A Breakdown of the Guitar (Electric and Acoustic)

A typical guitar consists of the following pieces:

  1. Headstock Nut
  2. Machine heads (or pegheads, tuning
  3. keys, tuning machines, tuners)
  4. Frets
  5. Truss rod
  6. Inlays
  7. Neck
  8. Heel (acoustic) Neckjoint (electric)
  9. Body
  10. Pickups
  11. Electronics
  12. Bridge
  13. Pickguard
  14. Back
  15. Soundboard (top)
  16. Body sides (ribs)
  17. Sound hole, with Rosette inlay
  18. Strings
  19. Saddle
  20. Fretboard (or Fingerboard)
  21. Now we'll go through the individual parts of a guitar...


Body: The guitar body is typically made of wood, often one piece, but sometimes several pieces glued together. It may be solid, hollow, or semi- hollow. Woods used include ash, alder, maple, mahogany and spruce, and many other tropical species. Guitar bodies are usually finished with nitrocellulose or polyester paint finishes.

Binding: One ornamentation applied to electric acoustics, and high- end solid bodies is binding; a plastic or wood strip around body, neck, headstock and f-hole edges. Can be plain, chequered, or in any number of striped layers.

Bridge: A guitar bridge can be attached to the body, or free-floating; just held in place by the downward force of the strings. It usually consists of a base of some kind, with fixed, or preferably moveable saddles. This is one end of the strings vibration, and should be twice the distance of the nut to the 12th fret. Intonation is set by the precise positioning of the bridge saddles.

Fingerboard: The fingerboard, or fretboard is the part of the guitar on which notes and chords are fretted. Typically they are made from more durable hardwoods, like rosewood, maple or bony. Some guitars, especially basses can have a fretless fingerboard, but most have somewhere between 18 and 24 frets.

Frets: The frets are the metal wire strips which cross the width of the guitar neck. When a note is played, the fret becomes the endpoint of string vibration.

Headstock: The headstock is at the far end of a guitar, and holds the machine heads.

Headstock Inlay: Headstock inlays usually include a manufacturers logo, and on high-end guitars other ornamentation. They are typically mother of pearl, but also abalone, or plastics. Less expensive guitars often have decals that replicate the inlay.

Input Jack In most cases, the input jack of a guitar will be 1/4" and mono. The jack, when plugged in, connects the guitar to the amplifier, and allows the signal from the pickups to be amplified to produce sound.

Machine Heads: Also known as tuning keys, or just tuners. Machine heads are used to tune the open strings on a guitar to the required pitch.

Neck guitar necks are usually wood, often maple or mahogany. In most cases a separate fretboard is glued onto the neck, with a metal strengthening bar, the truss rod, sandwiched between the two.

Neck Inlays: These can come in many shapes, cheaper guitars usually are fitted with simple dots. Other guitars may have blocks, trapezoids, or even ornate letters or pictures. Mother of pearl is the most widely used material, though entry level guitars usually have plastic dots. These inlays typically mark the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 19th frets.

Nut: The nut is the far end of the strings vibration (when an open string is played). Nut materials include plastics, bone, and brass.

Polepieces: Polepieces are adjustable screws on a guitar pickup, usually situated under each string. Raising or lowering these screws will adjust the signal strength, important on an instrument that has uneven string volumes -a higher polepiece increases string volume, lower reduces it. Pickup - Bridge The pickup nearest to the guitars bridge is called the bridge pickup. This gives a brighter sound than the neck, and is sometimes called the lead pickup. Ideal for piercing solos and chimey chord playing.

Pickup - Neck: The pickup nearest to the guitars neck is called the neck, or rhythm pickup. This is darker sounding pickup, perfect for jazzy soloing and rhythm work.

Pickup Selector Switch: Pickup selector switches usually chose between different combinations of pickups. On a two pickup guitar the choices are usually bridge pickup only, neck pickup only, or both pickups simultaneously. Guitars with three or mre pickups often have more complicated switch arrangements.

Strap Button: Strap buttons are usually situated on the bass of the guitar body, and on the top horn, or the back near the neck joint. These are used too attach a strap to a guitar in order to play it while standing.

Scratchplate: Also known as a pickguard, and occasionally finger rest. Usually made of plastic, wood, or metal. The purpose of this plate is to avoid damage to the guitars finish from strumming with a pick.

Tailpiece: The tailpiece holds the guitar strings, and in some cases is combined with the bridge. Solid body guitars have the tailpiece screwed into the front of the body, or mounted on posts that themselves screw into the body. Mounting on hollow-body guitars is usually at the tail end, with a tailpiece that extends round to the front.

Volume / Tone Controls: The volume and tone controls vary from guitar to guitar. Some have master controls, while some have separate controls for each pickup.

Trustworthy Guitar Manufacturing Companies:

  1. Gibson
  2. Fender
  3. Ibanez
  4. Epiphone
  5. Jackson
  6. Yamaha
  7. Paul Reed Smith
  8. Mosrite of California
  9. B.C. Rich
  10. Rickenbacker


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