The guitar is probably one of the most popular instruments for many reasons. One, you can take guitar lessons easily. Compared to others like the violin, they are more affordable and easier to learn.
Two, you can write songs easily. Even just strumming on the guitar, you can come up with a string of melodies that will inspire others, including yourself.
Three, they are easier to carry compared to other instruments such as the drums and piano. Guitars are more lightweight, so you won’t need back support and elbow rests.
However, many people can still confuse a guitar over other similar-looking instruments. How do you distinguish them?
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What Is a Guitar?
A guitar is a stringed musical instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of six strings attached to the neck of an elongated frame called the guitar body, which is supported by one or two horizontal crossbars that are attached to the front of the body.
There are three basic ways to play the guitar:
- Plucking is when you rub your finger across a string to make a sound.
- Strumming is when you rub several strings at the same time to make a sound.
- Picking is when you use a pick made of either plastic or a tortoise shell to rub one or more strings to make a sound.
You will also find different types of guitars. One of these is the steel-stringed guitar that uses metal strings instead of nylon. Electric guitars have an amplifier that helps them make a loud sound. The acoustic guitar has nylon strings. Musicians play it without electricity.
What is a banjo? A banjo is a musical instrument with a drum-like sound. It has five strings played with fingers or picks. It is smaller than a guitar, which some people believe makes it easier to play and handle than a guitar.
Banjos are often a favorite string instrument of bluegrass groups. Bluegrass refers to a type of folk music made up of fast songs with upbeat melodies.
There are three main types of banjo:
- Plectrum banjos have five strings and a round body that looks like a drum. Because they can be very loud, some call it them tenor banjos.
- Banjitars are a cross between a guitar and a banjo, so they have six strings that one can tune like a guitar.
Resonator banjos produce a loud, clear sound suited for bluegrass music.
Mandolin is an Italian word that means “small mandola.” It is a type of lute, which is a stringed musical instrument with a lot of strings often played in pairs called courses. It also possesses a distinctive body, which looks like half of an egg (like a deviled egg).
Like guitars, lutes have a hollow cavity. However, because it is deep, the sound it produces is often rich.
A mandolin has eight metal strings or four courses, although other versions use 10 or 12. Plucking it produces vibrational sounds that decay (or fade) faster than that of a guitar.
A ukulele is a four-stringed instrument usually made from nylon strings instead of steel strings. It originated from the Hawaiian islands, although some think the machete de braga, which came from Portugal, inspired its design. Like the ukelele today, this one also had four strings. But one tunes it to the first four strings of a guitar.
Ukeleles have different types:
- Concert ukuleles have a deeper body and a longer neck than soprano ukuleles. They also have a richer, more mellow sound that complements the higher-pitched tone of soprano ukeleles.
- Soprano ukuleles are the type most people think of when they think of ukuleles. They are the smallest and highest-pitched type of this instrument.
- Baritone ukuleles have four strings – two sets of double strings – which can be tuned like a guitar’s.
- A banjolele is a string instrument that is a hybrid form of a ukelele and a banjo. It has the same tuning as a standard ukelele (G-C-E-A), which means its strings are essentially the same as those of a ukelele.
A dulcimer is a musical instrument with strings stretched over a sounding board that comes in different shapes. Its name means “sweet notes,” which is also an apt description of the sound it produces.
Dulcimers have different types:
- Appalachian Dulcimers – A well-known type of dulcimer, this type has three to five strings and an hourglass shape.
- Fingerboard Dulcimers – This type is like the Appalachian dulcimer in that it also comes with three or more strings and an asymmetrical shape. Its sides are flat, however, making it easier to access the strings.
- Fretless Dulcimers – This type has no frets, which means it does not have lines on the fretboard that divide the fingerboard into sections.
- Electric Dulcimers – Like guitars and other stringed instruments, this type makes sounds through electrical devices instead of passive sound production.
- Hammered Dulcimers – This dulcimer has a flat soundboard and strings played with hammers.
Many string instruments look alike, but once you get to know them better, you will discover how each is unique, including the popular guitar!