Overview of Guitar Anatomy for Beginners


Chances are you already know the anatomy of a guitar and the sum of all its parts, but just in case you don't let's just run a few things past you as they are mentioned here and there on this site.

The various main exterior components have the same names for both electric and acoustic models.

The body and the neck are obvious to anyone I would think, acoustic guitars have a deep, hollow body with a sound hole, electric guitar bodies are almost always solid wood, with few hollow-bodied exceptions.

In between there are electrified accoustics which can be played as an accoustic or plugged into an amplifier to increase volume. Electro-accoustics are a compromise and not as good the best acoustic or electric models.

The metal string tensioners at the top of the neck are called machine heads (Heavy Rock fans check out the awesome Deep Purple album called Machine Head)

  Generic Images Of Jackson Electric Guitar Showing Main Parts 400 x 655px image

The plastic, metal, bone or ivory strip with grooves in where the strings enter the neck is called the 'The Nut' and at the opposite end of the neck where the string anchors are, the strings run over the 'Bridge' before passing into their anchor points.

Some electric guitars have the superb Floyd Rose patent bridge system with string locking at the nut end, bridge and fine adjustment turnscrews at the bridge end. This system prevent guitars going out tune easily when there's lots of string bending going on, and makes fine tuning simple and very fast.

Depending on the model of guitar, the body may include a couple of tone knobs and a selective switch for the pickups, which gives you a choice of 1,2 or 3 active pickups, depending on how many are fitted to the guitar.

Many makes of guitar, notably Fender models, have a steel bolt, called a truss rod, which goes right through the neck and into the body, this is tensioned to curve the neck to a precise degree, never mess about with this bolt or you will screw up your guitar's tone, and you will have to take it to a luthier and have it re-tensioned.
Main Components of an Acoustic Guitar 400 x 655px GIF image
In Gibson guitars the neck is glued into the body, no bolts are used, i.e. wood-to-wood, which in theory creates a superior tone and greater sustain of the note(s) being played, (which it does).

The metals bits across the neck are called frets, and the inlaid spots on the fingerboard at frets 3,5,7,9, 15, 17, 19, are fret markers  with a double spot on fret 12 where the open string tuning repeats EADGBE,  with standard tuning. The double dot on the twelvth fret helps you visually keep track of where you are on the fretboard.

Frets are generally quite a soft alloy, and constant string bending and vibrato will eventually wear a groove in them, which in turn will affect the sound of the note being played. Beginners will usually wear frets quite considerably, because of excessive pressure applied to the strings, it takes a lot of practice to get it 'just right'.

Fortunately frets can be re-profiled (filed by hand) before needing to be replaced, both of these jobs require a lot of skill and should be entrusted to a luthier or local guitar shop.

The big bar shaped things in the body are the pickups, these may be single or double coil, and are electric coils that transmit the string vibration to the amplifier so you get some noise out the speaker. Pick-ups greatly affect the sound of guitar, note the difference in sound say between the rich, chunky sound of a Gibson Les Paul and the thin, crystal-clear tone of a Fender Strat.

The majority of electric guitars, especially those aimed at playing rock music have a long metal tremolo arm fitted to the bridge plate, moving this arm up or down changes string tension, thus the pitch of the notes played, the undisputed master of tremolo arm use is, and probably always will be is, Jimi Hendrix.