While guitars might seem simple, they’re intricate and impressive instruments that combine many parts to produce that sound we all know and love.
General Anatomy Of A Guitar
Not all guitars share the same anatomy, there are some obvious differences between electric and acoustic guitars. However, while the nitty-gritty components of the different guitars will vary, the basic structure of the guitar is universal. So, let’s look at the basic anatomy of all guitars.
The main part on a guitar, not much more to say. Gives the guitar its shape and general look. The body of an acoustic and classic guitar has of course a hole in the middle of the body beneath the strings, which is called the soundhole.
The shape, size, and material will affect the sound and tone, so only some enjoy the same body type. One acoustic guitar may sound different than another simply because the body is different.
Apart from the many various shapes, what is often talked about is no cutaway, single cutaway and double cutaway.
Perhaps the most talked about part among guitarists, as its profile and finish play a huge role in whether it’s comfortable to play or not. The three major designs you’ll come across are bolt on necks, set necks and neck through designs. Not to be confused with the fretboard. If you want to dig deeper into the world of guitar necks, head on over to Types Of Guitar Necks.
Also called fingerboard. If the neck is the backside, the fretboard is the front. Sometimes the neck and fretboard is one piece of wood, but more common is to find fretboards of different woods glued to the neck. Like for instance a rosewood fretboard on a maple neck.
A guitar fretboard is divided into different sections by fret wire, which help guitarists navigate the strings to adjust the sound and hit notes. Without the frets, playing is much more challenging.
Acoustic guitars typically have 18-20 frets, and standard electric guitars have either 22 or 24 frets, even though there are exceptions.
The headstock is the slightly larger piece at the top of the neck, where you can tune your guitar. Most guitars have six tuning pegs attached to the headstock. Each string attaches to a piece called the machine head. Or tuning pegs, or even tuning keys. Some headstocks have three pegs on one side and three on the other, while others have all six on one side.
The small grooved piece that connects the end of the neck to the beginning of the headstock is called the nut. It is certainly not the most talked about piece on the guitar, and rarely gets the same attention as most other parts. But it’s a damn important piece, and is absolutely crucial to playability, tuning stability, and tone.
The part that not only supports the strings, but also helps transmit the vibrations of the string to either the soundboard on an acoustic, or the pickups on an electric.
The bridge also plays a big role in intonation and string height. On some bridges there are individual saddles for each string to adjust the action. Others you only adjust the entire bridge on either bass or treble side. With acoustics, adjusting action is not as easy. Acoustic bridges also have bridge pins to hold the strings down.
Pickguard / Scratch plate
A lot of guitars also come with pickguards to protect the guitar’s finish from pick scratches.
Special Guitar Components
Because electric guitars have more mechanics and produce sound differently, they have many extra parts. Unlike acoustic and classical guitars, electric guitars also feature the following:
- Pickup selector
- Output jack
- Volume knobs
- Tone knobs
And on some models there are also:
- Whammy bar / Tremolo bar
- Floating tremolo
- Locking nut
Both fixed bridges and floating bridges can be equipped with whammy bars, but a floating bridge can move both up and down and a fixed bridge can only move down. The locking nut is there to make sure your guitar stays in tune, even after vigorous whammy bar usage.
Guitar anatomy is quite complex and can vary from model to model. There are many parts that need to harmonize with each other, and they all affect sound, feel and playablility. That’s why becoming a luthier takes years. However, just knowing about them, and their function, is enough for most guitarists. And now you know about them too.