Whether you’re new to playing the guitar or are more experienced, it’s helpful to understand the different parts of your instrument in order to get the most out of it.
All of the guitar parts work together to produce what’s most important – the sound!
We’ll give you a tour of the parts of an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar and how all the parts contribute.
Scroll down to learn your guitar parts with our in depth guide.
Click on the desired part to get a full explanation
|Binding||Body||Bridge||Bridge Pins||Fret Markers||Fret Wire||Fretboard/Fingerboard||Frets||Headstock||Heel||Lower Bout|
|Neck||Nut||Pick Guard||Rosette||Saddle||Shoulders||Sound Hole||Tuning Pegs||Tuning Posts||Waist|
Click on the desired part to get a full explanation
|Body||Bridge||Fretboard/Fingerboard||Frets||Fret Markers||Headstock||Neck||Nut||Output Jack||Pick Guard/Scratchplate|
|Pickup Selector||Pickups (N,M&B)||Saddles||Strap Buttons||String Tree||Tremolo/Whammy Bar||Truss Rod||Tuning Pegs||Tuning Posts||Volume/Control Knobs|
The headstock is at the top of the acoustic guitar – at the end of what’s called the guitar neck. This is where your guitar strings attach to the tuning pegs, which are used to tighten or loosen the strings to tune them.
The headstock can be made from many types of wood, and in turn, this can influence the brightness of the guitar’s tone.
The headstock is usually straight, but it can be angled. Usually, this area features the guitar brand’s name and sometimes the model too via the serial number.
The headstock on an electric guitar is not entirely dissimilar to that of an acoustic, but it does feature some differences. An acoustic headstock is often bigger as the tuning pegs typically need more room and, as a result, have more space for audacious and intricate patterns and designs.
The headstock on an electric g is usually smaller. However, there have been some very famous design variations in the past. One of the most instantly recognisable electric headstocks is the Fender Stratocaster, which carries an entirely flat headstock.
The tuning pegs on the headstock of both types of guitar are usually metal but are sometimes plastic and work by winding strings around a central tuning post, increasing or decreasing the string tension.
The most typical metal for tuning pegs is brass, nickel or chrome. These materials are strong, will stand the test of time, and provide an efficient turning mechanism.
Many guitars that feature plastic tuning pegs are often lower end. This type of material is ok for the beginner, but plastic naturally won’t last as long as metal. Plastic tuner pegs stay in tune only for a short time.
Finally, graphite turning pegs are reasonably new to the world of guitars; they are super lightweight and can withstand quite a lot of rough and tumble.
Below the central post is a machine head which is a cog-driven mechanism. When the tuning peg is twisted, the cogs of the machine heads turn to wind or unwind the string around the central post, and the increased or decreased tension changes the note (and tone) that comes from the string.
Whilst there are some differences in the headstock between the acoustic and electric, both perform exactly the same functionality.
As mentioned above, the long, thin guitar neck is beneath the headstock and originates from the guitar’s body.
It’s usually made of wood and glued to the guitar’s body. The neck features several key components vital to the instrument’s playing, and we’ll explore those below in a moment.
It is important, however, to highlight that the guitar necks of an acoustic and electric guitar can differ in some ways.
Whilst both types are generally made of various kinds of wood, feature frets and a fingerboard. They both ultimately connect the body of the guitar to the headstock, the neck of an acoustic is usually much wider than an electric. This is primarily due to an acoustic featuring thicker guitar strings, so they need more room.
The acoustic guitar neck needs to be stronger to accommodate the thicker and more robust guitar strings.
The neck of an electric guitar is, therefore, slimmer, which assists with accuracy and faster playing.
Usually made from bone, plastic, brass or graphite. The guitar nut is a relatively small rigid strip at the top of the fingerboard towards the headstock on both the electric and acoustic.
The nut guides the guitar strings but also holds them in the correct position.
