What is Guitar: Definition and 153 Discussions

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing the strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand. A plectrum or individual finger picks may be used to strike the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected either acoustically, by means of a resonant chamber on the instrument, or amplified by an electronic pickup and an amplifier.
The guitar is classified as a chordophone – meaning the sound is produced by a vibrating string stretched between two fixed points. Historically, a guitar was constructed from wood with its strings made of catgut. Steel guitar strings were introduced near the end of the nineteenth century in the United States; nylon strings came in the 1940s. The guitar's ancestors include the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.
There are three main types of modern guitar: the classical guitar (Spanish guitar/nylon-string guitar); the steel-string acoustic guitar; and the Hawaiian guitar (played across the player's lap). Traditional acoustic guitars include the flat top guitar (typically with a large sound hole) or an archtop guitar, which is sometimes called a "jazz guitar". The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the strings' vibration, amplified by the hollow body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber. The classical Spanish guitar is often played as a solo instrument using a comprehensive fingerstyle technique where each string is plucked individually by the player's fingers, as opposed to being strummed. The term "finger-picking" can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues, bluegrass, and country guitar playing in the United States.
Electric guitars, first patented in 1937, use a pickup and amplifier that made the instrument loud enough to be heard, but also enabled manufacturing guitars with a solid block of wood needing no resonant chamber. A wide array of electronic effects units became possible including reverb and distortion (or "overdrive"). Solid-body guitars began to dominate the guitar market during the 1960s and 1970s; they are less prone to unwanted acoustic feedback. As with acoustic guitars, there are a number of types of electric guitars, including hollowbody guitars, archtop guitars (used in jazz guitar, blues and rockabilly) and solid-body guitars, which are widely used in rock music.
The loud, amplified sound and sonic power of the electric guitar played through a guitar amp has played a key role in the development of blues and rock music, both as an accompaniment instrument (playing riffs and chords) and performing guitar solos, and in many rock subgenres, notably heavy metal music and punk rock. The electric guitar has had a major influence on popular culture. The guitar is used in a wide variety of musical genres worldwide. It is recognized as a primary instrument in genres such as blues, bluegrass, country, flamenco, folk, jazz, jota, mariachi, metal, punk, reggae, rock, soul, and pop.

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  1. Krazen017

    How can I find the sustain time of an electric guitar?

    How can I find the sustaining time of an electric guitar? The influence of other components besides the strings can be neglected. I need it for my term paper.
  2. f95toli

    Why do I think (guitar) G-strings sound out-of-tune?

    Does anyone else experience this? I've played the guitar for a few years. A somewhat annoying thing is that to me, open G strings always sounds like they are somewhat out of tune. Fortunately, fretted notes sound OK, I only have this problem with the open string. Please note that this is not a...
  3. C

    Prodigal Student

    Hi, my name's Cass. I finished my bachelors in physics last year. Kind've floating around I guess. I write code, play guitar, make art, and study Japanese. I hope to spend some time away from school and get my priorities straight then maybe go back to gradschool eventually. Nice to meet you!
  4. H

    Favorite Electric Guitar Rock Solos

    You already know about Crossroads and Red House, so skip those. Etsushi Ogawa [ 小川悦司 ] I like the way this builds so gradually. You also get to see Senri Kawaguchi wearing a Peter Pan collar. John McLaughlin -- Tokyo City Girl I dunno that anyone else will like this but it's my fave...
  5. rcgldr

    What are your favorite cover bands?

    Mary Spender and Josh Turner - Sultans of Swing Josh Turner - great guitar and vocal cover of Eleanor Rigby Taylor Neita, Carson McKee and Josh Turner - Black Velvet - great harmonies Carson McKee and Josh Tuner - Sitting on Top of the World Allison Young and Josh Turner - Do I Ever Cross...
  6. A

    I Distribution of torsion in a steel guitar string

    This isn't a question about torsion pendulums because it goes well beyond linear physics. The question is roughly, how many times can you rotate the end of a steel string, with the other end fixed, before it breaks? Also, how does the torsion distribute along the string? I tried to answer both...
  7. H

    What are the interests of this scientist?

