9 Types of Guitar Every Guitarist Should Know

Are you curious about what types of guitar there are? Here’s an overview of the 9 types of guitar (including when & why each type might be used).

There are 3 main types of guitar: acoustic, electric and bass. But there are some important variations within those groups that some people classify as different types of guitar entirely.

Let’s take a closer look….

Types Of Guitar #1 – Acoustic Guitars

This is the type of guitar most people are familiar with.

Acoustic guitars have hollow bodies which amplify the sound of the strings acoustically. They are usually made of wood, have six strings and look something like this:

types of guitar

Acoustic body shapes & sizes

There are a number of different body shapes of acoustic guitars. (There are many different sizes too.)

Some acoustics are symmetrical (like the one in the picture above) and others have a ‘cut-away‘, which means that a bit of the body of the guitar has been cut away to allow us easy access to the higher frets.

Dreadnoughts‘ and ‘Jumbos‘ have larger bodies which give off a big booming sound, whereas ‘Parlour’ and ‘Auditorium’ guitars have a quieter and more articulate tone.

For every type, there’s a range of sizes from ‘half size‘ to ‘three quarter size‘ to ‘full size‘. depending on the size of the guitarist’s body.

(A petite adult won’t be well suited to playing a full size Jumbo acoustic, so if you’re learning guitar, choose your guitar body shape carefully!)

You can learn a LOT more about how to choose a beginner guitar in this article (this also includes a more detailed overview of the different body types and sizes): What’s The Best Beginner Guitar?

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Acoustic string types

Some acoustics have steel strings which are ideal for folk, rock, blues & country.

Others have nylon strings which are better for classical and flamenco guitar.

types of guitar

6-String vs 12-string

While most acoustic guitars have six strings, there are some that have 12 strings.

Twelve string guitars are tuned the same as six string guitars, except each string is doubled, producing a lush harp-like sound.

While most acoustic guitars are made of wood, some, such as the famous National Guitar are made of metal!

The vast majority of the time acoustic guitars are tuned to the same notes and played in the same way, but the various types of guitar can produce very different tones.

Should you buy an acoustic guitar?

Acoustic guitars are ideal for beginner guitarists and singer-songwriters who want something to strum and/or fingerpick their songs on.

They’re not so ideal for players looking to bust out big, screaming, distortion heavy solos. For that, see electric guitars.

types of guitar

Types Of Guitar #2 – Electro-acoustic Guitars

Electro-acoustic guitars are acoustic guitars that have a ‘pick-up’ (basically, a microphone) built into them so they can be plugged into an amplifier or a PA system.

This is a way of ‘connecting’ an acoustic guitar up to an amp to make it louder.

Should I buy an electro-acoustic?

Electros are ideal if you want to play live shows. With an electro you don’t need to faff around putting mics in front of your guitar.

types of guitar

Types Of Guitar #3 – Semi-acoustic Guitars

Semi-acoustic guitars (sometimes also called ‘hollow bodied electric guitars’) occupy something of a middle-ground between acoustic guitars and electric guitars.

They’re thin and compact like electric guitars, but have hollow bodies like acoustic guitars.

Because they’re thin and compact, they won’t produce quite as loud a sound when unplugged as an acoustic will, hence the term: semi-acoustic.

Some notable models of semi-acoustic are the Gibson ES-335 and the Fender Telecaster Thinline (basically a semi-acoustic telecaster).

types of guitar acoustic

Should I buy a semi-acoustic guitar?

Semi-acoustic guitars are ideal for players who want versatility. Something they can get an acoustic-esque tone with, but also play through a cranked up amplifier should they wish.

They’re not so ideal for people who want one or the other. (i.e., a fully acoustic sound or a fully electric sound.)

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Types Of Guitar #4 – Electric Guitars

Unlike the previous guitars, these guitars have solid bodies and as such, produce very little in the way of sound unless they’re plugged into an amplifier.

If you want to play electric guitar you will need an amp.

Electric guitars come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the most iconic are: the Gibson Les Paul, the Fender Stratocaster and the Fender Telecaster.

Like the acoustic guitar, electric guitars are usually made of wood and usually have six strings, though there are twelve string versions available.

types of guitar bass

Should I buy an electric guitar?

