The Anatomy of a Guitar

The guitar is an incredible instrument that people play with nuanced flair. But every iconic track begins with the guitar itself and how it shapes the sound. While there are dozens of differences and styles out there, every guitar has the same essential elements. Here is the anatomy of a guitar.

 

The Guitar Head

In some ways, guitar anatomy mirrors human anatomy. The topmost part of a guitar is the head, also called the headstock. The head controls elements like tuning and it secures the strings for playing.

 

Tuning Keys

Tuning keys, also known as tuning pegs, do exactly what their name suggests—they adjust the width of the strings to create different pitches. The tuning process requires a careful ear and a tuner on hand to ensure the guitar matches the correct notes before playing. The most common tuning arrangement starting from the thickest, sixth string is E-A-D-G-B-E.

 

Nut

The nut is the little piece of material at the base of the head. It serves as a buffer between the strings and the headstock. The nut has small notches where the strings sit before leading to the tuning pegs. The nut placement on a stringed instrument is crucial, as it defines the strings' vibrating length.

 

The Guitar Neck

The next area of the guitar is the neck. While the head is just a small part on top of the instrument, the neck is the long, skinny part that extends about half of the guitar's length.

 

Strings

While the strings reach every part of the guitar, they’re critical to the neck area. The strings extend from the tuning pegs along the entire length of the neck until they reach their end above the sound hole. The strings make the music happen, as they’re the playable part of the instrument. You can shorten and lengthen their scale length with a touch of a finger on the neck, and you can change their pitch with a stroke of a hand.

 Most acoustic and electric guitars feature six strings. Players use each of these strings alone or together to create music. The thickest strings create the lowest pitches, while the thinnest ones make the highest. Working together with the frets on the neck, these strings can cover nearly four octaves in range.

 

Fingerboard

The fingerboard, or fretboard, spans the entire length of the neck. Beginning at the base of the nut, the fingerboard is where players press on strings to change their pitch and make the music happen. The fingerboard not only creates variance in the music but also helps musicians make their marks along the instrument. Without the fret wires and position markers, it would be an immense challenge to play the right notes.

 

Frets

The frets on the guitar neck are the spaces divided by the small bumps that repeat down the whole neck. These carefully measured sections allow the player to strike more than one note from the same string. When players manipulate the strings, they press their fingers down hard on the strings over a horizontal fret wire.

 

Position Markers

Position markers are the small circles that dot the guitar neck. While they may look like a stylistic feature at first, they actually serve a vital purpose. They act as visual guides while playing, helping you recenter when you lose sight of your hands. Position markers are essential for beginners and experts alike; the reminders can give players a nudge in the right direction.

 

The Guitar Body

The guitar body is the rounded, wide part of the guitar at the base of the neck. The body is the part of the guitar that rests on your knee or across your torso while playing.

 

Sound Hole

First, you’ll see a gaping hole in the middle of your acoustic guitar body. This is the sound hole. The sound hole is the entryway into the hollow guitar body, where the sound of strummed strings resonates. Without the sound hole, the string sounds would reflect off a flat surface and sound odd. The sound hole provides a rich, deep, full-bodied sound.

 

Pickups, Pickup Switch, Volume Control, and Output Jack

One quick note for electric guitars—while many electric guitars have F-shaped sound holes on their sides, they lack the central sound hole of acoustic guitars. In its stead, the electric guitar relies on electromagnetic pickups that sense the vibration speed and frequency of the strings. Electric guitarists can then alter the output with the pickup switch and volume control.

 The output jack takes the sound and sends it to an amplifier. How does this happen? Well, with a quarter-inch instrument cable, a musician can connect their guitar to an amplifier of any size and blast their music to an audience.

 

Pickguard

Around the sound hole lies the pickguard. Many people use their fingernails or bare hands to play the guitar. But there’s a limit to fingernail strength, so many players resort to guitar picks. These rounded triangles serve as a replacement fingernail, giving players the ability to strum and pick the strings without using their own nails.

 Unfortunately, this also means that the hardened pieces of plastic can damage the guitar body when a player's hand shakes. The pickguard protects the sound hole and body of the instrument from damage. This is important, as most manufacturers make acoustic guitar bodies out of wood.

 

Bridge and Saddle

The bridge and saddle work together at the end of the strings on the body. The bridge is the large piece that holds the strings tight—usually with small pins. The bridge maintains the tension set by the tuning pegs at the head.

The saddle is the small ridge piece along the top of the bridge that lifts the strings up just before the pins hold them down. This piece is crucial to instrument play because it conducts the vibrations of the moving strings. In an acoustic guitar, this helps amplify the strings through the sound hole. In an electric guitar, the saddle directs its information to the pickups for a well-rounded sound.

Knowing the anatomy of a guitar can help players understand how to use the instrument more precisely. When you know how the measurements and pieces work together to create sound, you can more easily craft your own music. If you have any questions about guitar parts or want to find a guitar that fits your needs, reach out to us at Mundt Music today.

The Anatomy of a Guitar