The fingerboard is the flat smooth surface on the top of the neck and is where the frets are located.
The frets are the metal dividers that protrude from the neck of the guitar – the guitar strings pass across these and, when pressure is applied, create a note.
The fingerboard on an acoustic is generally made of hardwood such as ebony, rosewood or mahogany; this is often the same on an electric guitar. However, an electric can feature more innovative materials, such as carbon fibre or graphite.
Other impending wood types for fingerboards include:
- Indian Laurel
- Pau Ferro
Fret markers are located on the fretboard and act as a signpost for the player to access different frets quickly.
They’re often made from a range of materials plastic such as:
- Semi-precious stones
You’ll find them on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th frets.
More traditionally, the fret markers are circular. However, they can be stars, diamonds and other shapes based on the guitar fretboard design.
Most guitars will also have markers on the side of the neck to act as a fast visual aid for the guitar player.
Generally, there is little difference between the acoustic and electric guitar fret markers.
You may think that you can see all of the parts of your guitar, but this isn’t exactly true.
A crucial part is the truss rod. The truss rod is an adjustable metal road that sits inside the neck of the guitar. Its sole job is to provide greater strength to the neck of the guitar against the tension of the strings.
The truss rod stops the neck from bending out of shape. The tension of the strings can pull and bend a guitar’s neck, causing it to bend.
The truss rod can also be used to adjust the neck when other reasons for curvature have occurred, such as humidity or excessive fluctuations in temperature.
A correctly adjusted truss rod is vital to a correct guitar setup.
The guitar heel is vital. You’ll find it behind the neck of the guitar.
The heel is usually a piece of carved wood that fits into the guitar body and connects the guitar’s body to the neck. Its design can heavily influence the transfer of energy from the neck to the body and, therefore, significantly impact the guitar sound.
Acoustic guitars, such as flamenco and classical guitars, often carry a heel that protrudes slightly, whereas traditional acoustics do not.
This type of protruded joint is typically called a “Spanish heel neck joint.” It allows for high quality resonance and sound transfer between the guitar body and neck.
However, the ‘German’ construction is more commonplace these days, or what’s known in the USA as ‘dovetail’. The neck and body are made separately and joined together with tight-fitting joints.
On an electric, however, the heel is often much smaller and doesn’t influence sound transfer anywhere near as much.
Its primary purpose is, of course, to connect the neck of the guitar to the solid body. However, an advantage of its more petite build is to allow greater access to the higher frets when playing big solos!
The acoustic guitar’s most prominent and arguably most important part is the body, where the guitar sound is projected.
The body of an acoustic is made of various tonewoods. It is shaped for both aesthetic and sound projection reasons.
It comprises several essential parts, including the sound hole, rosette, shoulders, binding, bridge, saddle and bridge pins. The body on an acoustic can be angled but is more traditionally rounded.
On an electric, the body is generally smaller than an acoustic, as it doesn’t need to project sound from within itself.
It features multiple pickups, which enable the guitar to be plugged into an amplifier.
The smaller size means it’s easier to handle than an acoustic.
In terms of materials, the electric guitar body can be made from a wider variety; laminated wood, solid woods, plastics and graphite to name a few.
As an electric guitar’s body shape influences the guitar sound on a much lower level than an acoustic, you’ll find a number of more creative body shapes and designs.
The sound hole on an acoustic is the hollow opening at the front of the guitar.
The soundhole projects the sound from the centre of the body. It is often placed deliberately to produce gorgeous deep levels of bass, low resonant mids, and delicate high notes.
An electric does not have a circular sound hole. Although many electric guitars do have an ‘F-hole.’
Both holes do similar things but produce different tones and voicings of the guitar’s sound.
Electric guitar pickups read a vibrating guitar string and convert the vibration into an electrical signal that the amplifier converts into sounds.
There are typically two or three pickups on a guitar, and there are many different types.
