Steel-String Acoustic Guitar

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The steel-string acoustic guitar is the most popular form of acoustic guitar in popular recorded music. Created in the United States, this chordophone instrument has six strings and is built similarly to the nylon-string classical guitar. There are many tunings employed by steel-string players and variations of the shape include an arch-top and flat-top builds. The steel-string guitar is common in many musical genres including blues, folk, jazz, pop and rock.
History of the Steel-String Acoustic Guitar
The history of the steel-string guitar begins in the United States of America when a German immigrant by the name of Christian Frederick Martin is believed to have created the first guitar strings made from steel in 1833. The luthiers that were making guitars in Europe, where Martin had trained, were mostly using catgut strings, however Martin found that in the harsh American economic climate that these guitars were not selling well. He developed a new creation that became rapidly popular.Early adopters of this new guitar design included folk musicians in the 19th century and black blues players who discovered the flexibility of these steel strings could allow the player to bend and slide the notes. 20th century Blues pioneers like Robert Johnson and Lemon Jefferson paved the way for rock using the steel-string acoustic guitar. As popular music really developed in the 1900s and rock ‘n’ roll was conceived in the 1950s, the steel-string guitar became the natural choice for acoustic rock as it has much brighter and louder sounding strings than its nylon counterpart. Today, the steel-string acoustic guitar is comfortably the most common acoustic guitar in guitar shops worldwide and has became a staple in popular music.
Inventor: C. F. Martin & Co.

Where to Buy

£100 - £1500

Hear the Steel-String Acoustic Guitar

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How to Play

A guitar played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a pick to create sound.

In Popular Music

The steel-string guitar has been a popular choice for thousands of popular music songs. Just a few examples of the steel-string guitar being played are 'Wonderwall' by Oasis, 'Good Riddance' by Green Day, 'Tears In Heaven' by Eric Clapton and 'Angie' by The Rolling Stones.

Famous Players

Tommy Emmanuel, Leo Kottke

Close Relations

Classical Guitar, Archtop Guitar
Video Credit: Paul Davids
Understanding the Steel-String Acoustic Guitar


United States








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