If you’re a beginner looking to buy your first guitar, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start.
Guitars can come in tons of different shapes, sizes, and configurations. If you’re a beginner looking for your first guitar, it can seem impossible to know which type of guitar suits your specific needs as a player.
In this post, we’ll discuss 20 different types of guitars in detail to help you decide on which is the best fit for you.
We’ll explain what each type of guitar is, what characteristics make it unique, what styles of music it’s good for, and who the guitar is good for.
Different Types of Acoustic Guitars
The acoustic guitar is the staple of the guitar family. This type of guitar originally brought the instrument to fame.
The main feature that differentiates an acoustic guitar from an electric guitar is the fact that it does not require any amplification. The guitar body has a hollow body and a sound hole that allows the ringing of strings to resonate audibly.
Since acoustic guitars don’t require an external source to amplify the sound, they are very practical. All you need to start playing is the guitar itself.
Many people think that all acoustic guitars are the same, due to their similar look, features and design qualities, there are actually dozens of different types of acoustic guitars.
And while some of the differences in acoustic guitars seem subtle, they can make a world of difference when it comes to the types of sounds they produce and styles of music they excel in.
Here is a breakdown of some of the different types of acoustic guitars.
Steel String Acoustic Guitars
Steel-string acoustics are the most common type of acoustic guitar. The steel of the strings makes them louder and fuller in sound than nylon strings. This makes them great for more aggressive styles of music like rock, blues, folk, and country.
Steel-string acoustic guitars come in various shapes and styles. Larger bodies like Jumbos and Dreadnaughts produce a more bassy tone and louder volume. This makes them great for loud strumming and aggressive lead playing.
Smaller bodies like Auditoriums and Parlors have a more balanced tone and lower volume. These are a great choice for a more subtle style of music like fingerstyle and mellower folk.
Although the tone of these guitars can sound great in many styles of music, they aren’t the best choice for heavier rock or metal types of music.
This type of guitar is made of various materials, that include composite wood, solid wood, carbon fiber, and other alternative materials.
Solid wood versions are often considered the best sounding, but also require the most maintenance. You will need to keep a solid body acoustic humidified, or problems can arise. I’ve seen soundboards warp and crack from not being humidified.
Steel-string acoustic guitars can be heard in many types of folk music, blues, rock, and pop. Some players to listen to for this guitar style would be Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, and Michael Hedges.
Classical guitars us nylon strings instead of steel strings. This type of guitar produces a much more mellow tone. The strings also have less tension than steel-string guitars. As a result, classical guitars can be a good choice for beginners, children, or anyone that likes the tone and feel of these guitars.
Classical guitars are smaller than a large Dreadnaught-type steel-string guitar. This makes them a comfortable size for younger players, and easier for travel.
Because of the nylon strings, a normal electronic pickup will not work on this guitar. You will need to use a pickup made for nylon strings, or use a mic if you want to amplify this guitar for a performance.
Classical guitars had a noticeably wider and flatter neck than steel-string guitars. This is to give the player more room for more intricate playing and wider chord forms.
Although these guitars are used mostly by players of classical, renaissance and baroque music, they are also used in pop, R&B and Jazz music.
To hear this guitar, check out some music by Andres Segovia, or any renditions of music from Fernando Sor and Francisco Tarrega.
These guitars also use nylon strings but are made for a more aggressive style of playing. The string height is typically lower, and the body is something thinner, making it much faster-playing guitar.
Flamenco music can have a lot of percussive hits to the strings and guitar body, which is part of its style. This guitar is made with that in mind, and you’ll feel that when you play it, compared to a classical guitar.
Most flamenco guitars also have a single-cutaway body, giving the player more access to the upper frets. This guitar is meant to be played very fast, all over the neck.
This guitar would be a great choice for anyone that wants to play flamenco, or that likes the nylon string tone of guitars but wants something a little smaller and faster.
Ramon Montoya is an icon among flamenco guitar players if you’d like to hear this style. I’ve had the chance to meet and jam with Emre Yilmaz who is an outstanding flamenco player that also mixes in some jazz fusion – all on flamenco guitars.
