Guitars - history and overview of different guitars
The first guitars were acoustic guitars, ie guitars which did not require amplification. The guitar is believed to have some relation to the lute, the Arabic aud, or the Moorish guitar but it reached its current form in Spain in the late nineteenth century. The Spanish guitar or classical guitar is hollow-bodied, using the cavity in the body to amplify the sound, and uses nylon strings. Originally strings made of gut were used. Flamenco guitars are based on the Spanish guitar, but adapted to suit the flamenco style of music. Flamenco guitars have a low action with high-tension strings to get a bright, strumming sound. They are slightly smaller than the classical guitar. Steel-string guitars were developed in the States and have steel strings rather than nylon ones. This gives a louder, more vibrant sound. Arch-top guitars have an arched top as opposed to a flat top and were developed in the 1920s when jazz was becoming more popular. Jazz guitars need to produce enough noise to be heard in a big band, hence the arch-top design and the steel strings. Resonator guitars have a metal dish which enhances the sound to produce more noise. These have a very distinctive sound.
The next development in the history of the guitar was the arrival of the electric guitar, developed in America in the 1930s. Since that time, the electric guitar has evolved into many different forms adapted for different styles of music and has overtaken the acoustic guitar in popularity. The main difference between an electric guitar and a traditional acoustic one is that an electric guitar requires separate amplification. It has built-in pickups which transmit the strings' vibrations as an electronic signal to the amplifier. Electro-acoustic guitars are available which have pickups so they can be used as an electric guitar or acoustically.
The difference between a bass guitar and a standard guitar is that it produces lower notes than a standard guitar. Therefore you can have acoustic bass guitars or electric bass guitars. The original basses, before electric guitars had been developed, were huge because lower noises need more amplification. The development of electric basses was a great relief for those who had had to struggle with the huge double basses which preceded their electric counterparts.
If you are left-handed, before paying more to buy a guitar specifically designed for left-handed people, see how you get on playing right-handed as some people find that it doesn't make much difference. Left-handed guitars are slightly more expensive and there is a limited range unless you can afford to have a custom-made guitar built. Another option is to customize a standard guitar for playing left-handed which can work for classical guitars.