Guitar’s Anatomy: Parts of an Acoustic Guitar

Welcome to Guitar Anatomy 101. Today we'll be discussing the different parts of an acoustic guitar. We are going to break down each piece, so you'll gain a full understanding of your acoustic guitar.

Acoustic guitars have less bells and whistles than an electric guitar. Learning about an acoustic guitar is relatively easy to digest, plus you won't need as many attachments and gadgets to go along with it. ​

guitar parts diagram

1. What's a headstock?

The headstock lays at the very end of the guitar. It consists of a flat piece of wood. Attached to the headstock are tuners (or hardware assembly). ​The size and shape of the headstock is determined by the tuner arrangement.

2. What are the tuners?

The tuners are geared mechanisms that create different pitches by raising and lowering the tension of the stings. The strings wrap around each post, which is connected to the headstock.​ 

parts of an acoustic guitar and what they do

3. What is the nut?

The nut is one of two places were the strings are attached to the guitar (the being the bridge). The nut contains little slots to hold each individual string. This important piece of plastic stops the strings from vibrating beyond the neck. 

4. What is a fret?

​Frets are skinny pieces of metal on the fretboard. Different types of guitars will have a different number of frets. When you are playing a chord or a note, ​you push the strings against space between the metal fret pieces. This will shorten the vibration of the string and change the pitch of the note.

5. What is a fretboard?

A fretboard, or a fingerboard, is made of wood. The frets are embedded into the fretboard on the neck of the guitar. This is where you press the strings against the wood to create notes and chords.​

6. What is the neck of a guitar?

The neck of a guitar contains the frets, fretboard, headstock, and tuners. The neck has to withstand a lot of stress and tension, especially when the guitar strings are being assembled. ​

guitar diagram

7. What is the sound hole?

A sound hole is specific to acoustic guitars and allows sound to to go in and out of the guitar. When a string is plucked the sound reverberates inside the body of the guitar, then exits through the sound hole.​

8. What is a pick guard?

A pick guard, also called a scratch plate, is a piece of laminated material attached to the top of the guitar. The purpose is to protect the finish of the guitar from being scratched by your guitar pick. The pick guard is a purely for cosmetic purposes, you can see one on the diagram at the beginning of the article

9. What is a saddle?

The saddle on a guitar can be raised or lowered to create or reduce the space between the strings and the fingerboard. Modern guitars have a drop-in saddle that can be​ removed once the strings are off. If you have a vintage guitar and aren't sure what you are doing, it's best to take it to a shop to have the saddle adjusted. 

electric guitar parts diagram

10. What is a bridge?

The bridge is where the guitar strings connect to the body of the guitar and hold them in place (similar to the nut). If you adjust the bridge, it will change the intonation of your guitar. You can change this to ensure your guitar is tuned throughout the entire fretboard.

11. What is the body of an acoustic guitar?​

The design of the acoustic guitar's body, determines the sound that comes out of the sound hole. There are a number of body shapes, some of the most popular are:

dreadnought guitar

​One of the most popular guitar body styles is the dreadnought. This style is ideal for guitarists that play bluegrass, because of the sound quality and projection. A dreadnought has a crisp, clear sound. Look for a solid spruce top like the Martin X1-DE, which has an affordable price tag.

Grand Concert

The concert acoustic guitars have a smaller size (usually about 13 1/2" from the lower bout), which gives you a bright sounding tone. These classic bad boys date back to the 1800's. The concert acoustics are more comfortable for smaller musicians and it's easier to reach the higher frets.​ Check out the Breedlove Concert CE, which comes as an acoustic-electric version. The best of both worlds!

For a complete acoustic guitar buying guide, check out How to Pick Your First Axe. Now that you have successfully completed Guitar Anatomy 101, class is dismissed. Your homework for the evening is to watch this cool video to learn guitar tricks made famous by Johnny Cash.



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