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4. Sound

The steel-strung acoustic guitar has a range of sounds that are unmistakeable and not easily replicated with any other type of guitar. Steel strings produce a different harmonic spectrum from nylon strings, and the hollow body amplifies this sound in a very different way from the electric guitar.

In fact, ‘amplify’ is really the wrong word - all the energy in the guitar’s sound comes from the vibrating string itself, and ultimately from the player. The more efficiently this is transmitted by the body, the faster the sound will decay, which is why the sound of the acoustic guitar is characterised by relatively sharp attack and fast decay.

The guitar has a very broad frequency range. Like a good piano, the richness of the lower strings is a product of harmonics that span most of the audible frequency spectrum. Their characteristic ‘zing’ is produced by a complex mixture of upper harmonics against the fundamental frequency, and the balance of these frequencies is one of the things that marks out a really good acoustic guitar. Inferior instruments tend to sound ‘boxy’ at the bottom end, as the upper harmonics are swamped by bass and mid frequencies. The condition of the strings is also very important – the zing can disappear rapidly as they accumulate deposits of sweat and dirt. For this reason, most serious acoustic players change strings very frequently – even before every gig.

The sound of the acoustic guitar can vary considerably, not just with the type of guitar, but also with musical style, choice of strings and playing technique. Acoustic players tend to be divided between those who use a plectrum, and ‘fingerstyle’ players. Whether strumming or playing single notes, using a plectrum generally produces more volume, and particularly more treble than fingerpicking. Heavier strings also produce more volume, but they can be harder on the fingers, and make techniques such as string bending difficult or impossible.

These days, many playing situations will involve amplification. For this reason, electro-acoustic guitars, which are essentially acoustic guitars with integrated pickup systems, have become very popular. In contrast to electric guitars, these generally use piezo-electric pickups which capture sound through the body, although occasionally, magnetic pickups are also found. Piezo systems aim to capture the sound of the whole guitar, and some models even incorporate an internal microphone for added depth. Because of this, the acoustic properties of the instrument are important even if it will always be amplified, and you never know when you might record, which will almost always be done with microphones.

The type and quality of wood used is one of the most important factors in shaping the guitar’s sound. The top and back are generally made of the same wood, and this is usually solid, though the cheapest instruments use ‘laminated’ wood – a polite name for plywood. Solid wood transmits sound much more efficiently and evenly though - a tight, straight grain is essential here too. The favourite woods are spruce and, less commonly, cedar. The sides and neck of most guitars are made of darker, denser hardwood - rosewood has long been a favourite for depth and balance. Ebony and rosewood are the traditional bridge and fretboard materials.

Lastly, the shape of the guitar also has a considerable impact on sound. Unlike the classical guitar, which has a more or less standardised shape, acoustic guitars come in various shapes and sizes. As a general rule, a bigger body produces more volume and more bass, but smaller bodies tend to give more sustain, and a more immediate response.

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Terms and Conditions for participation
in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Musikhaus Thomann e.K. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Musikhaus Thomann e. K., owner: Hans Thomann, Treppendorf 30, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
  2. Participation

    1. Competitions are only open to persons of full age.
    2. To take part in the competition you must answer all questions correctly, fill in the registration form and submit your entry to Musikhaus Thomann e. K. by pressing the "send" button.
      By pressing the "send" button the participant accepts the aforementioned terms and conditions.
    3. The participant is responsible for entering their email and/or postal address correctly. Entries to the competition will be logged electronically.
  3. Qualifying Entrants

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    2. Should these conditions of participation be violated, especially by using illegitimate means, Musikhaus Thomann e. K. reserves the right to exclude persons from the competition. In case of such violations prizes can be withdrawn and claimed back subsequently.
  4. Announcing the winner

    1. The winners will be notified by Musikhaus Thomann e. K. by email or in writing and their names may be published on the homepage www.thomann.de. The winner accepts this form of publication explicitly.
      Should for whatever reason the winner not claim their prize, then a new winner will be drawn.
    2. The prize presented to the winner may not be identical to the item description. There can be deviances regarding the model, colour etc.
    3. The merchandise prizes will be sent by Musikhaus Thomann e.K. or by one of its contracting delivery companies, per freight forwarder, courier or postal service to the postal address indicated by the winner.

      The delivery is free of charge. Only extra transport costs and customs/duties must be covered by the winner. In the case that the delivery has to be made through a freight forwarding company the freight forwarding company will contact the winner to arrange delivery timings.
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      Musikhaus Thomann e. K.
      to the data protection officer
      Treppendorf 30
      96138 Burgebrach, Germany
    2. Musikhaus Thomann e. K. is obliged to consider the regulations for data protection according to the Federal Data Protection Law (BDSG) valid at the conclusion of the competition. In this context the general data protection regulations under notes regarding data protection should be noted.
  6. Liability

    1. Musikhaus Thomann e. K. will be released from any obligations by handing out the prize.
    2. Musikhaus Thomann e. K. is not liable for the insolvency of a cooperation partner and the resulting consequences for the implementation and processing of the competition.
  7. Other

    1. Legal proceedings are barred.
    2. The law of the Federal Republic of Germany applies exclusively.
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Acoustic Guitars overview