    Though I am hardly a new member I can't resist this self-introduction.
  8. SamuuLau

    I The effect of temperature on the damping of a guitar string

    I am a high school student and recently I have been working on a project about how temperature affects the frequency of a string emits. I have read blogs like https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/tension-and-frequency-with-change-in-temperature.833185/ and completed the part of thermal...
  9. R

    "Ground" and "Center Tapped" Power Transformer Secondary in guitar amp

    Hello - thank you for reading this, and thank you in advance to anyone who replies and clarifies the mystery of "ground." I have finally gained a full understanding of how a full-wave rectifier, two-power tube electric guitar amplifier works in a push-pull manner, but one thing remains after I...
  10. V

    Physics behind the sound of guitars

    (a) When a taut string is plucked with a finger then it starts vibrating with a transverse wave pattern in the string, which causes the air particles in the immediate vicinity of the vibrating string to oscillate. These oscillating air particles will result in a sound wave traveling in 3...
  11. M

    Guitar string tension: effect of total length - continued

    This wiki page offers an incomplete equation for calculating tension over a length of string. Can you please help complete the equation? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_bending It is referenced here in this thread post #23...
  12. nmsurobert

    B LED light and guitar string (strobe light effect)

    I've trying to explain this to myself but I know I'm missing something. I tuned the low E string to B. The frequency of that note is about 62 Hz. When I play that note under the led lights in my backyard I can see the string oscillate back and forth. After doing some reading, the LED light...
  13. J

    I Movement of a guitar string at relativistic speeds

    Hey! I'm and undergrad in the third year of my applied physics program. I'm taking a course in Special Relativity, and due to Corona the exam has been replaced by a pretty free project where we delve deeply into a topic related to the course. I'm interested in music, so my professor suggested I...
  14. A

    Why does the polarity of a bass guitar recording vary?

    Sorry if this is the wrong place for this question. I am a musician and recording engineer trying to learn about why my bass guitar recordings sometime appear with the waveform going up first (positive polarity) and other times going down first (negative polarity) in my DAW (digital audio...
  15. gmax137

    Remembering Guitar Hero Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac

  16. RicoY65

    What is the frequency of the second harmonic on the A-string in guitar tuning?

    We’re tuning a guitar using harmonics, and we produce, on our properly tuned E-string, a frequency of 329.6 Hz when we pluck the first harmonic. The second harmonic, on the A-string, is noticeably higher, producing a beat frequency of 1.5 Hz. What is the frequency produced by the harmonic on the...
  17. danieluyter

    What is causing the square drop in my guitar effect's sine wave?

    I built a guitar (fuzz) effect, and analysed the sine wave from a tone generator through an oscilloscope. Wondering what the wave means and how it got to be the way it is. I will attach a picture of the oscilloscope screen + the circuit I used for the Fuzz effect. My question is what the cause...
  18. wolram

    My amplifier -- why did this capacitor blow in my guitar amp?

    I have built several guitar amps, but the last one I built burned out a capacitor, can anyone think of a reson for this? it was an eloctolytic, all is working fine now I replaced it.
  19. b1llso

    Find the EMF generated by a guitar string in the pickup coils

    I tried using the general EMF equation but don't know how to apply it with the equation from the problem
  20. TechTree

    Electronics Can I Convert My Guitar Amplifier into a Bluetooth Device?

    Hello, I have a guitar amplifier I'd like to convert into a bluetooth device. Using it's current power supply and allow it to receive a bluetooth input. I have a bluetooth speaker that I took the electrics from. The bluetooth speaker is digital, but when it outputs to the speaker it's an...
  21. vlada113

    Audio/Video Using ultrasound to create guitar effects

    Im interested in using ultrasound to intrfere with sound that comes out of guitar amplifier or sending ultrasound together with normal guitar signal in amp. My questions are : Is it possible? What will it do? Is there anything like it that i can look into? Thank you very much
  22. M

    A Why does a guitar string "beat" as if it is out of phase?

