Parts of the Guitar
Before you start learning to play your favourite riff or guitar solo, it pays to get a good grasp of the guitar basics.
In this lesson we’ll go over the different parts of the electric guitar, detailing exactly what each component does and how the anatomy of one guitar might differ from another.
The body is the main piece of wood that makes up the electric guitar. It can be solid, hollow, or semi-hollow, and is connected to the neck of the guitar.
The body also houses the bridge, pickups, and controls.
Some common guitar body shapes include the Stratocaster (or S-style), Telecaster (or T-style), Les Paul, and SG.
This guitar has a Les Paul body shape.
The neck is connected to the body. It can be set into the body using glue, or bolted-on to the guitar body with a neck plate. Some guitars even have a neck which is ‘set-thru’ the body.
On the front of the neck is where the fretboard is located. At the top end of the neck, furthest from the body, is the nut and headstock.
On this Fender Telecaster guitar we can see how the neck is bolted-on to the body with a neckplate featuring the Fender logo.
The top part of the guitar is called the headstock. This is where you will find the tuning pegs.
The headstock usually has the guitar brand or model on it, and will be shaped differently depending on what type of guitar you have.
On this selection of guitars and basses you can see how the angle and shape will vary depending on what instrument, brand, or model you have.
The tuners are used to change the pitch of the strings. They are sometimes found all in-line, and sometimes they are found on both sides of the headstock.
These will sometimes also be referred to as machine heads.
This guitar features 3x3 tuning pegs, with 3 strings attached to the top of the headstock and 3 strings attached to the bottom.
The nut is placed in between the top of the neck and the headstock. It is the piece of material that holds the strings in place before they are wrapped around the tuners.
The nut will usually be made of bone, fossil ivory, metal, plastic, graphite, or ebony.
On the Gibson Les Paul shown above we can see how the strings run through the nut at the end of the neck before they are attached to the tuning pegs.
The fretboard is the area on the front of the neck. The metal wires are called fret wire, and so the spaces between the wires are called frets.
Each fret plays a note, and you might hear people say ‘fret the 3rd string on the 5th fret’ or ‘play the A on the 5th fret’. Fretboards usually have fret markers, which can be used as a reference point for learning and as a visual cue when playing.
The bridge holds the strings at the other end of the guitar, on the body. The guitar bridge comes in many shapes and sizes, and there may also be a vibrato unit and a tailpiece here.
A vibrato unit is used for altering the pitch up and down as you play. A tailpiece will anchor the strings through or onto the bridge if it is present on your guitar model.
Pickups are essentially the microphones that ‘pick up’ what you are playing. The notes are converted into a signal and sent along your guitar cable to your amplifier.
Pickups come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you will find many types such as 'single coils', 'humbuckers', and 'P90s' to name a few. Over time you will develop preferences on what pickups you like depending on what styles of music you play, but each has their benefits and drawbacks!
The controls on guitars will vary depending on the model, but usually they will allow you to alter the Volume and Tone of your guitar.
There may also be a pickup selector switch or another type of pickup configuration system.
The strings run from the tuning pegs, through the nut, and over the bridge of the guitar to the tailpiece. On most guitars there are 6 strings - those which have more than 6 strings are known as ‘extended range’ guitars.
How To Tune a Guitar
The lowest string on the guitar is that which is actually at the top of the fretboard. Here, the lowest string refers to the note it makes being the lowest in pitch across the neck.
The strings on the guitar are tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E, from low to high. This is known as standard tuning on a guitar. Here are some phrases that people use to remember the order of the strings:
- Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie
- Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually
- Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears
How To Fret a Note
To fret a note, place the tip of your finger on the fretboard close to the fretwire. This will ensure the clearest note is produced, free from buzzing or rattling noises.
Each fret produces a different note. Concentrate on playing some different notes and making them sound as clear and accurate as possible.
Try it on different strings and on different parts of the fretboard until you can move between different notes smoothly!
In the next lesson we’ll be focusing on how to work out what notes are played where on the guitar fretboard. This will help you to get started with some basic riffs and chord shapes.
Click Next if you’re ready to get started with learning the notes on the fretboard.