Guitars are one of the group of instruments called chordophones, which produce sounds when strings stretched between two points are bowed, plucked or strummed. Other examples are violins, lutes, lyres, harps and zithers. The example shown here is a classical guitar with six gut or nylon strings. The sound is projected acoustically by the hollow body of the instrument, unlike an electric guitar, which depends on electrical amplification and a loudspeaker. A summary of the parts of the guitar and how the sound is produced can be found in the ‘story’ section attached to this description.
This particular guitar has the ‘Kay’ brand logo on the head of the instrument above the tuning keys. The Kay company was an American manufacturer of musical instruments and produced guitars from the 1920s under their own name, but also for well known departmental stores such as Sears. When the firm went out of business, its assets were auctioned off and by the 1970s the brand name only appeared in guitars made in Japan or Korea. By the 1980s the brand name had been re-sold and once again Kay guitars were made in the USA. This dates the guitar shown here to the 1970s as it has ‘made in Korea’ displayed on the back of the head. A typical Kay guitar of this period would have the top soundboard made of spruce, with the sides and neck made of mahogany and the fret board of rosewood.
The guitar illustrated features a pair of patterned pickguards, which have been added, in part, to enhance the appearance of the instrument, but with the primary purpose of protecting the surface of the soundboard from scratches, especially if a plectrum is used. A right-handed player would change the notes on the fretboard with his left hand and pluck or strum the strings with his right hand. This suggests any protection of the soundboard should be placed to the right of the sound hole. The addition of two pickguards makes this instrument suitable for both right and left-handed players. The guitar has a strap, which is placed around the neck to carry the weight of the guitar. This can be particularly useful when playing standing up and over long periods.