Parts of the Acoustic Guitar

If you are going to learn to play the Acoustic Guitar one of the first things you should learn about are the parts of a Guitar. Let’s start at the top.

Parts of an Acoustic Guitar

Headstock – the headstock or head as it is often referred to is the topmost part of the guitar. The tuning keys are mounted in the headstock.

Tuning Keys – the tuning keys are used to tune the pitch of the strings. When re-stringing a guitar strings that attach to the tuning keys on the lower side of the guitar (as you are holding it) should be attached so they will wrap from left to right. Strings that attach on the upper side of the guitar should be wrapped right to left. If wrapped in this manner the strings will tighten when you turn the tuning key counter-clockwise and will loosen when you turn the tuning key clockwise.

Machine Heads - refers to the type of tuner gear. On a six string guitar there will be six Tuning key Machine heads (1 for each string). Violins, violas, cellos, lutes and ukuleles use non geared tuning devices called a tuning peg.

Nut - The small piece you see in between the head and the neck of the guitar is called the nut. Grooves are etched onto it to keep the string in position as it goes up to the tuning keys. They are made of various materials each one having both pros and cons. Materials include Plastic, Micarta (laminated phenolic- resin and paper or linen or glass-fibre etc), Tusq (man made Ivory) Brass, Ivory as well as Bone

Strings - The string is what you strum or pluck in order to generate sound. They are various widths with the thinnest being the highest string (numbered from 1 to 6 with 1 being the highest. In standard tuning it is the E string). They come in different gauges from extra light to heavy. I recommend a medium gauge string for most guitars.

Fret – Frets are the metal strips that are embedded in the Fingerboard. They are located at precise points dividing the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula. Each consecutive fret represents a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. The fret holds the strings in different lengths so that when you press it and strum the strings, different pitches are produced. Standard Acoustic Guitars normally have 19 frets but can have more. Electric Guitars usually have at least 22 or 23 frets and some have as many as 27.

Neck - The neck is the long part of the guitar you place your fingers on as you play it.

Fingerboard – The fingerboard also called the fretboard contains the frets that you place you fingers behind to alter the pitch of the strings to form chords and notes.

Position Marker - Position markers are the small circles you see on the fingerboard that help guide the players. These will vary in shape and size depending on the Guitar.

Strap button – The strap button is where you attach your Guitar strap (for use when standing with the Guitar) Most all guitars will have one usually located at the very mid point on the side of the Guitar. Most players will install a second strap button near the intersection of the neck and body. If a second strap button is not installed then the other end of the strap will usually be tied to the headstock.

Binding – Binding is the decorative inlay on a Guitar. The edge of the sound hole of an acoustic guitar is usually decorated with a rosette inlay. On high end and custom made Guitars it is not uncommon to find fancy Binding inlay on both the sides and back of the Guitar.

Pick Guard - The dark, flat, smooth piece of material placed near the sound hole is called the pick guard. The pick guard is the area where your hand will travel as you strum the guitar and serves to protect the body from scratches as your pick strums up and down across the strings. The pick guard can be different shapes and styles as well.

Sound hole - The sound hole is the round opening in the guitar which helps project the sound. This too can be various shapes and sizes but the standard size of an acoustic Guitar sound hole is 4” inside diameter.

Top – the top also called the body of the guitar is the "hollow" part of the guitar. It is here where you will find the sound hole, pick guard, saddle and bridge. The body is the part of the guitar you place on your knee as you play it.

Bridge – The Bridge is the small piece of wood that is connected to the top of the Guitar and is where the other end of the strings attach. It usually has six holes with removable bridge pins. The pins are usually made of plastic but depending upon the type of material, these bridge pins affect the overall sound of the guitar. You will find them made of plastic, bone, Tusq, ebony, buffalo horn, walrus jawbone, mammoth ivory and walrus ivory. The Saddle also rests in the bridge it is the last thing the strings rest upon and can affect the sound as well and is also made of varied materials.

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