This is a steel-string guitar with what looks like a metal “pie plate” on the top soundboard. The strings transfer their vibrations to the metal resonator, instead of the wooden soundboard like other guitars.
These guitars produce a unique metallic tone, very different from other guitars. They are a favorite among blues, bluegrass, and even some country guitar players.
Because the majority of players use this guitar for slide playing, you will see people playing it both in a normal guitar position and also laying on top of the player’s lap, while the player is sitting.
The string height on these guitars is normally much higher than other guitars since this is very often used for slide. The higher string height makes for a better, clearer tone while playing slide.
National and Dobro are the most well-known makers of resonator guitar, although there are other manufacturers.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was a lover of resonator guitars and used them on various recordings. Jerry Douglas and Bob Ickes used resonators almost exclusively in their recordings and performances.
Different Types of Electric Guitars
The electric guitar is the instrument that completely shifted the music industry back in the 1950s.
Due to the invention of the electric guitar that modern rock, blues, and metal music was made possible.
When compared to the acoustic guitars, the differences in electric guitars are much more varied.
There are hundreds of different types of electric guitars. Electric guitars come in different styles, shapes, specifications, woods, weights, and finishes.
When it comes to electric guitars, the variance is significantly greater than that of an acoustic guitar.
If you were to pick up any type of acoustic guitar, you’ll pretty much know what you’re getting. While there are differences in quality, an acoustic will feel and sound like an acoustic.
On the other hand, different types of electric guitars can actually feel like a completely different instrument.
For example, try picking up a Gibson Les Paul and then comparing that to an Ibanez. They literally won’t even feel like the same instrument.
Here is a breakdown of the different types of electric guitars.
Solid Body Electric Guitars
A solid body electric is just as the name implies: the body of the guitar is solid with no extra hollow parts. Aside from the few areas for electronics in the body, the rest is entirely solid wood.
The solid-body style electric guitar helps the strings to sustain a little longer and can help reduce feedback when playing at higher volumes.
Although the type of wood can make a difference in tone, the majority of tones on the solid body will come from the type of pickups and electronics that transmit the signal to the amplifier.
Solid bodies are typically much thinner than an acoustic guitar, and more comfortable to play for some. This type of guitar is also better suited to the high-volume and high-gain tones used in rock and metal music.
Singlecut Les Paul Style Guitar
A classic design from the 50s, this single cutaway is still one of the most copied guitars designed around.
The bodies are usually made of mahogany, gives it a warm tone and a good amount of weight, giving it long sustain.
Dual humbuckers are the most popular configuration, adding to the warmth of the mahogany wood. This gives this guitar a tone that’s very popular for rock, some metal, and even jazz.
Although this style of guitar is one of the most popular, I’ve felt they can be awkward and unbalanced if you’re not used to them. It’s not a guitar style for everyone because they are heavy and not very ergonomic.
The extra weight of this guitar can be challenging for some players when having to stand for hours at a time for performances. Something to keep in mind if that’s a concern for you.
However, with all of that said, the Les Paul is the most iconic style of guitar for a reason.
It’s a complete tone machine and has a very classic look.
A classic rock guitar heard on many albums, this guitar is an icon in the guitar world. This is always why it’s such a highly copied design by so many manufacturers.
Some examples of guitar heroes that made this type of guitar famous include Randy Rhoads, Slash, and Jimmy Page.
Stratocaster Style Guitar
Another highly copied guitar, Stratocaster style guitars can be seen and heard in nearly every genre of music since they came out in the 1950s.
Having a dual-cutaway body, a Stratocaster style guitar gives the player more access to the upper frets on the neck.
Three single-coil with a 5-way selector in the norm, and gives you a wide range of options. To expand on that, there are models that have one or two humbuckers to allow you to have a Stratocaster but get more Les Paul-like tones, if desired.
I don’t think any guitar has a wider range of custom parts and configurations than a Strat. So many companies make after-market pickups. Tuners, knobs, pickguards, fixed and tremolo bridges and other parts are easily available for countless companies.