    I am working on synthesis modelling of guitars, and I have managed to capture most elements of the guitar well so far. Something I am struggling to understand is why a guitar string has a natural "beating" sound to it, meaning it sounds as if it is ebbing and flowing slowly as it vibrates. To...
  23. K

    Unfingered Guitar String Vibration Frequency: 627 Hz

    Homework Statement When unfingered, a string on a guitar vibrates at 627 Hz. What frequency will the string produce when fingered one third of the way from the end, that is only two thirds of the string can vibrate? Homework EquationsThe Attempt at a Solution I am not too sure what equations...
  24. Xeno777

    How do I calculate the forces on a guitar stand (Tripod type)

    I want to build a bass guitar stand for my guitar using wood, I'm modelling it after the image shown. The alterations I'm making are to increase the height of the legs , to place an attachable weight below the stand . This will allow the stand to have a lower center of mass and will greatly...
  25. S

    Frequency of Wave on a Guitar String HW

    Homework Statement When a guitar string is stretched to have a tension T, it produces a frequency f. You change the tension by a very small amount ∆T . Show that the new frequency of the guitar string is fnew = f ( 1 + (delta T)/2T) For example, a guitar string has tension T = 10N and...
  26. F

    I Guitar Playing and Standing Waves

    Hello, The guitar is a stringed instrument with six strings of equal length but different linear mass density. Fretting is about shortening the length of a string which causes the fundamental mode and higher modes to have higher resonant frequencies. When a guitar string is plucked (by hand...
  27. T

    Which harmonics would be observed on an electric guitar?

    Homework Statement The electric guitar radiates very little sound directly, but instead relies upon pick-ups (transducers) placed beneath the strings. Establish, showing clearly how you reach your answer, which harmonics of the open string you are likely to observe if the pick-ups are placed...
  28. D

    S.H.M of the midpoint of a guitar string

    Hi guys, I would be grateful if you could help me out with this problem, I've worked though it myself, but my answer to part c is very large, which is making me doubt my answer, and in turn making me doubt my answer to part b Homework Statement The midpoint of a guitar string executes s.h.m...
  29. G

    How harmonics are produced in a guitar string?

    My question is simply 'are all notes produced in a guitar produced by first harmonics?', but I will clarify what made me ask this question. Now, if you have a wave driver you can make several harmonics in a string by increasing the frequency of the machine. In a guitar string, however, it does...
  30. G

    Guitar Strings & Tuning Forks: Investigating Beats

    Homework Statement A guitar string with 0.60 m and 0.012 of mass vibrates with frequencies that are multiples of 109 Hz. Approaching to the string a tuning fork of 440 Hz we verify beats between the sound signals of the string and the tuning fork. Calculate the time interval between consecutive...
  31. QuantumQuest

    What gear do electric guitar players prefer and why?

    I play the guitar since my sixteen. Back then a classical guitar was all I could afford. I went to a musical school for about two and a half years but that was not the thing I wanted to do. I was baffled by musical staff and classical pieces on guitar that were really great but not what I wanted...
  32. S

    Investigation into electric guitar pickups

    Hello, I am currently taking the IB program and have decided to write my EE (extended essay [4,000 words]) in physics. I am going to investigate electric guitar pickups and I need help adding more 'depth' to the essay. Currently, I plan to create my own model pickup by winding a coil of enamel...
  33. C

    Can I put a PC on top of a marshall half stack guitar amp?

    Hi, I wanted to ask if there would be a problem or two if I placed my pc on top of the head of the marshall half stack amp, the harddrive is about 65ish cm away from the center of the speaker (4x12inch speakers) and the power supply of the pc is about 50ish cm away from the center of the...
  34. D

    What is the relationship between string tension and frequency on a ukulele?

    Homework Statement You have a ukulele and you change the strings tension so that it becomes tighter. First the frequency was 431 Hz and after we tightened the string the frequency. how much bigger does the force have t be to get that frequency? Homework Equations PA*V^2 = F (P = density, A =...
  35. L

    B Determining the Damping Factors in Guitar Bodies: A Scientific Inquiry

    My question is fairly simple, but I'm having a hard time finding the answer. A guitar body dampens the vibration of a guitar string to some degree by contorting slightly as the string oscillates, and then producing sound waves and heat in turn. My question is; is it the mass the of the...
  36. G

    How do guitar strings produce harmonics?

