There are many musical instruments in the world. However, we can classify them. We can put each instrument in particular system.
For example, a trumpet belongs to brass section. A violin is certainly a string instrument. Is guitar also a string instrument?
At first, everyone would say, “Of course guitar is a string instrument!”. But it’s not that simple once we dive deep into this issue. Some people say that guitar is also a percussion instrument.
So, is guitar string instrument only? Or is it also a percussion instrument?
The answer to this question is not exact. While guitar is certainly a string instrument, you can rhythmically hit its body with hand, thus making a sound out of it. That way a guitar can act as a percussion instrument also.
Technically speaking, guitar can be regarded as both string and percussion instrument. There’s no clear consensus on this.
In the following text I’ll express my stance on this issue.
Here’s My Modest Opinion
Since there’s no exact answer for this issue, I’d like to say my opinion about it.
If you ask me, I would consider guitar a string instrument. Why? Well, I follow this logic: Is guitar meant to be percussion instrument?
Obviously that’s not the case. Guitar is meant to be a string instrument. The possibility of making it sound like a percussive instrument doesn’t change that fact.
Now, I am not advocating for playing a guitar only in one certain way. Creativity is great. We need to cherish creativity, as long as it makes good and authentic results.
Tommy Emmanuel, an acoustic guitar virtuoso, often plays his guitar like a drum. And it sounds great. It’s cool and creative.
But the main part of sound coming from the guitar is due to strings being plucked or strummed. That’s why I’d rather call a guitar a string instrument only.
Let’s Look At Definitions
Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about this subject. First, what is a string instrument?
Musicians play some string instruments by plucking the strings with their fingers or a plectrum—and others by hitting the strings with a light wooden hammer or by rubbing the strings with a bow. In some keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord, the musician presses a key that plucks the string.
With bowed instruments, the player pulls a rosined horsehair bow across the strings, causing them to vibrate. With a hurdy-gurdy, the musician cranks a wheel whose rosined edge touches the strings.Source: Wikipedia – String Instrument
From this definition, we can be certain that guitars are string instruments. You either pluck the strings with your fingers or with a guitar pick.
Now, let’s see what Wikipedia says about percussion instruments.
A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles struck, scraped or rubbed by hand or struck against another similar instrument. The percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments, following the human voice.
The percussion section of an orchestra most commonly contains instruments such as timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle and tambourine. However, the section can also contain non-percussive instruments, such as whistles and sirens, or a blown conch shell. Percussive techniques can also be applied to the human body, as in body percussion. On the other hand, keyboard instruments, such as the celesta, are not normally part of the percussion section, but keyboard percussion instruments such as the glockenspiel and xylophone (which do not have piano keyboards) are included.Source: Wikipedia – Percussion Instrument
My Final Conclusion
Can guitar produce sound by being struck or hit by hand? Yes. But every other instrument produces sound when being struck or hit.
Not only do instruments produce sound that way, but every other thing in this world does that.
If guitar is a percussion instrument because it produces sound when being hit, every other instrument is also a percussion instrument.
You can hit a trumpet with a hammer, you can bet it will produce sound. But that doesn’t make trumpet a percussion instrument. No. It is a brass instrument because it is meant and made to be a brass instrument.
So, these are my arguments. If it made your mind about this issue a bit clearer, I’m more than happy about it.
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Cheers, and rock on!