guitars may carry the same family name, but they are in fact very, very different.

The sound options are one of the most evident differences. Acoustic guitars capture a simple yet eloquent sound that is both undistorted and genuine in its nature. These guitars do not depend on the assistance of electric amplification, and instead, they utilize a wider frame, a hollowed-out body, and heavier-gauged strings. Electric strings tend to be too light in gauge to properly drive the guitar. A heavier-gauged string gives the vibration and force necessary to produce the proper volume and resonance. In electric guitars, a magnet captures the vibration of the strings, and an amp then amplifies this vibration into the desired volume and sound. On the other hand, an acoustic guitar depends on the vibration of the string causing quick changes in the tension placed on the bridge (the small piece near the sound hole where the strings pop out). This pulls on, and then relaxes the top of the guitar, and causes it to move back and forth, to further amplify the string’s vibration. These vibrations then carry into the sound hole of the guitar, where they are then reverberated and transferred into the air. So even though acoustic guitars may seem like they have a simpler structure, they are actually very complex, if not more so than the electric guitar. This complexity makes an acoustic guitar’s simple and clean sound that much more beautiful.

People can use pedals and amps to distort and manipulate the sound from electric guitars. This gives a lot of room for creativity, and new interesting sounds, but they are not necessarily sounds of your own making. The lead guitarist in the intro of the song Livin’ On A Prayer uses a guitar pedal in order to create an interesting sound: wa-waab. wa-waab, wa-wa-wa-waab. A normal, acoustic guitar could not achieve this feat—however, in using these sound-manipulating pedals that were not even made by you, you create a sound that is not wholly your own, and a sound that is not a full genuine expression of yourself, and your musical ability. This problem also relates to issues of auto-tune for many artists today—many of them present a voice that is not wholly their own, but a voice that it is improved by technology. Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, do not have any of this external influence—it is just you, and the guitar. This simplicity allows to create a sound that really is your own, and it gives a lot more room for self-expression, whereas this idea is distorted in electric guitars through external influences.

guitarSince electric guitars tend to rely heavily on equipment, its usage is a lot more constrained. Amps and pedals are what distinguish electric guitars; without some kind of power outlet, an electric guitar is nothing more than a really quiet acoustic guitar. This the reason that you almost never see electric guitars at campfires, or any small makeshift community gathering—electric guitars are inconvenient. On the other hand, you have the freedom to play acoustic guitars almost anywhere, and they can easily elevate the experience of any gathering or event. Acoustic guitars many not have as many sound options as electric ones, but this very reason is what makes them so great— they rely on little to no extra baggage, and they are a more genuine expression of yourself and music ability.

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Guitars: Electric or Acoustic?