A brand new guitar from American music company Fender just might be the most groundbreaking guitar since, well, the original electric guitar. It's called the Acoustasonic Telecaster and, in some ways, it is the first true acoustic-electric hybrid guitar. These are just some of the sounds that it makes.
You might think, "Okay, sounds like a guitar—what's the big deal?" To understand why putting an acoustic and electric guitar into a single instrument is such a big deal, let's examine how guitars work.
Even if you find music a bit of a mystery, you probably know that there are two main types of guitars out there:
Both instruments have six strings, a fretboard, and are played the same way. But the way that they create sound is very different.
Is there an echo in here?
An acoustic guitar has a large, deep, hollow body and a sound hole, which sits underneath the strings where they are plucked or strummed by the player. As the strings are played, the sound of their vibrations travels down through the sound hole and into the body. As they bounce around—or resonate—inside the body, they are amplified—or made louder.
This is what gives an acoustic guitar its warm, full sound.
An acoustic guitar can only get so loud, though. To allow guitarists to play alongside naturally louder instruments like drums and horns, the electric guitar was invented.
Plug it in!
Instead of a sound hole, an electric guitar has a smaller, solid body and one to three electromagnetic devices called pickups. These things (wait for it) pick up the vibrations of a guitar string and turn it into an electric signal. The signal is then carried through a cable into an electric amplifier—a machine with speakers that can make a very loud sound.
So now to be loud as a pumping horn section or cracking drummer, all the guitarist needs to do is turn up the volume of the amplifier. It also lets you do wild stuff like this.
No feedback here!
Pretty cool, right? But what if you wanted to put electric pickups in an acoustic guitar? What happens then? Okay, it absolutely can be done and it can sound ... okay. But it can quickly leads to a problem. Feedback.
That's the annoying woooooo! sound that happens when someone cups a microphone with their hand while making a speech. The sound begins to over-resonate, overloading the electric amplifier and leading to a kind of whining howl. And it is a huge problem when you try to amplify an acoustic guitar—that big, hollow body creates tons of feedback easily and can be a nightmare on stage.
Best of both worlds
To tie this all up, the idea of a single guitar that sounded equally amazing both electric and acoustic has seemed pretty much impossible for years. That's what happens when an acoustic guitar needs a big echoing body to sound great, while an electric guitar needs the exact opposite—a hollow body gets in the way of the pickups getting a pure sound.
This makes the science behind this Acoustasonic Telecaster really incredible. It has a body that is the same size as an electric. It plugs in and plays just like an electric. But played acoustically, it resonates almost as well as a guitar with a body twice the size. And those feedback issues? No sweat!
We're not quite sure how they did, but it's pretty neat that they did!