Ever wonder how acoustic guitars produce that unfiltered, natural, soul-strumming sound? Several fascinating factors come into play in how this beautiful sound is produced on acoustic guitars. Even more interesting is getting familiar with the simple science behind the stunning sound produced by this age-old instrument.
Why are They Called “Acoustic Guitars?”
Unlike electric guitars, acoustic guitars produce sound without any electronic amplification of the volume.1Sound is simply produced by the vibration of strings when they are strummed, plucked, or struck. The many components that make up the instrument help in producing, increasing, or carrying the sound.
Before we break down the mechanics of this instrument to understand how it produces sound, let’s brush up on our basic knowledge of what sound is.
What Exactly is “Sound?”
Sound is a type of energy that moves in the form of waves. These waves are created when an object vibrates and causes the molecules in the air around it to move and collide into one another. Depending on the intensity of the initial impact or vibration, this domino effect produces waves of energy that travel however fast or far they are meant to. The waves of energy keep flowing until the vibrations weaken and completely fade away. This energy can travel by air or other states of matter to reach our eardrums, where it finally transforms into sound.2
How Does an Acoustic Guitar Produce Sound?
It’s all rooted in science! All the different parts of the acoustic guitar come together to perform simple yet intricate tasks related to physics. Let’s start with the most essential parts that are needed to produce the basic sound of an acoustic guitar.
When a string is plucked, the vibrations created by the touch travel all the way to the saddle and the bridge of the guitar.3 The saddle is a small, narrow piece of wood where the strings rest; it sits upright on the bridge of the guitar.
The vibrations are then transferred from the bridge to the sheet of wood covering the top of the guitar’s body. This part of the guitar is called the soundboard. They also travel to the wood covering the sides and back of the guitar. All these parts make up the body of the guitar.
Vibrations from the wood covering all sides of the instrument fill up the hollow body of the acoustic guitar. All this resonating energy is held inside the hollow body just long enough for it to find the soundhole of the guitar and flow out of it in a compressed and directed manner.5 Acoustic guitars usually have a round soundhole but there are also guitars that have f-shaped soundholes.
In a way, the process is similar to a camera separating light into different colors, only to put them all back together to produce a meaningful image. Guitars do this too, but with vibrations and waves that are made to travel through different parts only to come together and create the music a guitarist desires.
This is just a basic explanation of the sound produced when someone strums an acoustic guitar. What sets apart a guitarist from a layman is that artists have in-depth knowledge and understanding of everything that affects the production of sound on an acoustic guitar. In fact, the material and quality of every part of the guitar have a significant impact on how sound is created and its characteristics.
If you want to put all this knowledge to test, attend a free music class with BYJU’S FutureSchool. Learn with a dedicated instructor in a live, 1:1 setting to hear and see the magic of sound on an acoustic guitar. Also, for more music resources, be sure to check out the BYJU’S FutureSchool blog.
- Acoustic vs Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Which is Best?) | Tone Topics – Dedicated guitar site with everything guitar gear, how-to guides, tutorials, reviews for all guitar players. [Internet]. Tone Topics – Dedicated guitar site with everything guitar gear, how-to guides, tutorials, reviews for all guitar players. 2022 [cited 4 March 2022]. Available from: https://tonetopics.com/acoustic-vs-electro-acoustic-guitar/
- Science World. 2022. Sound – Science World. [online] Available at: https://www.scienceworld.ca/resource/sound/ [Accessed 4 March 2022].
- Olson A. How to Make a Guitar Sing | Science Project [Internet]. Science Buddies. 2022 [cited 4 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Music_p011/music/how-to-make-a-guitar-sing
- The Structure of the Acoustic Guitar：How a guitar makes sound – Musical Instrument Guide – Yamaha Corporation [Internet]. Yamaha.com. 2022 [cited 4 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.yamaha.com/en/musical_instrument_guide/acoustic_guitar/mechanism/
- How The Acoustic Guitar Works and Produces Sound [Internet]. The Acoustic Guitarist. 2022 [cited 4 March 2022]. Available from: https://theacousticguitarist.com/how-the-acoustic-guitar-works/