The classic Stratocaster configuration of three single-coil pickups is very versatile, but not the best choice for high-gain rock or metal. If you have either a regular or single-size humbucker in the bridge, you can play any style of heavy music.
To hear a classic Stratocaster sound, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante, and Jeff Beck.
Telecaster Style Guitar
The Telecaster is another play on the single-coil configuration by Fender. This guitar has two single-coil pickups: one at the bridge and one on the neck.
The bridge pickup is a special kind of single coil. The sound is a little hotter signal and a little warmer than a Stratocaster single-coil. It has also a unique mounting set up.
The body is a single cutaway, though different than a Les Paul. The body is also very flat, with little or no contours or bindings.
Telecasters are a favorite amount of country guitar players, due to the nice “twang” you get from this guitar. It sounds great clean, or with low-mid gain levels.
Unique to this guitar, Teles have had some interesting custom modifications over the years. The b-string bender and g-string bender were very popular at one point. These required internal routing of the body to add levers hooked up to the strap pins.
Pushing down on the body, away from the strap, would bend the string of choice. In the right hand, this could give the play some very pedal-steel guitar types of sounds.
Stratocasters are my personal favorite for many reasons, but I’ve always loved the Telecaster tone as well, and will probably buy one at some point soon.
Lovers of Telecaster include Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Albert Collins.
The Super Strat is a generic name for a guitar that is somewhat based on the Stratocaster, but also unique in its own design.
This flavor of Strat can include different pickups, different pickguards, variations on the Stratocaster body, floating tremolos and various other customizations.
DIfferent options in body and neck wood are also available. You will find some very creative flame and spalted finished on Super Strat, as well as any type of custom paint and graphics you can imagine.
Many companies such as Ibanez, Schecter, Jackson, Charvel, and others have made their own style of the Stratocaster for different playing styles, and different purposes.
Stratocasters are already very customizable. Add the Super Strat into the mix and you have an endless amount of Stratocaster variations for almost any player in the world.
I’ve own ESP and Jackson Super Strats before and have been very happy with those for the rock and metal I was playing at the time.
Some famous players of Super Strats include Joe Satriani, Alex Skolnick, and Phil Collen.
The six-string baritone guitar is like a normal guitar, but with a longer neck and a heavier body. This allows the guitar to be tuned lower.
Baritone guitars are usually tuned to A instead of E like regular guitars. This gives them a much lower range of music and a very unique sound.
These guitars have been used for decades in the studio for country music, to fill out certain songs. There are some new bands using them with high-gain for metal and other heavy styles of music.
Although not for everything, baritone guitars do have a very unique and interesting sound to them. I’ve played a few, and they’re definitely enjoyable to play.
These would be good for someone as a second guitar for certain sounds, for a studio to include in their gear, or for someone that just wants a different and new sound for inspiration.
If you can get your hands on one, I would recommend trying one out. I’m sure you’ll instantly like it and want to find ways to use it for your music.
There aren’t many players that are known for playing baritones since it’s somewhat of a novelty instrument. Some people that have used it in the studio have been The Beach Boys and Patsy Cline.
7 String Guitars
As heavy music became heavier, the need for lower-sounding guitars grew. Tuning a regular guitar down lower and lower can only go so far.
Soon, the need to add a seventh lower string seemed like a good idea. Once they hit the market, they took off in sales and have been super popular since.
The extra low string is a B, which still fits in nicely with regular tuning and the other open B string toward the top of the neck. It does take a little while to get used to your bottom string NOT being an E.
Used mostly for metal, djent, and other styles, the lower string can really give a thicker, more aggressive sound to the player.
Pair that with a good, high gain amp and you have a great formula for the heaviest of music. This is a very popular mix in music today.
With a wide variety of seven-string guitars available by almost every guitar maker, it’s easy to find one that fits your needs.
Some well-known players of seven-string guitars are Ola Englund, Steve Vai, and Misha Mansoor.
