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The Difference Between Electric Guitar Bodies And Acoustic Bodies

Jul 8, 2008
Because electric guitars are quite different in the way that they produce the sound, the body of an electric guitar is built quite differently to that of an acoustic or classical one. On a classical guitar, the strings, when plucked or struck, resonate, vibrating the air inside the body cavity. This hollow body cavity vibrates with the sound of the strings, and amplifies the notes. On an electric guitar however, the sound is amplified only by an external, electronic amplifier, and so the body of an electric guitar is usually solid, since no air vibration or cavity is needed. Indeed, without the external amplifier the sound of an electric guitar on its own is fairly pitiful. The body of an electric guitar is usually made of wood, although the pick guard is normally plastic.

Prior to the 1970s guitars were often made from a solid piece of hardwood, but in the last thirty or forty years, the worldwide stock of hardwood has been so depleted that finding a piece large enough and suitable for a guitar body is not only difficult, but exceedingly expensive. Therefore, today, most electric guitar bodies are made from at least two pieces of hardwood, with a seam that connects them together running down the centre of the body. The hardwoods most often used for constructing the body of an electric guitar include maple, ash, poplar, basswood and mahogany, all of which provide a solid, firm body that is unlikely to warp or bend as a result of either humidity, or the constant pressure of the steel strings. When you look at a guitar, it is not always obvious what type of wood is used, and this is because the normal hardwoods, by the very nature of being hardwood, are less patterned.

To create a visually striking and attractive appearance, designers and manufacturers of electric guitars usually apply a very thin piece of a more attractive wood to the outside of the body, to create an attractive wood finish, whilst still retaining the solid hardwood body. Typically these veneer coverings of wood, which are usually glued to the main body, are made from such woods as maple, which usually produces a very striking flame effect, and guitars that use this flame appearance through the use of maple are called flame top guitars or simply 'flame tops'. Because a number of other pieces of the guitar need to be attached very firmly to the body of an electric guitar, the hardwood is usually gouged or routed to accept these other elements being slotted in. For an acoustic or classical guitar, the inside can be accessed to attach braces to increase the firmness of these extra components, such as the bridge and neck, but as an electric guitar's body is entirely solid, this is not possible.

Today, there are some electric guitars being made which do not use wood in the construction at all, and instead are using modern alternatives, usually synthetically produced. These alternatives to wood include carbon composites and even plastic based materials such as polycarbonate. In some instances electric guitars have been made with aluminium based alloys, which whilst very strong, is also extremely light. Electric guitars, more than most other types of guitar, are usually decorated and designed as much for appearance as sound quality, and so the body of an electric guitar is often lacquered and polished to a high sheen, to either bring out the wooden effect, or to simply produce an even more vibrant appearance. Often electric guitar bodies are decorated with extravagant designer labels or motifs to create a strikingly visual instrument, as well as one strong enough to withstand heavy use.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for electric guitars, classic guitars and flame tops. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for electric guitars, classic guitars and flame tops, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio.
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