Everything will work out in the end.
We hear this throughout life, but this also applies to learning the guitar. It is frustrating and challenging. However, once you know about all the components and their purpose, you’re golden. To help, we have outlined the guitar parts in a simple format.
Guitar anatomy is comparable to human anatomy. Just like how you have a head at the top of your body, so does a guitar. The head of the guitar is the area where you find the brains of the operation, primarily the tuning keys. Like the human body, the head sits above the neck and helps propel activities that occur there—in this case, the strings.
To tune your guitar precisely, you use the turning keys. Knowing the best way to tune your guitar is vital to a great sound. Learning to adjust them correctly takes practice, but there are many avenues to find assistance, such as videos or in-person instruction.
When you look at a guitar, you can’t help but notice the slotted piece of wood under the tuning area. This area is called the nut, and it is where the playable, vibrating string ends. The nut works in conjunction with the saddle, which you will learn about further down.
The extended, thin area of a guitar is called the neck. The neck is the guitar area with strings running down from the nut to the saddles. You will find this in between the head and body of the guitar.
To properly depress your finger on a guitar, you need a fingerboard. A fingerboard is an area on the neck and underneath the strings. This area gives room for the strings to depress and make noise. Working in conjunction with the frets below, you can achieve the right notes by utilizing the fingerboards.
Similar to fingerboards, frets allow the guitar to make the proper sound with depression. However, a fret makes use of a raised wire instead of a fingerboard’s shallow groove. The raised wire allows for you to make half notes while playing. When you use frets and fingerboards, you can correctly play all the notes and half notes needed.
When playing the guitar, it is helpful to easily reference where you are on the string to get the appropriate sound. Inlays allow you to do that by marking on the neck where different frets are. Having these markers reduces player error and eliminates a lot of guesswork.
Underneath the neck is where the body starts. The body is the area of the guitar that rests against you when you are playing. Within the guitar body, you will find many critical elements that allow the guitar to work appropriately.
To help you correctly hold your guitar, and with support, you can use a guitar strap. The buttons on your guitar allow for a mechanism to keep your strap in place. Not all guitar players use a strap, but it is common and allows your hands to focus on playing instead of holding the guitar.
At times while playing guitar, the pick will slide over the instrument’s finish while strumming. For the guitar pick not to scratch the finish, you can apply a pickguard to the guitar’s body. A pickguard is often used for cosmetic reasons, either to avoid scratching due to pick use or to add color to the instrument.
The bridge on the guitar helps to hold the strings in place and focuses on the vibrations. Although the saddles signal the end of the strings, the bridge has the mechanics to keep them in place. You can move the bridge placement up and down, which will also alter the sound.
The strings of a guitar have to be held in place to avoid unnecessary movement. The tuners do this at the top of the guitar, but the tailpiece does this within the bridge. With the strings in place, you can effectively strum without fear of them coming undone.
To best hear the sounds that the guitar is creating, you have pickups. The pickup’s specifics depend on the type and size of guitar, but they amplify the sound you make with the instrument. On some guitars, you will see a hole in the center of the body. This hole serves as a pickup for that guitar, and it is referred to as a soundhole.
Pickup Selector Switch
Although the pickup’s specifics depend on the type of the guitar, an electric guitar has several different kinds. Thus, they possess a switch that allows the musician to go back and forth between pickups. This easy switch allows the musician to effortlessly play different sounds without having to pause and change settings.
Whereas the nut defines the end of the strings, the saddles contain the opposite end. Having both ends in place on separate parts of the guitar allows you to achieve the appropriate sound while playing.
Volume and Tone Controls
To have the appropriate sound come out of your guitar, the volume and tone controls fine-tune your input. By tweaking the settings, you can adjust the sound to match your strums. This manipulation is similar to what you would do on a stereo to achieve the desired sound.
To plug the lead into the guitar, you use the jack socket. The lead allows you to funnel the guitar’s sound through an amplifier, speaker, or computer. Without the jack socket, you are unable to appropriately relay your music to others. This issue becomes even more problematic when performing for large groups. The sound of your guitar alone will not travel over the crowd. Therefore additional resources are necessary to achieve the desired sound level.
Anatomy is a beautiful thing, and guitar anatomy is no exception. When we know the components we are working with, what they do, and how they work together, we have the knowledge we need to bring it all together and make music.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.