Semi-Hollow and Hollow Body Electric Guitars
These are guitars with bodies that usually thicker than a solid body, to accommodate the hollow areas of the body.
Semi-hollow bodies have parts of the body that have been hollowed out, with hollow bodies having larger areas hollow. Some can be almost as hollow as an acoustic guitar, though still smaller in size.
These guitars can have a very warm and mellow tone. The hollow aspects give it a more open tone, and with less treble and snap as a solid body.
Blues and jazz are the most common styles you’ll see these used. Many jazz players will put flat-wound strings on their hollow bodies, to warm up the tone even more.
There are some rock players that will use these guitars for various purposes as well and like the warmer more mellow tones of these guitars.
Some players that use these guitars often in their music are Norman Brown, Ted Nugent, and George Benson.
This is basically a term for an acoustic guitar that has an electronic pickup in it. These pickups make it easy to plug into an amplifier or sound system for live performances.
There are many acoustic pickups you can buy to use on your acoustic if you don’t already have a pickup installed. Some of these pickups can be easily taken out, or installed if you want.
Some people like the ease of already having one installed. Others don’t want to drill holes and run wires into their guitars, so they just place in the pickup when needed and remove when they’re done.
I had a Taylor acoustic-electric but didn’t like the sound of the system for my style of playing. I bought another pickup to place in for performances and liked the tone of the second pickup better.
When I moved to a different acoustic guitar, a Martin D28, I used that same picked that I bought for the Taylor, but installed it so I wouldn’t have the trouble of placing it in and out for performances.
So, you have a lot of options with the electronics with acoustic-electrics. Some systems come with battery-powered active pickups to boost your tone and give you EQ options. Others even include an onboard tuner.
Many players of acoustic guitars will often use an acoustic-electric for live performances, but keep another acoustic that has no electronics on it for studio purposes.
Some players that use acoustic-electrics for studio and live performances are Jerry Cantrell, Dave Matthews, James Taylor.
Archtop guitars and hollow-body electrics and almost always have F-shaped holes on the top. The combination of holes and the hollow body give it a warm tone that many jazz players love.
As the name states, the top of this guitar is noticeably arched in shape. This gives is a different look and feel than flat top guitars.
Many jazz players end up using flat-wound strings on these guitars to remove string noise and give it a more mellow tone.
“Jazz box” is often the term for these guitars, since the majority of users are jazz players and because the body is hollow like a box.
Some of these guitars are very plain and simple, while others can be very luxurious and ornate. This gives the player a wide range of styles and price ranges for these guitars.
Some players known for archtop guitars include Jimmy Bruno and Freddie Green.
Different Types of Small Guitars
If you’re someone with smaller hands or you have a child who is looking to start playing guitar, then you might want to consider a smaller guitar.
While most people can adapt to a full-size guitar, sometimes it just makes sense to get a smaller guitar that fits better.
There several different types of small guitars available and they each have their own specific use cases.
Here is a breakdown of some of the different types of small guitars.
For people that need a small guitar, especially for traveling, these are a great choice. Made to be playable, but at a small size, these travelers make it easier to take your guitars with you wherever you go.
Whether you’re packing for a weekend getaway, local camping trip, a road trip, or hopping planes across the planet, having a good, small guitar is so much easier to take with you.
Like anything, there is always a balance. These guitars are small, convenient and play well. The trade-off for that is that they don’t usually have great tone, aren’t very loud in volume, and are sometimes too small to be comfortable.
I’ve played both the Taylor and Martin traveler guitars and was very surprised how well they played, and how good they sounded for being small guitars.
Another benefit of these is that they’re not usually expensive. So, taking this to a camping trip where it might get banged up a bit, can be a better option than taking a more expensive, full-size guitar.
Many professional players may have one of these for convenience purposes, but don’t really play them otherwise. The Ed Sheeran signature model from Martin is a rather small guitar, though, and could be a good traveler guitar.
I am a big fan of Martin guitars and found the Ed Sheeran model quite nice and enjoyable to play. This would be a good choice for someone looking for a higher quality version of a smaller guitar.