The pickup towards the neck is known as the Neck pickup. The Neck pickup is known for producing a smooth and warm tone that’s perfect for genres like classic rock lead, blues, and jazz guitar. Neck pickup typically gives off a round and mellow sound that guitarists can use to create a more relaxed atmosphere in their music.
If there are three pickups on the guitar, the pickup in the middle is known as the middle pickup.
The Middle pickup on a guitar tends to produce a brighter sound than both the neck and bridge pickups. Guitarists can use this pickup type to achieve a neutral sound that doesn’t emphasize any particular frequency range. For genres like rock, surf music, and blues.
The pickup towards the bridge is known as the bridge pickup. The Bridge pickup typically delivers a brighter and crisper sound that emphasizes high-frequency or treble sounds. This pickup is ideal for creating rock and metal riffs that easily cut through the mix. With its emphasis on treble, the Bridge pickup is perfect for those who want to create a more aggressive and in-your-face sound in their music.
Single coil guitar pickups are often the favourite of blues and country players as they produce the clean, clear, twang-like tone synonymous with these genres.
A single coil pickup is fairly thin and features six small magnets around, which is conductive wire wrapped.
When the magnetic field is disrupted, a signal is sent through the wire to the amplifier to create sound. Whilst the sound created can be clear, crisp and bluesy with bite, there’s sometimes a background hum that some players find distracting.
Humbucker pickups were created to cancel the hum and feedback of the single coil pickup. These are generally known as noise-cancelling pickups.
Unlike the single coil, the humbucker is made from two coils rather than one. When both sets of magnets are aligned, the opposing poles of both sets cancel out the hum.
A humbucker pickup produces a much thicker, rounder and warmer sound.
A P90 pickup is another popular single coil pickup, but it’s bigger than a traditional single coil pickup. P90s produce a slightly warmer sound and eliminate some of the bluesy twang and hum that some players love.
Pickups are very important as they are the single most significant influence on the sound that an electric guitar will produce.
Pickup Selector Switch
The pickup selector switch is exclusive to an electric guitar. It’s a small switch or lever which allows various combinations of pickups to be turned on and off. You can mix two pickups at once to produce a more rounded fuller tone.
The most used pickup selectors are the 3-way selector, the 5-way selector, the blade selector and the rotary selector.
The three-way selector is standard and does an excellent job of selecting the neck or the bridge pickup in isolation on a guitar with two pickups or simply allowing both pickups to be selected together.
A five-way selector is slightly more complex than a 3-way selector because it gives two additional selection options.
The five-way allows the player to isolate and select the middle pickup only. It also allows just the neck and the middle pickup to be selected or the middle and bridge pickup. This variety makes the five-way selector on a Stratocaster so popular with players.
A blade selector is a little more straightforward. It works as a slider to slide up and down to isolate pickups. A rotary selector is simply a dial that rolls left and right to select pickups.
A selector comes down to personal preference. Some prefer the sheer simplicity of a three-way selector, whereas other players prefer a wider array of options.
The guitar rosette on an acoustic guitar is the decorative ring that sits around the sound hole. Usually, it’s made from wood or shell and adds further aesthetic interest to the instrument.
It is common for the rosette to feature patterns, floral designs, and other intricate shapes. The rosette only sometimes influences the sound of the instrument. Still, it can help reinforce the body, resulting in a more robust sound.
The guitar shoulders are the body’s curvature at its neck joint. They are often beautifully round for an acoustic; however, they can be angled as well as other shapes.
The shape of the shoulders can impact the instrument’s playability and access to higher frets; therefore, the shape is essential to the player.
Some acoustic guitars feature what is known as a cutaway. A cutaway is where a shoulder portion is removed to allow greater reach to higher frets.
However, electric guitar shoulders are generally designed with upper fret action in mind due to the requirement for solos.
Guitar shoulders are produced in weird and wonderful shapes, but generally, they all give access to upper frets.
