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Guitar Anatomy: Most Important Parts of a Guitar
Posted on June 10, 2021
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Picking up a new instrument can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help. In this blog, we’ll introduce you to the different parts of the guitar. These core parts are the same across electric and acoustic guitars, although there are some parts that are only used in an electric guitar or a semi-acoustic one.
The most important ones for both acoustic and electric guitars are the body, neck, headstock, tuning pegs, machine head, nuts, bridge, sound hole, frets, and strings. Additionally, if you have an electric instrument, your guitar is likely to have some other parts as well, such as a pickup selector switch, output jack, pickups, whammy bar, as well as volume and tone knobs.
If you find videos more helpful, follow your voice teacher Sonja as she shows us all the different parts of an acoustic guitar. She’ll cover the basics through the 2:44 mark. Otherwise, check out the diagrams below!
Parts of an acoustic guitar
Next we’ll look at the different acoustic guitar parts in more detail and see what each of them does. We’ve also included some handy illustrations that’ll help you locate and recognize all the parts from your own guitar. Although the pictures below use an acoustic guitar, remember that all of these parts can be found on an electric guitar as well, apart from the sound hole.
The biggest individual part of a guitar is its body. Acoustic guitars usually come in the familiar pear-like shape, although there can be some small variation between different models. With electric guitars, there’s a bit more to choose from. Some iconic and recognizable electric guitars include the Stratocaster, Les Paul, Flying V, and Explorer, just to name a few.
Regardless of whether your instrument of choice is an acoustic guitar or an electric one and no matter which type of guitar body you choose, make sure that it’s one that feels comfortable to play with.
If you are using an acoustic guitar, you’ll notice that the strings travel over a hole in the middle of the body. This is called the sound hole. Thanks to the sound hole, the guitar is able to produce a loud and pleasing sound even without any amplifiers or microphones. Because an electric guitar has pickups where the sound hole would be, it can have a solid body without a sound hole.
If you follow the strings all the way to the bottom, you’ll find the bridge. This is where the strings attach to the body.
That’s all you need to know about the body for now, so we can proceed to the next guitar part, which is the neck.
The long part protruding from the body is the neck of a guitar. The guitar strings (there are usually six of them) travel across the neck, starting from the bridge and ending up in the headstock (we’ll come back to that one later). The neck of a guitar is the part you’ll be holding with your left hand if you’re right-handed and with your right hand if you’re a leftie.
You might notice that the guitar neck is divided into small sections. These are called frets, and they help you navigate the guitar strings and play different notes across the guitar fretboard. If you’ve ever tried playing a fretless instrument such as an upright bass or a violin, you’ll notice how the frets make playing much easier, especially when trying to play chords.
The frets are numbered. For example, the uppermost fret and the space above it is the 1st fret. Below that is the 2nd fret and so forth. Depending on your guitar, the instrument can have around 20 frets in total, sometimes more. The guitar neck often has these tiny dots as well. The dots help you locate specific frets on the neck, so make sure to learn and memorize where they’re located on your instrument. This will make playing your guitar so much easier.
One important part that many don’t even know exists is the truss rod. The truss rod stops the guitar neck from bending by stabilizing it against the tension of the strings. You may not have heard of this guitar part because the truss rod is hidden inside the neck.
At the end of the guitar’s neck, you’ll find its headstock. This is where you tune your guitar, using the tuning pegs attached to the headstock. In case you’re using a six-stringed guitar (which you most likely are), there are six tuning pegs — one for each string.
The part that the guitar strings are attached to is called the machine head. At the point where the guitar’s neck attaches to the headstock, you’ll also find a small part with grooves that align the strings. This is called the nut.
With acoustic guitars, there are usually three tuning pegs on both sides of the headstock — three facing toward the ground and three toward the roof when holding the guitar on your lap. With electric guitars, however, the tuning pegs can be all on the same side of the headstock. Check your own instrument and see how the tuning mechanism is laid out. Trust us, you’ll be needing it quite often when learning to play.
Parts of an electric guitar
Many of the guitar parts we’ve looked at so far can be found both in acoustic and electric guitars. However, there are some guitar parts that are only found on electric guitars.
There are also semi-acoustic guitars (also known as electro-acoustic guitars) that have some electronic parts in them and can be plugged into an amp. Semi-acoustic guitars can also be played without an amplifier just like a regular acoustic guitar.
Read more about acoustic guitars and some great recommended models for beginners in our acoustic guitar buying guide.
In order to amplify the sound without a sound hole, an electric guitar needs a pickup or multiple pickups. As its name suggests, this part of the guitar picks up the guitar string vibrations which can then be played through an amplifier.
A single pickup is made of coils that are wrapped around a magnetic pole, and there is a pole for each individual guitar string. There are different types of pickups, most commonly single-coil and humbucker pickups. As opposed to single-coil pickups, humbucker pickups have two coils to remove unwanted hum.
Pickup selector switch
In case your guitar has more than one pickup, there’s also a pickup selector switch that allows you to swap between the different pickups. The guitar’s sound and tone are influenced by where the pickup is located, so switching between them or trying different combinations gives you control over the sound. Using pickups closer to the guitar neck will result in a bassy tone, whereas the bridge pickups create a brighter sound.
An electric or electro-acoustic guitar needs an output jack for attaching the cable used to connect your amp or effects pedal. Plug one end of the cable into the guitar’s output jack and the other end into the amp. The output jack is generally a 1/4″ mono plug that is compatible with most guitar cables.
Volume and tone knobs
The guitar body can have a bunch of different knobs and controls for adjusting the volume and tone of the guitar. This allows you to make adjustments using the knobs instead of fiddling with the amp to change the volume or control the tone. Most often an electric guitar has one or two tone knobs and one knob for controlling volume.
The tone knobs are connected to the guitar’s electronics. If there are multiple, the player has greater control over the tone of each individual pickup. There can also be a master tone knob that is used to control all pickups simultaneously.
Your electric guitar may have a whammy bar, also known as the vibrato or tremolo bar, that is attached to the bridge. By pressing the whammy bar down, you can change the pitch of the strings. This allows the player to manipulate the sound and create some cool effects as the pitch of the strings changes.
Get familiar with the parts of acoustic and electric guitars
We’ve just gone through the basic guitar anatomy, and you now know the different parts of the guitar a bit better. As you play and practice, you’ll get more and more familiar with your instrument and the different parts.
If you found this guide helpful, make sure to check out the entire guitar tutorial video where Sonja walks you through the first steps of learning to play the guitar, including how to hold the guitar and fret.
To learn more and improve your guitar-playing skills, try Yousician’s interactive online guitar lessons and learn to play your favorite songs. You can try Yousician for free and get started on your guitar-playing journey!
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