The guitar comes in different shapes and sizes. Some have hollow bodies and some have solid bodies. This particular article will focus on, does the shape of an electric guitar affect sound?
This is a legitimate question considering the two-fold aspects of a guitar’s shape:
- Guitars, both electric and acoustic, do have a standard particular shape. That must be for a reason, right?
- However, there are unusual and cool electric guitar shapes as well. And they don’t sound wrong. So, does the electric guitar body shape matter?
If you wish to learn about all the whys and hows of a guitar’s shape and the sounds produced, then we’ve got your answers right here. Our focus is primarily on the electric guitar body shapes and sounds. However, we do touch upon acoustic guitars for the purpose of understanding.
So, with no further ado, do you know how does an electric guitar works?
How Does An Electric Guitar Work?
String it and wing it? Not really, no.
Before delving into whether an electric guitar’s shape affects the sound produced, it is important to understand how an electric guitar produces its amazing harmonies in the first place.
As opposed to acoustic guitars, electric guitars do not have a hollow body. Although the standard shape is the same; hips, shoulders, and a waist, electric guitars are a slick, shapely slab of wood. They are thinner and smaller compared to an acoustic guitar.
Here’s how an electric guitar produces sound:
- Electric guitars act as transducers that turn the vibrations from the strings into a signal.
- The vibrations or the signal are absorbed by the body of the guitar beneath the strings.
- A pickup device often referred to as the heart of an electric guitar, picks up the signals and sends them to an amplifier.
- We hear the amplified signal as the distinct electric sound of the electric guitar through speakers.
So, what role do electric guitar body shapes play in producing sounds?
To be very precise and comprehensive, none, zilch, nada! An electric guitar’s shape has no effect on the sound produced. There may be people who disagree, so let us break it down for you.
Imagine an acoustic guitar first. Although it has a shape similar to most electric guitars, however, the key difference is that the guitar body is hollow. Now an acoustic guitar produces sound as a result of vibrations, resonating through its hollow body and escaping through the hole.
So, if you change the shape of an acoustic guitar, you change the hollow volume of the guitar as well. Since the hollow space is critical in producing sound, changing the shape and thereby altering the hollow space would affect the guitar sound.
However, as we discussed earlier, an electric guitar has a solid body. Moreover, the main sound-producing mechanism is by means of a pickup device and electric signals. Hence, altering the shape of an electric guitar has nothing on the quality or kind of sound it produces.
Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge what many must be thinking right now. What about the semi-hollow or hollow body types of an electric guitar?
Firstly, body types are not synonymous with shapes. Moreover, these guitars also use the same sound-producing mechanism through electric signals. While the hollow or partially hollow body may give the sound an acoustic touch, but that is it. Since the sound is produced in the same way as the solid-body electric guitar, the shape does not matter.
Read Related Article: Hollow Body VS Semi-Hollow Body Guitars
What Factors Affect The Sound Of An Electric Guitar?
If the shape of an electric guitar does not influence the sound it produces, then we are in a new pickle of thought. For does this mean that all the electric guitars sound exactly the same? Again, the answer is negative.
Although the electric guitar body shapes do not affect its sound, that doesn’t mean there are no other influential factors that may alter the sounds produced. Alterations in the following aspects of an electric guitar can alter its sound:
- Pickups: Single coils, Humbucking, Dual coils
The three different kinds of coils modify an electric guitar’s sound differently.
While the single coils pickup results in a thinner sound, the humbucking pickups generate a greater output and a more pronounced sound. Dual coils, on the other hand, have a cleaner sound output since they do not pick up any hums or noise.
2. Pots and Capacitors
These electrical components of the guitar have a major role in the kind of sound that is generated.
Pots or potentiometers, and capacitors are responsible for controlling the tone, blending the pickups, and adjusting the sound frequency. If you want the sound of your electric guitar to be exquisite, you need perfect-quality pots and capacitors!
3. The Type of Wood
The type of wood that a guitar’s body is made of effects the sound it produces.
For example, an electric guitar made of Alder wood produces a warmer and softer sound. The Ashwood electric guitar, on the other hand, produces a more chirpy and bright, high sound.
There are other kinds of woods used to make the body of an electric guitar. Each brings its own distinct touch to the sound produced.
4. The Body Type
The body type of a guitar can be solid, semi-hollow, or hollow.
We know that an acoustic guitar sounds different from an electric guitar because of its hollow body. Similarly, an electric guitar with a semi-hollow or hollow body will sound different from a solid electric guitar.
So, does electric guitar body shape matter? No. But body type? Yes.
The difference is majorly in the levels of acoustic sound that the electric guitar will incorporate in its original sound. Semi-hollow or hollow guitars create feedback that accounts for the presence of an acoustic-like tone.
Why Do People Think That The Shape Affects The Sound?
Have you ever heard the phrase “Hearing through the eyes?”
The phrase basically means that when you see a difference in the shape of a guitar, your mind immediately connects it to a different sound. Even if the sound is the same. Simply put, our brains go “If it looks different it must sound different,” when that is not the case at all.
Hence, cool electric guitar shapes may propel us to categorize their sound in the cool heavy metal category. However, that is all in our heads. The guitar does not necessarily have to be producing a heavy metal sound.
Other than that, the most probable reason for this argument can be the potential of electric guitars to produce almost infinite sounds. They can actually produce a myriad of different tones and sounds that baffle the human mind.
Hence, every time we see a guitar with a new shape and hear it producing a sound we’ve never heard before, we are likely to associate it with the difference in shape. However, it can easily be due to the skills of the guitarist to manipulate the strings in a unique fashion.
Why Do Electric Guitars Have A Standard Shape Then?
If a guitar is not comfortable to hold and play, then it is pretty much useless to a guitarist. Hence, the shape of a guitar is primarily supposed to increase its user-friendliness. Considering guitars are big and often heavy instruments, one must be able to hold them right and carry them well in order to create winning music.
As such, electric guitars have a standardized shape because of the playability it offers. The typical electric guitar shape is the optimal shape for comfort, carrying it while standing, playing it while sitting down, and finding the right position to hold it. The guitar’s body must accept your body as you hold it. All this is extremely important to produce good music.
In addition to that, the shape of an electric guitar also has a lot to do with the latest style and fashion. This is why, although there is a standardized shape, there are many unconventional and cool electric guitar shapes as well.
Regardless, the preference for the aesthetics of the classic electric guitar shape outweighs the desire for modish shapes. We clearly see the supremacy of hips, shoulders, and waist electric guitars over the few other exotic styles.
To reiterate, electric guitars do come in various unconventional shapes, however, does electric guitar shape affect the sound? Nope. If one understands how does an electric guitar works, and produces sound, it won’t be difficult to understand why the shape does not affect the sound.
The shape of an electric guitar reflects the guitarist’s taste and style more than it affects the sound produced. Hence, it would only be fair to attribute an electric guitar’s sound to the skills of the guitarist rather than the guitar’s shape.