Profile of the Six String Acoustic Guitar

Grandfather teaching granddaughter how to play guitar.
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Although six-string acoustic guitars tend to be somewhat more difficult to play than electric guitars (the strings are thicker and therefore harder to hold down), there are no amplifiers or cables to worry about. Because of this, they tend to be ​the popular the instrument for those first learning to play guitar.

Anatomy of an Acoustic Guitar

The six-string acoustic guitar is a hollow instrument constructed from multiple pieces of glued-together wood.

The "sound hole" is a round hole on the face of the guitar. When a chord is struck, the sound from the strings reverberates through the sound hole and back out again, naturally amplifying the sound. The volume produced by the sound hole is much greater than an electric guitar, whose output needs to be externally amplified to be heard.

The full-tone sound of an acoustic guitar also differs dramatically from that of an electric guitar. In musical situations featuring only one instrument--a group of two singers and a single guitarist, for example--the acoustic guitar is more commonly chosen over the electric guitar. Generally speaking, an acoustic guitar can be thought of as a "rhythm instrument" whereas an electric guitar is more likely to be a "lead instrument".

The strings on acoustic guitars are most commonly made from bronze, which produces a bright, crisp tone. They are slightly thicker than those on an electric guitar, making them somewhat harder for novices to press down. The strings themselves are tuned identically to an electric guitar.

Typically, the neck of a six-string acoustic guitar narrower than that of a classical guitar and wider than that of an electric guitar. People with slightly larger fingers may find the neck of the acoustic guitar easier to play than an electric guitar. For small children, the neck of a full-size six-string acoustic guitar may be too wide. Many guitar manufacturers make three-quarter size acoustic guitars for this reason.

The neck of the guitar generally joins the body of the six-string acoustic at around the 14th fret. This provides more room for playing higher up on the neck than classical guitars, whose necks generally meet the body at around the 12th fret. Most novices don't play this area of the neck frequently, so this impact isn't significant.

Purchasing a Guitar

Although six-string acoustic guitars can cost many thousands of dollars, a beginner's instrument (of reasonable quality) can be bought for less than $200. Because acoustic guitars don't require cables and an amplifier, they tend to be less expensive than electric guitars. 

In general, acoustic guitars are a little harder to learn on, due to their larger size and thicker strings. Despite this, they are typically the first guitar for many beginners, as they are both simpler to understand (no knobs or switches) and convenient (no cables or amplifiers).