½ Size Mini Acoustic Guitars
Younger players and people that prefer a smaller guitar have several options. Half-size mini acoustic guitars have many benefits.
Most guitars this size are geared toward beginners, so they are reasonably priced if you have a small budget. Because of the budget focus of these guitars, you shouldn’t expect pro-level quality or details.
These guitars are perfect for young beginners. The small size of these guitars also makes them easy to store and easy to travel with.
You can often find these with trendy and interesting finishes and various designs to make them more fun and appealing.
Half-size mini acoustic guitars can be a great value and are good for hobby players that want or need a smaller guitar.
Parlor guitars are considered full-size guitars but in a smaller form. However, these can be great guitars, and many are pro-level.
These guitars are often used for recording, because of their balanced tone and how well they sounded when miked in a studio.
Parlor guitars are a favorite among songwriters and composers since they can provide high-quality tone and feel, in a smaller and more comfortable size.
These guitars are also great for smaller performances and intimate settings, where a large and loud dreadnaught might be too loud to just too much.
If you want a high-quality guitar but with a small size for a more balanced tone and volume, a parlor guitar can be a good choice for you.
Tenor guitars have been around for over a hundred years. They are smaller-scale guitars and typically only have four strings.
The strings are tuned in fifths, different than normal guitar tuning. Although players of tenor guitars often use various tunings, CGDA is the most common tuning used.
This guitar was made to somewhat mimic the strings and tunings of a tenor banjo. The purpose was to make it easy for tenor banjo players to pick this tenor guitar up and play easier.
This tuning can give you different ideas and inspiration when playing it since it makes use of fingerings and chord voicings.
This would be a great extra guitar, but it might not be a good choice for your only guitar. The voicing and normal tuning can limit what you play on it.
Other Types of Guitars
12 String Guitars
Many guitar players love the sound and idea of 12-string guitars but can be confused about how they’re tuned.
The tuning is like a normal guitar, with each string being doubled. So you have EEAADDGGBBEE. The lower strings have a thinner, higher octave. The top strings are just doubled.
So you are not playing twelve different strings, but six sets of strings tuned the way you normally tune it.
This gives your chords and notes and very lush, chiming sound when played. Although you can play single lines and leads, these guitars are used mostly for strumming.
Although many 12-string guitars can be found at a pro-level, you can still find quite a few at more affordable prices. This makes them well in the budget of the average guitar player.
Leo Kotke plays various types of guitars but uses a 12-string in a good amount of his music.
Steel Lap Guitars
Steel lap guitars are made to be played using a slide and are made to sit on your lap.
Like any guitar made for slide, the strings are very high. This makes slide playing easier but almost makes it nearly impossible to fret it like a normal guitar.
Slide guitar can be played on a normal guitar, held in the normal position. But many slide players feel that playing on your lap gives you more possibilities,
This also lets you use the slide in different ways that are difficult or not possible with a normal guitar in a normal position.
These guitars are often used in blues, country, bluegrass, and even Hawaiian music.
Joseph Kekuku is considered to be the inventor of the lap steel guitar. Other players like David Gilmour have used it on various tracks.
Double Neck Guitars
More of a novelty than something practical, double-neck guitars have been popular for decades.
Many people think of Jimmy Page’s double-neck guitar, with one neck being a regular guitar and the other being a 12-string.
There are many combinations of types of guitar necks that can be on the same body as such. Usually one is a normal 6-string guitar. The other can be a 12-string, a bass, a harp, or even another 6-string.
Some players like Michael Angelo have used two necks, but pointing in different directions. This allows one player to use the finger-tapping technique to play both at the same time.
Other players like Rick Neilsen have added more neck, to include up to five necks on one guitar. These are more for creative and novelty purposes, but can still make for some very unique and interesting instruments.
I hope you found this guide helpful!
The next time you’re in the market for a new guitar, consider all the different types of guitars that are out there so you can make sure you’re getting one that fits your needs as a player.
So which type of guitar are you going to get? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
Good luck playing! 🙂