Guitar binding is the material that covers the guitar edges primarily on an acoustic.
Much like the rosette, it is generally decorative and can feature patterns. However, it offers a layer of protection to the edges of the guitar.
Most electric guitars tend to be more rounded; they’re not exclusively this way and can still feature binding, however rare.
The acoustic guitar bridge is critical to its performance as it transfers the strings’ vibration to the guitar body.
It is located beneath the sound hole and is typically made of dense materials like bone or hardwood. The chosen material will dramatically impact the sound transfer and quality – as can the height and shape too!
The bridge on an electric is designed, like the acoustic, to attach the strings to the instrument. Nonetheless, there is less reliance on sound transfer to the instrument’s body, like the acoustic.
There are lots of different types of bridge for electric guitars. A fixed bridge is precisely that; it’s fixed to the guitar. It’s a material, usually metal. They are robust and reliable, though they can be trickier to modify and fine-tune than other bridges.
A tune-o-matic-bridge is usually found on a Gibson electric guitar. The saddle on a tune-o-matic can be adapted and tweaked to ensure the notes’ pitch accuracy is correct, rather than those notes being too flat or too sharp.
A tremolo bridge, more commonly known as a whammy bar, is connected to a metal lever – also known as a tremolo arm.
As the tremolo bar is pushed down, the bridge moves back and forth. This action either increases or decreases the string tension and changes the pitch of the notes being played. It can produce some quite creative sounds!
An extension of a tremolo bridge is a floating bridge whereby the tremolo bridge is not attached to the guitar and floats above it. This allows for a greater lever range and, therefore, a greater sound range when increasing or decreasing the strings stretch using the lever. Just listen to Jimi Hendrix live!
The acoustic guitar saddle sits on top of the bridge. It is vital in transferring sound from the strings to the guitar’s body.
It is usually made from a dense material such as bone or hardwood and also features bridge pins which hold the strings in place.
The bridge controls the string tension by holding them in the correct position and height over the fretboard.
It is a crucial guitar element, and its positioning and features can dramatically impact its playability.
The bridge on an acoustic guitar is generally adjustable if required, but essentially it determines how the strings sit.
The electric guitar saddles are usually metal, and its only real requirement is to fix the strings in position.
It doesn’t have a massive impact on the instrument’s sound, like the acoustic guitar. Although it does has a significant effect on the guitar’s set-up. The saddles are usually used to adjust the strings’ height (and the tone and pitch).
Volume and tone knobs
The knobs on an electric guitar adjust the volume and tone. They are often made of plastic, chrome or other durable materials.
The volume knob increases or decreases the volume; clockwise increases and counterclockwise decreases.
The tone knob adjusts the guitar’s tone and can make the sound brighter and clearer or darker and heavier. Turning the knob clockwise makes the sound brighter, and turning the knob counterclockwise makes the sound darker and heavier.
Both knobs are valuable parts of the guitar as they influence the overall sound produced by the guitar. Still, the material they’re made of doesn’t impact this.
The output jack on an electric guitar connects the electric signal produced by the guitar to either an amplifier or additional audio apparatus.
Typically, it’s composed of a hollow metal cylinder connected to or sunk into the guitar’s body with a threaded guitar collar that holds the jack in position.
The electrical signal produced by the guitar is transferred to the output jack via a cable hidden within the guitar, which is connected to the jack’s internal contact points.
Guitar strap buttons are small buttons that attach to the body of your guitar.
They are generally made of metal, but sometimes plastic, and are typically located near the bottom of the guitar’s body and at the top of the neck.
These are used for connecting a guitar strap to a guitars body. This makes it much easier to play the guitar whilst standing up.
Guitar strap buttons are often very similar on acoustic and electric guitars, and many guitars, if not all, feature them.
Scratch Plate/Pick Guard
A scratch plate is usually plastic and attached at the front of a guitar or stringed instrument to protect the body from scratching by the pick or plectrum.
