What is an Electric Acoustic Guitar?

It may sound like a massive contradiction, but an electric-acoustic guitar is an acoustic guitar – with electronic add-ons. To be precise, the most common changes include magnetic pickups and a microphone.

The whole point, of course, is to modularly amplify the sound of an acoustic guitar without requiring an electric guitar in its stead. However, it started out as a method to amplify sound before the electric guitar was ever really a thing.

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It all started with the musical conquest for more oomph, the quest for more noise, and the beckoning of louder music. This stretches far back to pre-World War times – and I mean pre-World War I. Musical geniuses and innovators, on this noble search, filed patents as far back as 1910 for ingenious solutions to louder, electronic music. Their solution? Telephone transmitters. Banjos and violins were first subjected to these experiments, and the results, well. They started something, that’s for sure.

The way an electronic pickup functions is that it literally “picks up” vibrations from a certain point of a guitar’s fingerboard, and then transmits these to a speaker source that plays them on a louder format, doing away with the interiors of the guitar and allowing for a solid form – but in the past, microphones were used near to the neck and case for the same effect.

In the 1920s, however, hobbyists began using carbon button microphones and other techniques to try and minimize the load and maximize the volume – it didn’t quite work out until the 1940s, when jazz guitars were built specifically with pickups. Jazz later gave birth to full electric guitars, but that’s not the point.

Some people just like the feel of a great acoustic guitar, but with the flexibility and freedom to make some noise.

The electric acoustic guitar, or the electric-acoustic guitar – or in some cases, the ­semi-acoustic guitar – isn’t exactly a niche guitar, despite being caught between the classic and pure sound of an acoustic guitar, and the innovative machinations of today’s cutting-edge electric models. It’s actually an incredibly common tool, and for a simple purpose – guitarists need to be heard at concerts.

They’re simply indispensable to the modern band guitarist, from folk, country and jazz to hard rock. Versatility is another key. The only real restrictions in electric acoustic guitars are the way in which they’re electronically-aided. There are two main types of pickups – magnetic ones, which pick up vibrations from steel or other metallic strings, and piezoelectric pickups, which pick up the vibrations of non-metallic strings (like nylon). You can guess what magnetism is, but piezoelectricity is a bit tougher to tackle. Imagine pressing onto a rock with a lot of force. It’s been found that when you do that, you store a bit of electrical charge in that rock. That principle of force is applied in the piezoelectric pickups.

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But, when an electric acoustic guitar isn’t using pickups, it’s using a microphone. Microphones are much simpler, as you can imagine – they’re mounted within the guitar, picking up the unadulterated vibrations of the instrument, and then sending that info straight to a speaker through its cable.

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