Acoustic Guitar Body Anatomy and History
History of The Acoustic Guitar
The ancestor of the modem guitar emerged in the Middle East and shared a common origin with Asian and
Indian instruments. The oldest known image of a guitar precursor is a
3.300-year-old stone carving. The word guitar comes from the Spanish guitarra, and traces back to the Latin cithara.
Around 40 AD. Romans brought the cithara to Hispania. where it shared space with the four-string Moorish oud and the six-string
Scandinavian lut (lute). By 1200 AD. the four-string guitar had evolved into two types: the guitarra morisca (Moorish guitar),
which had a rounded back, wide fingerboard and several soundholes: and the guitarra latina (Latin guitar), which had one soundhole and a narrower neck.
The European lute is an early ancestor of the acoustic guitar. Much Renaissance lute music can be played on a
guitar by tuning the guitar's third string down by a half-tone.
Ultimately, the Spanish vihuela, with its lute-style tuning and guitar-like body, spawned the modern guitar. Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-92), of
Seville, and Louis Panormo (active 1820s-40s), of London are credited with standardizing the guitar's dimensions and improving its bracing.
Anatomy of an Acoustic Guitar
The wood used for the body, top and neck of an acoustic guitar significantly affects the tone and performance of the instrument.
1. Acoustic Guitar - Top
The top of the acoustic guitar can be made from spruce, maple or koa wood, each of which produces a unique sound. Rosewood, alder, poplar, basswood and even
bamboo may also be used. The top is usually made from one piece of close-grained wood, split in two and laid in halves. This process is called 'book-matching'.
A rosette may be inlaid around the soundhole or a thin strip of darker wood may sometimes be inlaid to enhance the acoustic guitar's appearance.
2. Acoustic Guitar - Bridge
Steel-string acoustic guitars have non-adjustable bridges fixed to the guitar top. The bridge transmits the string vibrations to the top.
which in turn vibrates and amplifies the sound of the guitar. The bridge of acoustic guitar is often made of rosewood or ebony and is fitted with a
bone or plastic saddle.
3. Acoustic Guitar - Bracing
Braces, or ‘ribs', are thin pieces of wood that support the top and back of the acoustic guitar inside the body. The braces strengthen the acoustic guitar
and can greatly affect the guitar's tone. The steel-string acoustic guitar uses the traditional 'X' brace pattern, with the centre
of the X positioned just below the soundhole.
4. Acoustic Guitar - Body
The acoustic guitar has a hollow body, usually made of mahogany. The body has waisted sides and may also have a cutaway on the upper bout to
enable access to the higher frets. Binding is inlaid around the body at the point where the top and back meet the sides of the guitar. The guitar is finished with polyester,
polyurethane or nitro-cellulose lacquer.
5. Acoustic Guitar - Neck
Necks are usually made of the same wood as the guitar s back and sides. The neck has an adjustable truss rod inside, which helps to keep the neck properly aligned.
On an acoustic guitar the neck normally meets the body at the 14th fret
6. Acoustic Guitar - Frets and Fingerboard
A rosewood or ebony fingerboard is attached to the neck and fitted with 20 or 21 frets. Position markers are laid into the fingerboard at the 3rd. 5th. 7th.
9th and 12th frets to aid the guitarist Corresponding markers are usually laid into the edge of the fingerboard.
7. Acoustic Guitar - Strings
On a steel-string acoustic guitar, strings one, two and three are plain lengths of wire, usually nickel, of different
thicknesses (gauges). Strings four, five and six have an additional winding of copper throughout the length of the strings. On a classical
guitar, strings four, five and six are also wound’, but strings one. two and three are made of nylon, a softer material that creates the
mellow sound of the classic guitar, often erroneously called gut-string guitar.