The term ‘folk’ is commonly used in music, and there are many misconceptions. Before you understand what a folk guitar is, you first need to know what folk music means. Most people think folk music is any soft fingerstyle acoustic tune with someone singing along. Instead, folk music is traditional or rural music that families or social groups pass down generations.
A folk musician plays traditional songs and their own music as well. These traditional songs vary across different countries and cultures; hence, there are different kinds of folk music. So what then is a folk guitar?
A folk guitar is any small to mid-sized acoustic or acoustic-electric guitar with steel strings used in folk music. However, many folk players have played on larger guitars. There is no standard folk guitar; it depends on what style you’re interested in.
Below are some differences between folk and acoustic guitar and every other thing you need to know about folk guitars.
Differences Between Folk and Acoustic Guitar
Both folk and acoustic guitars seem interchangeable, but they are not the same.
The acoustic guitar is a nonelectrical, lightweight instrument made of wood. Its strings are made of nylon or iron, and the acoustic guitar can play different genres of music from country, classical, and blues to jazz.
The folk guitar is less popular than the acoustic. A common misconception is that the folk guitar is only a small acoustic guitar, but that’s not the case. Although the folk guitar is similar in structure and appearance to the acoustic guitar, it is mainly used to play folk music.
In fact, the folk guitar is an acoustic guitar with a clearer tone. Yes, you can play folk songs with an acoustic guitar, but they’re not entirely the same. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the folk and acoustic guitar.
As stated earlier, most folk guitars are smaller than a full-size guitar. Since acoustic guitars come in smaller sizes, size is not a distinguishing feature.
The headstock of a folk guitar looks different from the regular acoustic guitar. Both the acoustic and folk guitars have different tuning pegs at the top.
Folk guitars have a softer sound than acoustic guitars. This is because folk guitar strings are thinner than the strings of the acoustic guitar. The small body of the folk guitar also makes it produce limited sound.
Additionally, most acoustic guitars come with a pickguard since they’re designed to be strummed with a pick. Meanwhile, folk guitars are suited for fingerstyle.
To sum it up, you can use an acoustic guitar to play a folk song—although it won’t sound perfect. On the other hand, it’s not so easy to play a modern piece of music with a folk guitar.
Acoustic or Folk Guitar for Beginners?
As a beginner, you should choose either folk or acoustic guitar, depending on the kind of music you love. Although an acoustic guitar gives you a wide range of genres to play, you should purchase a folk guitar if you love folk songs.
What Are Folk Guitar Strings?
The type of strings on your guitar greatly influence the tone. The strings on folk guitars are thinner than acoustic strings, so they sound different. If you want to change your guitar strings to folk guitar strings, you need phosphor bronze acoustic strings. Phosphor bronze strings sound softer and more mellow than 80/20 bronze strings.
You can opt for ‘silk and steel’ strings if you want an even softer tone instead. These strings prevent callouses on your fingers because they have a polyester layer between the winding and steel core. The polyester acts as padding and makes the strings sound soft.
If you’re a beginner on the verge of giving up because of how hard you have to press against hard steel strings, you should consider changing strings.
Popular Folk Guitars Used by Prominent Musicians
Here are some of the best folk guitars that renowned artists played.
The Martin 0-45 is arguably one of the best guitars for folk music. Countless musicians used them because the guitars have a spectacular design; they feel comfortable and have a great tone. Some musicians who played this guitar include Paul Simon, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez.
The Martin 0-45 was Joan Baez’s favorite. The guitar is a 3/4 size, so it looks like a guitar for kids. The only downside of the guitar is that it’s quieter than larger guitars, so you have to use a great deal of finger strength to play loudly. Martin no longer makes these models, so a great alternative is the Martin 0-28.
Yamaha Acoustic FG720S
The FG in the name stands for folk guitar. They sound great, and Paul Simon played one on the recording of “Sound of Silence .” Paul loved this guitar and said it was his favorite.
In addition to the mellow and pleasant tone of the Yamaha Acoustic FG720s, it’s also cheaper than you’d expect.
Many newer folk artists use and enjoy Taylor guitars. It isn’t too popular since Taylor hasn’t been around as long as other prominent guitar brands. Although the price is on the high side, it sounds amazing, and it gives you everything you need in a folk guitar.
Even though a folk guitar is almost no different from an acoustic guitar, it’s perfect for folk enthusiasts. It’s smaller than an acoustic guitar and has a softer tone. If you ever get a folk guitar, here are some fun folk songs you can learn.
If you’re a beginner, your best bet is to get an acoustic guitar to keep your options open.
Frequently Asked Questions
Folk guitars are smaller than dreadnought guitars, and they have softer quality. The strings are also thinner than those of dreadnought guitars.
Yes. However, the songs won’t sound the same, so you may be disappointed. The nylon strings of the classical guitar sound different from folk strings.