Electric guitars are ideal for players who seek a powerful, sustaining sound or who want a much greater choice of sounds.

With an electric guitar the world of effect pedals is open to you and the sounds you can create are almost limitless.

Distortion, wah-wah, chorus, delay… There are thousands of ways you can use effects with an electric guitar.

Electrics are not as good for more traditional types of music such as folk. Many folk venues don’t use any electronic amplification whatsoever. (Not even a PA!)

Types Of Guitar #5 – Bass Guitars

Once upon a time, being the bass player in a band meant lugging a huge double-bass as seen in orchestras and jazz bands to and from practice.

types of guitar electro

Thankfully, the good folks at Fender eventually came out with a guitar version of the bass that, among other things was a lot more portable than its predecessor.

types of guitars bassist

Unlike regular guitars, bass guitars usually only have four strings, and they’re big, thick strings that produce a big, thick sound.

Bass sounds deep and low. Earth-shaking!

The most recognisable bass guitar is probably the Fender Precision, but there’s also the Hofner Violin bass as favoured by Sir Paul McCartney and the Rickenbacker 4001 as played by Bruce Foxton from The Jam.

Bass guitars are usually solid-bodied and electric, but there are acoustic and semi-acoustic basses available.

Some basses also have five or even six strings to allow a wider range.

Should I buy a bass guitar?

Bass is one of the ideal types of guitar for people who like the idea of working with the drummer to form the rhythm section and hold down the powerful low-end groove in a band.

Bass guitars are not so ideal for people who want to play big screaming solos or for people who fancy themselves as solo artists. Bass is a low-end, accompaniment instrument.

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Types Of Guitars #6 – Cousins Of The Guitar

Fun fact: The guitar is a descendant of the lute.

There’s a number of other instruments that have sprung from the lute family as well. Think of these as ‘distant cousins’ of the guitar. These aren’t really types of guitar, but similar stringed instruments.

The Mandolin

Mandolins are a bit like strummed violins, in that they are tuned the same way, albeit with double the number of stings, but they are strummed like guitars rather than played with a bow.

They have a very bright, trebly sound and are popular in styles of music like folk.

The Banjo

Banjos have five strings that are usually tuned to an open G chord. Instead of having a soundhole like a guitar, a banjo has a drum for a body.

Banjos are all treble and no bass, giving them a very twangy top heavy sound. They’re very popular in styles of music such as folk, bluegrass and country.

The Ukulele

Ukuleles are small Hawaiian instruments with four strings that look a lot like miniature guitars. Like the mandolin and the banjo, a uke produces a very trebly, delicate, ‘twinkly’ sound.

They’re ideal for people who want to play and/or write songs, but find guitars to be a bit big for them.

Ukes are popular in traditional Hawaiian music. There’s also been something of a craze of ukuleles at open mic. nights and on Youtube over the last few years!

Types Of Guitar #7 – Weird Guitars

This…

types of guitar 7-string-guitar

… is a seven string guitar. It might be one of the coolest types of guitar of all!

Seven string guitars have an extra low string, usually tuned to a B.

They were pioneered by speed metal guitarist Steve Vai and have become quite popular with metal guitarists looking for that ultra low, heavy sound!

This…

types of guitar double neck

… is a double-necked guitar, being played by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

This particular model has one 12-string neck and one six-string neck, though you also sometimes see double-necked guitars that are a bass and a six-string. (Which makes them one of the most versatile types of guitar of all.)

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Even weirder types of guitar!

This…

types of guitar doubleneck

… is another type of guitar that has two necks.

The guy playing it is called Michael Angelo from the band Nitro.

He’s famous for playing both necks at once by using a lot of gain on the amp and playing entirely with slurred notes so he doesn’t have to pick.

This…

types of guitar andy-mckee-harp-guitar

… is a harp guitar, being sported by acoustic guitar icon Andy McKee.

Those harp strings produce a deep, resonant bass-filled sound.

This…

types of guitar ten-string-bass

… is a ten string bass.

There’s a lot of debate amongst the bass playing community as to how these things are actually supposed to be tuned.

These things are also big and heavy with fretboards like shelves, so one to avoid if you’re small and/or a beginner!

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

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Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

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