Know Your Guitar? A Simple Breakdown of ALL the Guitar Parts!

Know Your Guitar? A Simple Breakdown of ALL the Guitar Parts!

Your guitar has many components! It doesn’t matter how small each component is, they all have a vital role to the sound your instrument produces.

Let us Jump straight into these with the image below…

ALL Guitar Parts Diagram

What are the guitar parts? There are over 20 parts that your guitar is made up from and these include: Tone Woods, Headstock, Machine / Tuning Nuts, String Trees, Truss Rod, Volutes, Nut, Neck, Fretboard, String. Action, Neck Joint, Heel, Body, Strap Button, Scratch Plate, Pickups & Sound Hole, Electric & Controls, Bridge, Tail Piece, Intonation, End Pin and Jack Socket.

In this article, we will over each of these in detail…

1. Tonewoods

You will see NINE types of Tone Woods. These Tone Woods (listed below) are used on 90% of guitars in the market. These include:

  1. Rosewood
  2. Mahogany
  3. Maple
  4. Wenge
  5. Koa
  6. Alder
  7. Basswood
  8. Swamp Ash
  9. Walnut

You will find each of these Tone Woods are commonly found on different components (such as the Neck, Body & Fret Board), and all vary in density and grain. These distinguishing factors suggest how bright or mellow the tonal output will be.  If you want to learn more about each of these tone woods then you can read this post: Tonewood Types.

2. Head-Stock

At the top of the guitar you will find the headstock. The headstock is at the end of the strings, where you can tune your guitar. A headstock is the part of a guitar that helps anchor the guitar strings at the top end of the guitar. The headstock is the term which describes the part of the guitar that holds the tuning machine nuts (which are used to adjust the pitch of the guitar strings), Nut and Trust Rod.

The headstock plays a vital role in how the guitar functions. The main function of a headstock is to provide stability. It is a solid foundation for firmly holding the pegs under a high amount of tension at the top end of the guitar.

There are Three different types of headstocks that all serve a slightly different purpose. If you want to learn about the head stock in lots more detail you can check out this article: Guitar Head Stock Types.

3. Tuning Machine Heads

Also known as being TUNERS/ TUNING PEGS/ MACHINE HEADS.

Your guitar is tuned from a device that is mounted on the head-stock. This device has  many names based on its look and function. It is made up of many parts that make the function properly.

Even though the tuning machine is very small, it is also very complicated in its design. Below, I have covered this topic in grave detail so be sure to check out more of my articles on this topic.

  1. What Is A Tuning Machine Nut On A Guitar?
  2. What are the tuning knobs of a guitar called?
  3. All The Different parts on a tuning machine
  4. the different types of Tuning Machine Nuts
  5. How To Choose Replacement Tuners For My Guitar?

Overall, the flat, so-called ‘key’ part is attached to a peg, wound by the string. The pitch can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the strings, which leads to changing the tension of the strings.  

4. String Trees

The string trees are the component that fix onto the headstock and apply a downward pressure on the strings. This is an essential component for your guitar with a flat headstock such as the fender design. You can learn more about String Trees here….

5. Truss Rod!

Did you know that your guitar neck is prone to bending throughout the day? This is normal for any stringed instrument and this bending in controlled by the truss rod! We do not see the truss because it is embedded in the guitar neck, which makes us take this simple construction for granted. However, we cannot forget that it is one of the most important parts on any guitar. As it is built right into the construction of the guitar means it can affect your tone and with careful adjustments it can increase the feel and playability making your guitar much more comfortable to play.

Learn More About The Truss Rod Here…

6. Volutes

Volutes are an uncommon piece of construction but they add reinforcement to headstocks so they can withstand more tension and increased life span. You can learn more about Volutes here…

7. The “Nut”

At the point that the neck joins the headstock, the strings run over a small piece material (wood, plastic or sometimes other similar materials) that directs the strings across the fret board. This is the Nut. You can learn all about the Guitar Nut and Guitar Nut Types by clicking here…

The Nut are very commonly overlooked parts of the guitar. Without a well maintained and clean nut the strings may not sit properly and directly affects the tone of your instrument. When you change your strings make sure you take a soft toothbrush and gently clean out the groove where the guitar sits.

8. Guitar Neck

We cannot call a guitar a real guitar without its neck, which is a long thin piece of wood that need gripping with your left hand (or the other one for the left-handed individuals) and function as a basement for strings to be pressed down. 

9. Finger board/ Fretboard

The fret board sits on top of the guitar neck; it is the long thin piece of wood that the strings run over. You press this and construct your notes with your left hand (with your left hand if right-handed, or right hand if left-handed).

You can learn about the fretboard in detail: Fretboard Types

Frets

Frets are the raised bits of wire that can be observed along the fretboard’s width. Generally they allows strings to be ‘shortened’ by pressing down behind them. The lengths will decide the exact half notes. 

It allows the player to find the exact note easier without having to memorise the exact position as fretless instruments such as a violin. Some guitars are fretless and many guitarists especially jazz players prefer a fretless neck. If you want to see what a fretless neck looks like, just think of a violin and cello. Frets help with precision; fretless necks enable the player to play with the tones a lot more.

Inlays

The inlays are ornamental markers set into the fretboard. And we all know a guitar is a piece of art, so the decoration may be simple as dots indicating 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th or artistic depends on the its owner’s taste. 

10. Strings

There are many ways strings are constructed and each method plays a vital role in the tone of the instrument. You can learn about how strings are constructed here: Guitar Strings Guide

Further, each brand constructs strings differently and there are many variations available. This article: “Guitars Strings Types” will give you a good idea, which strings will mould better with your guitar.