    Hi all, I've been reading up on the physics of waves in order to better understand what goes on with sound. I'm having difficulties understanding how harmonics are produced in guitar strings. It's probably not as complex as I'm making it in my head, and it's really starting to frustrate me...
  37. M

    MHB Sounds waves and guitar strings

    C=130Hz G=196Hz D=293Hz A=440 Hz The distance from the nut to the bridge is 58cm, the amplitude of the string vibration is 2.2mm Part A: What is the period (T) of the G string? Part B: What is the side to side velocity of the g string? (Think simple harmonic motion) Part C: The diameter of the...
  38. M

    MHB What is the Speed of the Wave on a Guitar's A String?

    C=130Hz G=196Hz D=293Hz A=440 Hz The distance from the nut to the bridge is 58cm, the amplitude of the string vibration is 2.2mm Question: How fast does the wave move across the A string?
  39. bcrowell

    Video of guitar strings from inside guitar

    Several of my students have pointed me to this video: http://bit.ly/1N1IGR8 Apparently the guy put his cell phone inside his guitar and took a video. My initial reaction was that it looked fake, because the time scale of the movement of his thumb seemed mismatched to the time scale of the motion...
  40. Nemika

    Guitar Quality: Comparing Identical Guitars

    It's a very simple question but still, When two identical guitars are played day two persons to give notes of the same pitch, will they differ in quality? Please specify with reason. Thanks for the replies.
  41. Chrono G. Xay

    Predicting Initial Length of String Needed Before Stretch

    I have put together an equation whose purpose is: With a desired 'magnitude of static friction' ( μ_s ), 'fundamental frequency' ( f ), and 'tension' ( T ), initial conditions such as 'string breakover angle' ( Θ_0 ), 'nut-tuner distance' ( L_{h,0} ), and 'string diameter' ( d ), and...
  42. Chrono G. Xay

    Tension (and Frequency) with Change in Temperature

    At one point I had been trying to construct an equation which would calculate the tension on a tuned string with a change in temperature (and therefore the fundamental frequency), but found my calculations were wrong. By extension, the purpose of the project was to be able to calculate what...
  43. Nicosia1

    What is the Intersection of Computer Programming and Music in Nicosia?

    I am a computer programmer, mostly in Windows, but a little bit into open source, Linux and Java. I work a lot in javascript and SQL of one kind or another, both of which are utilized somehow via all common platforms. I am also interested in music, physics, and chemistry. I play piano and...
  44. J

    Can a harmonic be louder than the fundamental frequency?

    This is not a homework question per se, but rather something I have come across during a homework project. Using Audacity, I recorded a few different instruments playing the same notes (investigating timbre). I noticed that (using a steel string acoustic guitar) the first harmonic at 131 Hz...
  45. B

    Would a guitar tuner work on a human voice ?

    So I have a program that works for a guitar, and sinewave and a saw tooth wave . so If a have person sing a note, it should work for that right ? I am not talking about sing a whole song but just a note. so like when people sing the scales: do ra me fa so la ti do is should would for that right...
  46. S

    Guitar string tension: effect of total length

    I suspect my question will be somewhat unique, please forgive me if it's entirely out of place. (Please also forgive my ignorance when it shows, my knowledge of physics is extremely limited.) You might wonder why I'm asking it here, rather than on a guitar forum. Let me simply say that the...
  47. B

    FFT and guitar not working right

    Why is it that my FFT does not work when I play a note on a guitar ? I even tried audacity and it did not work . Is there some thing else beside a fft That I can use that can work for a guitar ? So if I play a C I and the program to get me the right frequency that is being played . My fft and...
  48. B

    Stress on a Guitar Soundboard when converting to Tailpiece

    I do have a question on a project that I am doing now (for my personal enjoyment) I bought an nice handmade classical guitar that was dropped on the tail-block and cracking it and putting two nice crack from the end of the guitar to the sound hole. Since I only invested $100 I decided to use as...
  49. A

    Simple Harmonic Motion Guitar String Question

    Homework Statement Question: "The midpoint of a guitar string oscillates with an amplitude of 2.24mm with a frequency of 400Hz. Calculate: i) The maximum speed at this point ii) The maximum acceleration of the string at this point" Homework Equations Suitable formulas: x=Asin(2*pi*f*t) ...
  50. B

    Why are standing waves on a guitar string sinusoidal?

    Ok I understand the idea that a standing wave can be represented as the sum of two traveling waves going in opposite directions with same stuff but what I don't understand is why the waves on a guitar string are sinusoidal. I mean I know looking at them, they look sinusoidal but could they be...