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The Anatomy of an Acoustic Guitar

Author:

Alan has played guitar since 1995 . . . mostly acoustic Fenders.

Knowing Guitar Anatomy Is Important

Learning to play the acoustic guitar can seem a little frustrating at first. Not only is it a difficult instrument to learn, it also has several working parts. Just getting to know the basic parts of the instrument can be a tremendous help. After all, it is hard to follow along with any guitar lesson without at least some general knowledge of the guitar.

the-anatomy-of-an-acoustic-guitar

The Headstock

Using the photo above as a reference, the top part of a guitar is known as the headstock. The headstock often displays the name of the manufacturer, and possibly the guitar model.

The headstock also holds six pegs that can be turned with thumb adjusters, commonly known as tuners. The guitar strings are wound around the pegs to hold them in place. The tuners are adjusted to tighten or loosen the strings. This makes it possible to tune each string to a certain note.

At the bottom of the headstock is the nut. The nut is normally made of nylon or plastic and has six small grooves where the strings rest. The nut holds the strings at the proper spacing both side to side and above the fretboard.

the-anatomy-of-an-acoustic-guitar

The Neck and Fretboard

The neck of the guitar extends from the body, with the headstock at the end. The fretboard is located on the front of the neck, between the nut and the body. The fretboard is usually made from a specific type of wood selected for tonal qualities and durability. Some common examples would be rosewood or maple.

The frets are metal wires inlaid slightly into the fretboard. These frets cross the width of the fretboard at specific intervals from top to bottom. Certain frets are often marked with fret markers as a visual indicator for the guitarist.

To fret a string, a guitarist presses down the string between two frets. The string will rest on the fret closer to the sound hole. This action shortens the working length of the string, changing the note it plays.

the-anatomy-of-an-acoustic-guitar

The Body

The body of an acoustic guitar is where the sound from the strings resonates. It is normally a wooden chamber with a sound hole in the front. The sound hole allows string vibrations to bounce around inside of the body to improve and amplify the sound.

The strings cross over the front of the guitar body and across the sound hole before reaching the bridge. The bridge is mounted to the body and acts as an anchor point for the strings. Each string goes into a hole in the bridge and is held into place by a tension peg called a bridge pin. The bridge basically holds the strings firmly in place so that they can be stretched and tuned using the tuners on the headstock.

The saddle, very similar to the nut, holds each string in the proper position on the bridge end. It helps to maintain both the correct side to side string spacing and the distance above the body.

A pickguard is often attached to the front of the body just below the sound hole. This plastic plate protects the wooden body of the guitar from damage caused by playing with a pick.

the-anatomy-of-an-acoustic-guitar

Electronics

Some acoustic guitars have built in electronics used to connect the instrument to an amplifier. Commonly referred to as an acoustic electric, this type of guitar is great when a louder volume is required. For example, when playing with a drummer, an acoustic guitar must be amplified. If a guitar has electronics, there will be a jack where a guitar cable can be plugged in and most likely a small control panel.

The control panel on an acoustic electric guitar will normally have dials for volume and tone. In many cases, the panel will also have a built in guitar tuner for convenience.

the-anatomy-of-an-acoustic-guitar

Strings and the Rest

Finally, the most important part of any guitar is probably the strings. Normally a standard guitar will have six strings stretched between the bridge and the headstock. When plucked by the guitarist, the strings will vibrate, creating sound. When plucked just right, they will make beautiful music.

Although learning the parts of an acoustic guitar can be difficult, it is important to any aspiring guitarist. Knowing the instrument from top to bottom is a crucial part of moving forward.

Acoustic Guitar Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Where are the tuners located?
    • On the strings.
    • On the headstock.
    • On the sound hole.
  2. What is the hole in the front of the body called?
    • The saddle
    • Holy Grail
    • Sound hole.
  3. Where is the fretboard located?
    • On the neck.
    • On the body.
    • Inside the sound hole.
  4. How many strings would a standard guitar have?
    • Six.
    • Eighteen.
    • Two.
  5. Where is the bridge located?
    • On the headstock.
    • On the body.
    • On the tuners.

Answer Key

  1. On the headstock.
  2. Sound hole.
  3. On the neck.
  4. Six.
  5. On the body.

Comments

Alan (author) from West Georgia on November 06, 2020:

Thanks for the comment.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on November 06, 2020:

I agree with you. It is useful to know how an instrument is built and what everything is designed for.