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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Brought to you by: guitar.com

Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions section. This is where many of your very basic and fundamental questions can be answered. Have a question that you don't see listed here? Shoot us an email and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can. Send your inquiry to info@guitar.com. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and visit with us here at Guitar.com!

Q. How do I tune my guitar?

A. Standard Tuning, as it is known, (Low to High or Fat strings to Thin strings) - E - A - D - G - B - E. There are other tunings such as Open G, Open E, DADGAD and numerous others. To learn how to tune your guitar - view the related video for this article.

Q. What type of Strings are best for me?

A. Strings come in a variety of materials, constructions and gauges. Depending on your instrument and music style, there is a set that is just right for you. Here are some guidelines:

    Electric Strings
  • Nickel Plated Steel- Nickel round wound strings are the considered the most popular type of string worldwide and they're known for distinctive bright tone and excellent intonation. Ideal of all types of music.
  • Pure Nickel - Classic electric guitar string tone dates back to the 50's, when pure nickel was the primary alloy used to make strings. Pure Nickel will offer you a warmer, vintage tone that many enthusiasts prefer.
  • Half Round - Half Round or Ground Round refers to the construction of the strings. In this case, a center-less grinder is used to grind off the outer edges of the string, giving the string the feel of a flat wound string. Internally, the string still functions like a round wound string, providing sustain and volume, while feeling and playing like a flat wound string. This is an excellent choice for blues players, jazzers or guitarists who are looking for a little different tone from their guitar.
  • Flat Wound - This string has long been the choice of jazz guitarists. Their distinctive tone has been referred to in many different ways; warm, closed, dead, soft, choked, muted and the list goes on. The wire that is used to create a flat wound string is like a piece of ribbon. The strings are wound and then polished to give them a smooth feel, unlike any other type of guitar string.
    Acoustic Strings
  • 80/20 Strings - 80/20 Bronze strings deliver deep bass response, extremely bright and crisp overtones and the utmost volume and projection. Perfect for vintage dreadnoughts and parlor guitars, also a great string to brighten up a darker sounding instrument.
  • Phosphor Bronze - Phosphor bronze offers the ideal combination of brightness, warmth and long life resulting in an excellent, balanced acoustic tone. This is a great string for adding punch to a super, bright instrument.
  • Coated Strings - These are a very special type of string, specifically designed to extend the playing life of a string. Coated strings will cost slightly more but will also afford you a longer playing time. Coated strings receive a treatment of either an outer wrap of material that prevents your sweat and finger grime from permeating the windings, thereby deadening the string. These strings are available for acoustic (in 80/20 and Phosphor Bronze) and also for electric.
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Q. What String Gauge is right for me?

A. Heavy gauge strings offer larger tone and volume but can be harder to play. Conversely, lighter gauge strings will have slightly less volume and depth but can be easier to play. Generally, it is best to start on the lighter side, as a new player; Acoustic - .011 to .052; Electric - .009 to .042; Bass - .045 to .100. From this starting point, you can begin to experiment with the many different options that are available.

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Q. When should I change my strings?

A. You can change your strings at first sign of corrosion or if you begin to notice loss of brightness or volume. Tuning instability is also another indicator that you should change your strings. When you break a string, it can make the most sense to replace the whole set, unless the string breaks not long after you have first installed the set.

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Q. What is a Resophonic Guitar?

A. Also referred to as a Resonator Guitar, this is an acoustic guitar whose tone is produce by a one or more metal cones, rather than the traditional soundboard or top of an acoustic guitar. These guitars have a very distinctive sound and have become affiliated with blues and bluegrass players. They can be played with a slide and referred to as a bottleneck guitar or can be played in a flattened position, much like a steel guitar would be played. There are several types of Resophonic guitars; Round Necks, Square Necks, Wooden Body, Metal Body. Each one serves a tonal purpose and has a unique tone unto itself. Round necks can be played like any acoustic guitar. Square necks are played with a slide, have very high action for this purpose and are played like a steel guitar. Wooden bodied versions have a warmer tone and the Metal bodied versions have a very brilliant tone.

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Q. What is a Semi-Acoustic Guitar?