11. Action

Guitar action or guitar action height is the height of the guitar strings over the fretboard. Guitar action plays a big role in how a guitar feels to play. If the action is too high, the guitar will feel uncomfortable to play.

Guitar Action Guide

12. Neck Joint

There are three ways that the neck of the guitar and the body of the guitar are built in production. In production, the method to make a guitar will involve manufacturing parts of the guitar separately. But, depending on how all these parts are fixed together (mainly the neck and body) will have a direct effect on the tone your guitar will produce. These are called guitar neck joints, and it is important to understand the type of guitar neck joint your guitar has to understand more about the type of tone your guitar produces.

Neck Joint Types

13. Heel

The production process to make a guitar is very complex and mostly done by hand. To make this process slightly easier the neck and body are produced separately and these parts will later be attached together. However, a guitar is constantly under a lot of pressure due to the tension of the Strings. There is a real weakness at the point  where the neck and body meet. The heel is a component (either a block of wood, metal plate or groove) that adds support and provides stability at the weakest point (where the body and neck meet).

Heel Types

14. Body

Women have their curves, and so do guitars. The body, I presume, could be illustrated as the curvy bits of a guitar, which will “lie” upon your lap when you play.

A hollow body is quite well-known for acoustic guitars, and on electric ones, it can be hollow, semi-hollow or solid. The larger the body the more bass the sound will have.

Body Types

15. Strap Button

The Strap Button is the component that you use to fix the guitar strap to your guitar so that you can use your guitar standing. There are many types of strap button available in the market, which we discuss in detail.

Strap Button

16. Pick Guard / Scratch Plate

A pick guard is also known as a scratch plate, finger rest and scratch guard and is a thin laminated material that is positioned behind the strings on the body of a guitar.

Plastic is a very common material that is used for a pick guard but you may also see other materials such as Plywood, Glass, Metal & Acrylics. Moreover, any material can be used; in some rarer cases even exotic woods, fur, gold, silver, abalone pearl and even gems are used.

Pick guard

17. Pickups & Soundholes

Pickups & the sound hole is covered. Both of these components are responsible for amplifying sound out of your instrument. Pickups appear on electric or electro-acoustic guitars. They are small rectangular blocks located on the body of the guitar under the strings.  They contain coils and magnets to capture the sound the guitar produces and is sent through an amplifier. Sound holes only appear on acoustics, under the string on the guitars body.

Pickups

18. Electrics & Controls

Electric & Controls

Pickup Selector Switch

Unlike acoustic guitar, electric ones usually have more than a single pickup. You will swap between these pickups using a “Pickup selector switch”. Because the strings have a different tone at different positions, so multiple pickups can allow for different tones. In addition, different pickup types have different tones as well. In order to swap between those, a selector switch should be allowed. 

Volume, Tone & Controls

These are designed in the form of knobs on a guitar body, near the pickups. There also various wiring configurations (separate controls or not, for example), but put simply. Volume knobs control the level of signal coming from the pickups, and tone controls adjust how bright that signal is. 

19. Bridge

To support the string is the mission of the bridge as they travel over the guitar body. The vibrations of the string into the body will be transferred via the bridge as intermediary, or amplified in case of an acoustic guitar. 

About electric guitar, with adjustable bridge height, the distance between the strings and the fingerboard will in turn be changed, known as the playing action.  

When changing your strings, have a quick look at the bridge to make sure it’s not damaged and give it a quick clean with a soft toothbrush. 

Guitar Bridge Types

Saddle

Saddles are built into the bridge and they’re the component opposite of the nut where the string leans on the body of the guitar. On an electric guitar, it’s common for these to be individual to each string in order for them to be adjustable solely if needed. 

The saddle tends to be a single, notched piece of material on an acoustic guitar, very similar to a nut. 

The maintenance for saddles is similar to that of the nut. 

20. Tailpiece

The strings need to be anchored at both ends, otherwise they’d just sort of flop around. At the headstock, the strings are secured on the tuners.

On electric guitars, strings can be secured by running them through the body, like Fender’s, on the bridge, or on Gibson 

Tune-o-matic style bridges, via a tailpiece, sitting behind the bridge. 

Tail Piece Types

21. Intonation

Intonation is the terminology we use to describe the accuracy of the pitch along the fretboard. Once you tune your guitar the pitch accuracy can go flat or sharp as you play down to the 12th fret. This happens because the tension of the string is not accurately balanced and the pitch will get worse the further you go down the fretboard. For example, when you tune your guitar you pluck the open (unfretted) strings which will hold the accurate pitch. However, when you fret on the 12th fret, the tension of the string increases slightly, which bends the pitch of the note slightly upward.

Overall, if the tension is not set right then it can affect the whole tuning of your guitar. Furthermore, the adjustments of the tension are very subtle, but the consequence of this happening can severely influence the accuracy of the notes and dissonant chords.

22. End Pin

If you have ever played the guitar stood up then you will be familiar with the guitars “endpin”. If you are struggling to find the attachment that fixes the guitar strap to your guitar then you will need to know about the endpin.

An “endpin” is a small ‘knob-like’ component on a guitar that attaches the guitar strap to the guitar, located at the tail end of the guitar. It is used to hold the guitar strap so you can play stood up.

23. Jack Socket

 The jack socket is a connector that connects the jack lead (coming from the amplifier) to the guitar.

Conclusion

In almost every guitar course, the first lesson would be an introduction to the parts of a guitar. It is important to understand the pieces that make up the instrument you are playing because this directly affects the tone you are looking for.

In this article we covered all of the components you will find on a guitar to give you a quick and basic understanding what you’re up against if your having problems. I have also linked each section to article where i discuss each component in grave detail.

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