You have your stunning guitar with you. And the only part whose name you are aware of, is the string. Haha! Was I correct there?
Here’s a complete guide on all the parts of a guitar – Acoustic as well as Electric.
Parts of an Acoustic Guitar
A guitar can be broadly divided into 3 parts
With each, further comprising of other important parts that help make this wonderful instrument.
Let’s start off with the Head first
1. These 6 keys that are used to loosen or tighten the strings are called Tuning Keys
2. Attached to the tuning keys, are these pegs with holes through which the string is passed. These are called the Tuning pegs or Capstan
3. The white plastic piece just between the guitar head and the neck is called a Nut. And it plays an extremely important function. Of course the strings rest on it but if you were to look closely, it has these grooves in it which help space out the strings equally
Moving to the Guitar Neck
1. The metal pieces that you see on the neck are called Frets. Please note that frets are these metal pieces and not the resulting space between the metals pieces. I am calling this out specifically because of a common misnomer. The deal is that when someone asks you to play on, let’s say the 1st fret, you do not actually press the string on the 1st fret but right behind it. Which is why a lot of guitarists, mistakingly address the gap between the frets as a fret. That is where you play, for sure, but the fret still remains as the metal piece that guides you on where to place your fingers
These frets play an extremely important role in deciding what sound comes out of your instrument but we will learn that in the next lesson when we are discussing how a guitar works
2. Since the neck is like a big board that has a lot of frets on it, it is popularly called the fretboard as well
3. Between the frets, you will either see these white dots or some fancy design. These are called position markers as they help determine the fret number while playing. The position markers are commonly found behind the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 19th fret. So a good guitarist will always know that if he needs to play something on the 5th fret, instead of counting the frets from the nut, he/she can just play on the fret which has the 2nd dot.
Also notice that the 12th fret will have 2 dots instead of just one. Again helping us easily call out where the 12th fret lies.
In case your guitar does not have dots but there is some fancy design, it called a fretboard inlay. Which may either be built into the fretboard or can be stickered as well. I pasted one such inlay on my guitar just to make it look prettier. Even in that case, the inlay designs are such that you can easily call out the critical fret numbers like 3rd, 5th owing to the design.
Most of the guitars manufactured nowadays, also have the position marking dots on the top part of the neck. This is to add more visibility to the position markers while playing since the guitar fretboard will always be facing away from the guitar player
4. Inside the neck is a rod that is called a Truss rod. This rod provides stability to the wooden guitar neck as the strings when tightened can put a lot of pressure on it. Due to humidity or incorrect handling, the neck can move in either direction leading to difficulty in playing which needs to be corrected by adjusting the truss rod
Coming to the Body of the guitar now
1. Of course you know the strings (6 in number) but you must have noticed that they are all of different thickness. Again a very important factor in deciding what sound comes out the guitar which we discuss in the next lesson
2. The body can also be called the Sound Box as it determines the quality of the sound
3. The acoustic guitar is always a hollow device and that round hole that you can see on the body is called the Sound hole. Some guitars has f-shaped holes instead of one round hole, these are called archtop guitars/ jazz guitars
4. The decoration that you see around the sound hole is called a rosette
5. Most of the guitars also have this black coloured sticker pasted right below the strings near the sound hole. This is called a Pick-guard and its role is to prevent the top part of the sound box from getting scratched with the Guitar Pick
6. Which brings us to another key element in the Guitar body which is the upper plate that has the sound hole. This plate is called the Sound-plate and also plays a crucial role in the production of sound
7. The wooden piece at the further end of the body is called a Bridge
8. On the bridge, there will be a white plastic piece (similar to the nut) that has all 6 strings resting on it. This is called a saddle and it also has grooves on it and plays another role besides just spacing out the strings. And that is to determine the action of the guitar. By action we refer to the distance between the strings and the fretboard. You can imagine that if the action is high (meaning distance between strings and fretboard is high), you will need to press down a lot harder. Similarly, if the action is low, the strings will produce a buzzing sound. Hence the action needs to be just right, thereby needing you to get your guitar setup done from a store to ensure it sounds good
9. On the Bridge you will also see these white/ black round shaped pins. These are called Bridge Pins and their role is to help lock the strings inside the bridge. The round grooves at the ends of the strings are what enable them to get locked.
Some guitars do not have these bridge pins and only have slots through which the strings pass. These are called the Pinless Bridge
10. There might be a black colored strip that runs on the edge of the sound box which is called a binding and it’s role besides proving a decorative element, is to bind the sound plate to the body
11. There are acoustic guitars which have a built-in electric amplification setup in them which are called electro-acoustic guitars. These will either have a piezo pickup or a mic installed in the body
12. Guitars also have these pins at the ends on the body which are called Strap pins. Their role is to help lock in a guitar strap so that you can easily play while standing up. Generally there will be 2 strap pins for both sides of the strap but if there is just one on your guitar (at the further end of the body), you will need to tie the strap behind the nut using a shoe lace or get another strap pin manually installed between the neck and body
Let’s look at an Electric Guitar now
A lot of the parts are the same as an acoustic guitar, especially the ones on the head and neck. The only different ones are in the Guitar Body.
1. The glaring difference is that while an Acoustic Guitar is hollow, an electric guitar is made up of a solid piece of wood, which also explains why it is to heavy. There is therefore, no sound hole or a sound plate in an electric guitar
2. The Saddle, of course is made of metal, but you will see 6 in total instead of just one piece like in the Acoustic. Each string has its own saddle
3. There are these black colored (usually) installations under the strings (instead of the sound hole) which are called Pickups. These can be either single coiled pickup or humbuckers, both having their own characteristic sound with single being crisp in sound and humbuckers being warmer
4. There are also these knobs that can be used to set the volume or tone and are therefore called Volume/ Tone Knobs
5. You will also see a switch that can be moved around to determine which pickup gets activated and is called a Pickup selector switch
CLICK HERE to see the video in which I explain each part in detail while also showing you how they look.
So there you have it folks. All the parts that you will see on your axe. Will make it much easier now to communicate about your guitar with your fellow guitar players, right? Feel free to comment if you have any queries.
See you in the shed!!!!