Description of Guitar Parts

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Most quality guitars are fashioned from solid wood but they can also be made of plywood, fiberglass, or steel. Guitars can be solid body electric, hollow body acoustic or semi acoustic, a combination of both. Despite these differences all guitars share certain components and parts. Guitars have two main parts: the body, which creates the tone and resonance giving the guitar its voice; and the neck and fretboard, which provide the means to shorten string length to create different notes and scales.

Front Back and Sides, Including the Sound Board

  • The front back and sides of a guitar are fashioned from different timbers giving the instrument its unique voice. The sound board is the part of the front directly behind the bridge which vibrates when a string is plucked. Fine grained timber with straight grain like spruce is preferred for guitar tops because it delivers high quality sound.

Bridge and Saddle

  • The bridge is a wooden piece anchored to the front of the guitar, outside the sound hole toward the back end of the guitar on an acoustic or outside the pickups on an electric. Its placement defines the boundary where the sound board begins. A fixed bridge has a groove for the saddle and holes for the strings which are secured by bridge pins. The strings rest on and pass over the saddle, ideally made from bone or ebony.

Sound Hole

  • The sound hole is cut into the front of the acoustic body and is engineered to equalize differences in acoustics between the bass and treble strings. Some jazz guitars have F-holes like a violin or cello but most acoustic guitars feature the traditional round sound hole.

Fretboard

  • The fretboard is a quality strip of wood glued to the neck surface, usually fashioned from rosewood or maple and onto which the frets are attached. It can be inlaid with mother of pearl or abalone markers for ease of playing and decoration.

Frets

  • The frets, made from copper or brass wire called fret wire, are beveled on one side to fit into fine grooves cut into the fretboard. The frets are placed at carefully measured intervals of semitones for easy scale formation.

Headstock

  • The headstock is a wider piece of wood at the top of the neck onto which the machine heads are attached. The headstock also typically features a maker's mark and unique shape, the trademarks of popular guitar brands.

Machine Heads

  • The mechanical tuning pegs onto which the strings are wound and adjusted for tuning purposes come in two types: open back machine heads with exposed cogs, usually in a solid row of 3; and sealed unit machine heads, with no exposed gear mechanism, each unit attaching individually.

The Nut

  • The nut, like the saddle, is also made from bone or ebony and placed at the top of the neck just behind the first fret. Featuring a groove for each string to rest on, the nut affects sound delivery and determines the "action" of the instrument (the size of the gap between the strings and the fretboard).

References

  • Photo Credit S Dunn/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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