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The Parts of a Guitar

There are two main types of guitars: acoustic guitars, which produce sound naturally without external amplification, and electric guitars, which require electricity and an external amplifier, or amp, to boost the volume of sound they produce. Though acoustic and electric guitars produce sound in very different ways, they share many of the same basic parts.

All of the following parts exist in both acoustic and electric guitars, unless otherwise indicated. Guitars come in left-handed and right-handed models.

1. Headstock
The topmost part of the guitar, which holds the tuning pegs in place. The mechanical function of the headstock is to act as a platform to hold the machine heads securely in position. Strings go from the bridge, across the nut and are finally fixed on machine heads or tuning machines. Headstocks also have a design purpose. Guitar makers display their logos on their distinctive headstock designs.

2. Tuning pegs
Also known as tuning machines, the pegs that anchor the guitar’s strings to the headstock. By twisting the tuning pegs, you can tune the strings (see How to Tune Your Guitar — Here. There may be three tuning pegs on each side of the headstock or six lined up all in a row.  To raise the pitch of a string, turn the tuning pegs that face up counter-clockwise and the tuning pegs facing down clockwise and reverse the direction to lower the pitch. Turn the tuning pegs only when the note is ringing to have feedback on how far to turn.

3. Nut
The point at which the headstock meets the neck of the guitar. Grooves in the nut help keep the strings in place. The nut is placed at the end of the fingerboard and controls the strings spacing and distance from the edge and their height above the fingerboard. Nuts can be made from a variety of material and can require replacement from time to time. The nut may also require replacement when performing a refret, especially if the action was nice and low beforehand. New frets are often higher than those they replace and that places the strings closer to the frets especially near the nut.

4. Neck
The guitar’s backbone—a long, narrow piece of wood that extends from the guitar’s body and holds the fretboard. Set necks are typical on acoustic guitars. Bolt-on necks are typical on electric guitars. When the guitar is tuned there is a lot of tension on the neck. This is especially true with heavy gauge strings. A well constructed neck will resist bending under tension. The stiffness of the guitar’s neck is a key quality feature of a guitar.

5. Fretboard
The fretboard is a piece of wood with 20 to 24 inserted metal frets. It is flat on classical guitars and slightly curved across its width on acoustic and electric guitars. Fretboards are made of maple, rosewood or ebony. On fretless instruments the fretboard is more correctly known as the fingerboard, that is, the flat front of the neck, which holds the frets and fret markers.

6. Frets
Refers to both the narrow vertical metal pieces inlaid at standard intervals along the fretboard and to the spaces between each fret. The fretboard is the "star" of the guitar; it is the instrument's most glamorous part. The fretboard is broken up into many different sections, with each section being separated by thin metal bars (usually made of a nickel alloy or sometimes stainless steel). The term "fret" actually refers to the space between the metal bars. For example, the first fret is the region before the first metal bar. Likewise, the third fret is the region between the second and third metal bars (it is also the first fret with a small circle in it).

The frets serve for all guitarists to manipulate the note that each string is produced. For example, when you press your fingers down on the first fret of a string, it sounds different from when you play the string open (meaning with no fingers pressing down on a fret).

7. Fret markers
Also called dot inlays, the dots marked on the front and sides of the fret board at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets. The fret markers help you to see which frets you’re playing.

8. Pickguard
A plastic guard that protects the body of a guitar from getting scratched while being played. Not all guitars have pickguards.

9. Sound hole (acoustic guitars only)
The hole in the centre of the body. The sound hole amplifies the sound of the vibrating strings, making the guitar more audible.

10. Pickup
A device that captures the sound of the vibrating strings so it can be amplified by an amp. All electric guitars have pickups, located at different places between the neck and the bridge. Acoustic guitars equipped to be played electrically have pickups embedded in the sound hole or under the bridge.

11. Bridge
A structure that anchors the strings to the body and keeps the strings separate at precise widths. Acoustic guitars have a bridge and saddle arrangement, located between the soundhole and the bottom of the guitar. The strings are generally held in position in the bridge by pins (bridgepins). The strings pass over the hard plastic/bone saddle The purpose of the bridge on an acoustic guitar is to transmit the vibration of the strings to the soundboard which in turn produces sound waves inside the guitar. This magnifies the sound created by the strings.

12. Body
The rounded portion of the guitar beyond the bottom end of the neck. The body is typically made of wood. On acoustic guitars, the body is hollow, which naturally amplifies the sound of the vibrating strings. The maximum sound volume of an acoustic guitar is proportional to the volume of air it can move. Hence large body size acoustics (eg a Dreadnought - generally associated with C.F. Martin and their biggest and loudest acoustic guitar. Now used by many other brands on large acoustic guitar models.) is a popular choice with acoustic professional performers. On electrics, the body is solid and does not provide amplification.

13. Volume knob (electric guitars only)
A dial that allows you to adjust the volume of the sound sent to the amp.

14. Pickup selector switch (electric guitars only)
A dial that allows you to switch between multiple pickups to achieve different tones. A guitar's pickups are the starting place for tone. The three variables of a pickup determine the tone it will create: The magnet strength, the number of windings, and the pole piece density.

15. Tone knob (electric guitars only)
A dial that allows you to adjust the amount of bass or treble in the sound sent to the amplifier.

16. The Tailpiece
Is the part of the guitar that holds the strings in place on the body of the guitar. It is where the string is first attached when you are re-stringing (putting new strings on) your guitar.

17. The Strings
Are the metal wires you play to make music on your guitar. There are 6 strings. The thickest string is the number 6 string and is called the low E string. The thinnest string is the number 1 string and is called the high E string. This is pretty important, as you want to memorize the names of the 6 strings. In sequential order, from the thickest to the thinnest strings, they are labelled: 6th or Low E, 5th or A, 4th or D, 3rd or G, 2nd or B, 1st or High E. New strings tend to sound better and last longer than used strings. It’s useful to have a couple of spare sets for when your strings start to snap. You can also use a string winder to crank the tuning pegs and string your guitar even faster.

18. Strap buttons
These little buttons are found around the side of the guitar and are to hold your strap on when standing and playing.

Guitar Gear
To play any guitar, whether acoustic or electric, you’ll need a guitar pick and a guitar strap. For electric guitars, you’ll also need an amp.

A wedge-shaped piece of hard plastic that allows a guitar player to strike all the strings on a guitar at once, as opposed to plucking each string with the fingers. A pick is held between the thumb and index finger (the first finger next to the thumb).

Guitar strap
A length of fabric or leather that loops over your shoulder and connects to both ends of the guitar. A strap makes it much easier to play guitar while standing. Here

 A device that plugs into a guitar via a cable and electrically amplifies the sound captured by the guitar’s pickups. Meanwhile guitarists have rediscovered the rich sounds of power amp distortion, and small, low watt amps get power amp distortion at much lower volumes. Today, while there are still a great many 50 to 100 watt guitar amps, there are also many new smaller amps, such as Fender's Pro Junior, the Matchless Lightning, Soldano Atomic 16, Mesa Subway Rocket, Peavey Classic 20, THD Univalve, and Budda Twinmaster.

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music: Now playing - Nutbush City Limits played by Malcolm Leatt of No Shame 
using a Fender Stratocaster equipped with Gemini Kraken (B) & Valkyrie (M & N) pickups



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