Although there are different kinds of guitars you can see today, whether they’re acoustic or electric, almost all these guitars have the same basic parts. After all, they wouldn’t be guitars if they didn’t have these parts, did they? You probably aren’t expected to memorize all these parts of the guitar when starting out, but it would be a big help if you do know what the parts are and how they work, because at some point if you need to have your guitar fixed, or want to buy new parts to customize your guitar’s sound, you’ll be able to describe the exact part you have to change or buy new parts for. Anyway, let’s run through the basic parts of a guitar, and describe how they work.
The most basic part of the guitar is the neck. You can probably find out where the neck is, even though you aren’t a guitar player. The neck is made of wood, and is usually different from the wood used for the body. It has a flat surface called a fretboard, and is divided into frets. Frets are the divisions in a fretboard where you play notes on strings, and they show you where the strings change note when you press on them. Frets usually have little inlays that mark common positions on the fretboard (for example, the 12th fret is usually marked, because it’s one of the most important positions on the fretboard – it’s the exact middle of the string).
In electric guitars, there’s also a metal rod running along the inside of the neck, which is called a truss rod. You can have the truss rod adjusted to correct the neck’s curvature. This is important because as you use the guitar, the strings generate a large amount of tension on the neck, so over time the neck bends a little. When it does, you’re going to have a hard time keeping the strings tuned properly, so the truss rod counteracts the bending and keeps the neck straight.
Normally at the end of the neck, furthest from the body, is the headstock. The headstock has little machine heads, or tuning pegs, which you use to adjust the tension on each string, changing its pitch. There are different types of headstocks; in classical guitars, you can see the tuning pegs are positioned three on each side. In electric guitars, It’s common to have all tuning pegs on just one side (either on a “normal” or “reversed” headstock). Some guitars don’t even have headstocks, which means that the tuning pegs are placed somewhere else.
There’s also a bit of hard material that separates the headstock from the actual neck, and this is called the nut. It’s usually made of plastic, or bone, or some other hard material, and it has ridges cut into it where the strings fit snugly. This is important because if the ridges are improperly cut or spaced together, the strings may slip, or have uneven spacing, or may create a buzzing noise when pressed.
There are normally six strings on a guitar, and they are usually tuned in a standard pattern. If you’re not pressing anything on the fretboard and just pluck the strings from the lowest- to the highest-sounding string, the notes should be E-A-D-G-B-E. Interestingly enough, the highest-sounding string is called the 1st string, working upwards to the lowest string.
The body is mostly made of wood, and can be solid, semi-hollow or hollow. A lot of other parts are positioned on the body. Classical guitars are usually hollow, and produce sound by vibrations and resonate through a hole in the body. Electric guitars produce sound using pickups, which convert the vibrations of the string into an electrical signal, then run through an amplifier. Of course, you can also fit acoustic guitars with pickups (usually placed over the sound hole) to amplify the sound. There are usually 1-3 pickups in an electric guitar, one nearer the neck (called the neck pickup), one nearer the bridge (called the bridge pickup), and one in between. There’s a selector switch that you can adjust to select which combinations of pickups are active, and this can determine the types of sound you want the guitar to have. There are also tone and volume knobs per pickup, that you can tweak to fine-tune your sound.
The bridge is the place where the strings end, and the bridge holds the strings in place on the body. In acoustic guitars, the purpose of the bridge is usually just to transfer the string vibration to the top of the guitar. In electric guitars bridges are usually fancier. They can have little springs which you can use to adjust the height between the strings and the fretboard. The bridge can also be fitted with a whammy bar, a removable steel arm which you can use to move the bridge, thus changing the overall pitch up or down.
So basically those are the major parts of a guitar, and knowing these might come in really handy if you’re looking to upgrade parts or fix parts, or if you want to make a customized guitar.