Take some time to learn the parts of the guitar and get to know your
learning guitar, I (and other tutors) will make reference to some of
the terminology found on this page, so you need to know where these
parts are on your guitar and what their function is. It's also useful
when shopping for a guitar so you fully understand the spec you're
So, pretty straightforward stuff, but take your time as always.
Guitar parts diagram - main parts of the guitar
As illustrated in
the guitar parts diagram below, the guitar (like
humans!) has a head, neck and body...
or headstock is where you tune the guitar.
is where you hold the guitar in your left hand (if you're right
handed) and your right hand (if you're left handed). The neck is also
where you press your fingers on the fretboard/fingerboard.
is where you strum or pick the strings with your right hand (if
you're right handed) or your left hand (if you're left handed).
the guitars pictured above have what are called cutaways
in their design, scoops where the neck meets the body. These allow you
to the higher frets without obstruction from the body. Guitars can have
one or two cutaways.
Individual parts of the guitar
look more in depth at the individual parts of the guitar (acoustic and
electric) from head to "toe"...
is where we tune the guitar. On a standard 6 string guitar their are 6 tuning machines that
provide the mechanism to
tune each string. To tune the string up or down you turn the tuning pegs.
There are 3 main headstock configurations for acoustic and
The headstock can also be where you access the truss rod - which
runs inside the length of the neck.
I won't go too much into that now because it's a more advanced setup
option and isn't used very often (unless your guitar is stored in
environments with frequent fluctuations in temperature). In a nutshell,
the truss rod increases or relieves the bow of the neck, which can help
If you're interested, you can find out more about setting up your guitar here -
bookmark that page. If you're an absolute beginner, it's not that
this minute. Learn the parts of the guitar first.
is responsible for seating the strings
as they pass from the headstock on to the guitar neck and fingerboard.
Nuts can be made of bone, plastic, graphite, corian and brass, to name
The strings slot into the slits in the nut. It marks one end of the
vibrating length of the string when plucked, the other end being the
neck itself is not the same part as the fretboard (see below). The
fretboard is in fact glued on to the neck, which is typically made of
mahogany or maple. When holding the guitar, your thumb will be
positioned around the back of the neck.
(also called the fingerboard) is where you "press" the strings to
create chords and notes. Along the fretboard are metal frets, or fret
wires. You press the string(s) down just behind the fret wire to create
a particular note or chord.
most common fretboard materials are rosewood and maple. Maple is the
lighter wood and generally produces a brighter, tighter sound.
Along the fretboard there are often inlay
either dots or more elaborate markings positioned at regular fret
intervals (usually frets 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 24 if the
guitar has 24 frets).
is where the neck meets the body. The neck is attached either through a
bolt-on (usually 3 or 4 screws), set-in or neck-through construction.
Both set-in and neck-through construction generally improve sustain,
although bolt-on is used on many high end guitars.
Also known as a scratch plate, the pick
guard protects the finish on the body against the scratch
of the pick as you strum/pick. They're also used because of how they
look, often a different colour from the body.
Pickups (electric guitars)
pickups are situated on the body where the fretboard ends. These are
the magnetic parts responsible for picking up the string vibrations and
translating this into sound through your amplifier.
The two types of pickup are single
coil (right, top) and humbucker
(or double coil). Single coils (traditionally used on Strat style guitars)
have a thinner, brighter sound than the fatter, warmer sounding
(typically used on Les Paul style guitars). Humbuckers are often
covered with chrome or brass plates.
The name humbucker comes from the fact they were made to produce less
noise than single coils. Literally "bucking the hum".
Tone controls / electronics (electric guitars)
These are the knobs and switches that control the volume and tone of
the signal from the pickups to the output. Guitars commonly have one
tone knob per pickup and one master volume. Some also have a volume
knob for each pickup.
Electric guitars also have a pickup
switch so you can choose which pickup(s) to activate.
Guitars with 3 pickups (e.g. Strats) tend to use 5-way pickup switches.
The first position for the bridge pickup, the 2nd selects bridge and
middle, 3rd selects middle, 4th middle and neck, 5th neck.
hole (acoustic guitars)
Acoustic guitars use what is called a sound hole
to amplify the sound of the picked or strummed strings.
Electro-acoustic guitars also use a pickup and onboard preamp, giving
you the option to plug in like you would an electric and use an
Electric guitar bridge
Remember how the nut is one end of the vibrating
length of the string? The bridge
is the other, and is where the string meets the body. On electric
guitars, individual saddles
support each string after it's threaded through either the body or a
Adjustments can be made at the bridge to string height and intonation
(more on these setup elements another time).
Some guitar bridges support the use of a tremolo arm
(also known as a whammy bar, see pic). The tremolo arm moves the bridge
up and down to quickly change the pitch of the strings and back again,
known as a vibrato effect.
An example of a non-tremolo (or fixed) bridge is a tune-o-matic.
The bridge on acoustic guitars serves exactly the same purpose - to
transfer string vibration to the guitar body. However, acoustic bridges
are much simpler. They consist typically of a single piece of wood
(e.g. rosewood) and a raised nut-like saddle, over which the strings
pass into holes either plugged by bridge pins or fixed within the
Simply where each end of the strap attaches to the guitar, usually one
at the base of the body, the other at the top of the body near the neck
or on the neck itself.
I'm sure you know what these are! Strings come in different gauges
(thickness) and materials - steel for electric, steel, brass or bronze for
acoustic and nylon for classical acoustic.
Gauge is measured in
inches. For example, I typically use a .010 inch gauge high E string on my electric. If
hear someone refer to using "10's", they will likely mean a set of
strings of which the skinniest string is .010 inches thick.
The most common gauges are from .009 (9's) - .013 (13's) on
the thinnest string. The heavier the gauge, the more physical effort is
required to press/fret the strings on the fretboard, but the meatier the sound.