A. Semi acoustic or semi-hollow body guitar refers to the construction of the guitar. Originally, these guitars were considered jazz instruments and needed pickups to be heard, this type of construction is now used in a number of variations and can produces exceptional tone both acoustically, as well as with pickups.

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Q. Where can I purchase an Acoustic or Electric Guitar?

A. There are numerous ways to purchase guitars, either electric or acoustic. Online is one way but of course, it's best to know what you are looking for, since you won't receive much guidance in this transaction. If you are purchasing one of your first guitars, it would be best to go and visit your local music store and speak with the Guitar salesperson. They can help find a guitar that fits your size and playing style.

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Q. What is the best type of Acoustic or Electric Guitar?

A. There is no correct answer to this question and we get asked this a great deal. There are dozens and dozens of brands out there, all of which have different price points, designed for different playing styles and different skill levels. Half the fun of playing guitar is trying out the many different types of guitars that are available to you. The smartest thing you can do is set a budget, go to a number of music stores, sit down and try a bunch of them out. You'll find one that not only fits your pocketbook but also fits your playing style and skill level. For more basic information on your guitar, click here: Getting Started

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Q. When should I purchase an amplifier?

A. Once again, there is no right answer. Of course, if you own an electric guitar, having an amp will make that guitar a great deal more enjoyable. Electric guitars have a plethora of tonal variations all of which only work, when you plug them into an amplifier. There are plenty of students that get started on electric guitars and purchase an amp when they need to.

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Q. What is a Pickup?

A. A pickup is a device that is installed on a guitar that captures mechanical vibrations and converts them into an electrical signal, which can be amplified as well as recorded. Pickups are found on electric guitars but can also be found on acoustic instruments, which are then known as Acoustic/Electric guitars.

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Q. Are there different kinds of pickups for Guitar?

A. There are several different types of pickups, some for electric and some for acoustic. But the most common types are:

  • Magnetic Pickups - A magnetic pickup consists of a permanent magnet, wrapped in a coil of a few thousand turns of enameled copper wire. This type of pickup is most often found mounted in the body of the instrument, but can also be found mounted to the bridge, neck and/or pickguard, as you will find on many types of jazz guitars.
  • Piezoelectric Pickups - More recently, semi-acoustic and acoustic guitars have been outfitted with this type of pickup. This produces a very different tonality from a magnetic pickup. Rather than sensing magnetic output, Piezo-based pickups sense surface vibration so can be installed in a variety of ways; under the saddle, on the surface of the soundboard, either inside or outside the instrument.

These two types of pickups can be combined together as well as incorporated with microphones to produce very high-quality tonality.

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Q. What is a Soundhole pickup?

A. Soundhole pickups are magnetic pickups that can be installed into the soundhole of an acoustic guitar. This can be done by tension or by jaws that are tightened and attached to the soundboard or top of your guitar. Some versions of soundhole pickups have microphones attached to them to help create a more natural sound of the instrument. With this version, you will have a wire that either hangs out of the guitar or you can have the wire installed so that it is attached to bottom the strap button of the guitar and acts like a strap lock for your guitar.

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Q. What is a Strap Lock?

A. A strap lock is a device that helps prevent you from dropping your guitar. Straps are normally very reliable in holding your guitar in the proper playing position, whether standing or sitting. However, the straps can sometimes loosen, or may break loose from the guitar if a guitarist is very active on stage. Strap Locks do exactly as their name implies - they lock the strap onto the guitar. This can be done in a number of ways. Some have a ball and pin seat, where a smaller button must be pushed to release the strap lock from its seated position. Others have a closable throat that notches down onto the strap button and allows you to use the strap on any side strap button.

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Q. Do I need a tuner?

A. Tuners can be an essential tool for all guitar players. When playing with others it is very important that everyone playing is tuned to the same pitch and having a tuner on-hand can assure this. Tuners can cost as little as $5 or $6 dollars but they can also be quite extravagant.

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Q. What is a Capo?

A. A capo is a mechanical device that can be attached to your guitar neck, usually with a clamp, a spring or an elastic strap. This will allow you to raise the pitch of the strings on your guitar, which can assist you with changing the song you are playing and making it more comfortable to sing or just giving the song a different tonal quality. The Capo has a bar that slides across all six strings, pressing them down to the fretboard and thereby increasing the pitch of the instrument.

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