Scratch Plates can also feature beautiful colors, patterns and decorative designs.
Other Scratch Plate materials:
- Metal & Acrylics
The use of bridge pins is a distinguishing feature of the guitar anatomy of acoustic guitars.
As mentioned earlier, bridge pins hold the strings in place at the base of the bridge, allowing the strings to vibrate freely and produce sound.
The pins’ type and material can impact the guitar’s tone and sustain. Some guitarists upgrade their pins to enhance the sound of their instrument.
Different types of pins are available for acoustic guitars, including slotted and unslotted pins, each affecting the guitar’s sound differently.
Understanding the role of bridge pins and the guitar anatomy is crucial for guitar players who want to get the most out of their instrument.
Fret wire is an essential component of the guitar neck, found on both acoustic and electric guitars.
The metal wire is installed into the fret slots on the guitar neck, which provides the necessary spacing for notes to be played accurately.
Fret wire is typically made from nickel-silver or stainless steel, both durable materials that can withstand the wear and tear of continuous playing.
The choice of fret wire material can also impact the guitar’s tone, as different metals can produce slightly different sounds.
There are several different sizes of fret wire available for guitar players, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The height and breadth of the fret wire can affect the speed and ease of playing, as well as the guitar’s overall tone.
Smaller frets, such as those found on vintage guitars, can make it easier to play fast, intricate lines but may produce a slightly duller tone.
On the other hand, larger frets can produce a brighter tone and make it easier to bend notes, but may require more pressure to play accurately.
Ultimately, the choice of fret size will depend on the player’s personal preferences and playing style, as well as the other parts of the guitar it is paired with.
One important component of an electric guitars hardware is the ‘string tree.’ The string tree is a small metal or plastic device used to secure the strings on the guitar’s headstock before they reach the guitar tuners.
String trees are not necessary for all guitars, but they are often used on the Strat style guitar, which have a straight headstock design.
The placement of the string tree can have a subtle impact on the guitar’s tone, especially when bending strings. When the strings are under tension, the string tree can cause some friction, which can affect the guitar’s tuning stability.
However, this is generally not a significant problem and can be quickly resolved by properly setting up the guitar with the correct tools.
Some guitar players prefer to remove the string tree to achieve a more natural feel and tone.
Overall, the string tree is part of an electric instrument and should be considered when setting up a guitar for optimal guitar playing.
The lower bout is a term used to describe a part of the body of an acoustic guitar.
It is the widest part of the guitar’s body, located at the bottom of the instrument.
This area is usually slightly curved, and its size and shape can affect the guitar’s overall tone and projection.
The lower bout is one of the key parts of a guitar’s body. It is crucial for hollow body guitars, where the size and shape of the body significantly affect the sound produced by the instrument.
The ‘waist’ is a term used to describe the hourglass-shaped area of the guitar’s body, which is located between the upper and lower bouts.
It is one of the defining parts of a guitar’s body and serves both functional and aesthetic purposes.
The waist helps to determine the guitar’s overall shape and provides a comfortable area for the player to rest their arm while playing.
It also affects the resonance and projection of the guitar, as the curvature of the waist can impact the distribution of sound waves within the body of the guitar.
The waist is just one of many parts of a guitar that contribute to its unique sound and feel. It is essential to consider when selecting an acoustic that is both comfortable to play and has a tone that matches the player’s preferences.
I’m Andy, and I’ve played guitar for over 20 years. My love of music stemmed from my family; my Mum loved Motown, my brother was massively into the 60’s era with tastes ranging from Jimi Hendrix. My Dad loved 70’s rock and routinely blasted out AC/DC, so I’ve had quite the education!
You’ll often find me at Download Festival rocking out in the summer too. My favourite acoustic guitar is a Gibson Hummingbird (dreadnought), my favourite electric is a Gibson SG and my ultimate guitar hero is Stevie Ray Vaughan.