Guitar/Anatomy of a Guitar – Wikibooks, open books for an open world

This chapter presents an outline of the completely different elements mostly discovered on the three important forms of guitar.

Overview of Elements[edit]

Acoustic guitar parts.png
Electric guitar parts.jpg
1 Head
2 Nut
3 Tuning pegs
4 Frets
5 Truss rod
6 Inlays
7 Neck
8 Neck joint/Heel
9 Physique
10 Pickups
11 Pots
12 Bridge
13 Choose guard
14 Again
15 Sound board
16 Sides
17 Sound gap
18 Strings
19 Saddle
20 Fretboard

On Acoustics and Electrics[edit]


The physique of a guitar consists of a treble or higher bout (the half of the guitar closest to the neck), the bass or decrease bout (the broader half of the guitar), and the waist bout (the slim part between the treble and bass bouts).

The physique is likely one of the most necessary components in shaping the general tone of a guitar. It offers the resonance that shapes the tonal qualities. It determines the amount of acoustic guitars and impacts the maintain of electrical guitars.

Resonance is affected by:

  • the forms of wooden used
  • whether or not the physique is produced from layered woods (ply) or single items
  • whether or not the physique is hole or strong
  • the form and measurement of the physique

The woods listed beneath are used within the building of each acoustic and electrical guitars.

Tone wooden[edit]

  • Agathis (also referred to as Business Grade Mahogany or Poor Man’s Mahogany) is a tropical pine generally discovered all through south-east Asia. It’s a plantation-wood used primarily for constructing cupboards. Agathis is reasonable and normally used within the building of price range guitars. Its tone is much like mahogany however extra bland sounding with a much less advanced response.
  • Alder is a light-weight wooden that gives a clear balanced tonal response and good resonance. Its delicate and tight porous construction is much like basswood however with a bolder onerous grain sample that provides to the stiffness making it extra strong. Alder has a medium mild tan coloration and offers a balanced tone throughout the frequency vary with a slight higher mid-range producing a clear sound. Its resonance offers a great dynamic vary.
  • Ash has an open grain sample which requires lots of lacquer to seal and this will have a marked have an effect on on the size of the maintain. Ash is often utilized in mid-range priced guitars. Ash provides two varieties for guitar building they usually differ in tone:
(1) Northern onerous ash (also referred to as Baseball Bat Ash) is tough, heavy and dense. This offers it a vibrant tone and lengthy maintain.
(2) Swamp Ash (also referred to as Southern Smooth Ash) comes from swamps within the Southern USA. Swamp Ash grows underwater which makes the wooden light-weight and porous. Many Fender guitars from the 1950s have been constructed with Swamp Ash. It has onerous grain traces between its softer layers and a creamy mild tan coloration with daring darker grain patterns. Its tonal qualities are a steadiness between brightness, heat and dynamic vary with clear bell-like highs, barely scooped mids and powerful lows. Swamp Ash has good resonance throughout the entire frequency spectrum and subsequently can sound fairly advanced.
  • Basswood is a light-weight (lighter than Alder) close-grained wooden with a constant and tight grain sample. Its very delicate with mild colours that vary from nearly white to medium tan. It requires a tough end, corresponding to polyester, for defense and good engineering to permit the screws and screw-holes to carry the elements. The set up of a tremolo system on such a softwood additionally means the physique must be thicker to stop cracking. Tonally, basswood has a heat delicate tone which attenuates each the excessive and excessive low frequencies. It additionally creates a pronounced midrange elementary frequency response and a lowered smoother high-end response. The tonal response in contrast with different softwoods corresponding to ash and alder is much less advanced with a narrower dynamic vary. Basswood would not excel in clear sounds although when coupled with distortion and overdriven amplifier produces a metal-lead sound a lot favoured by some rock guitarists. It’s used within the building of price range guitars and costly guitars.
  • Cedar turned well-liked within the mid-twentieth century after grasp luthier Jose Ramirez III of Madrid pioneered using crimson cedar as an alternative to the more and more scarce European spruce. It’s now thought-about one of many world’s premier tone woods.
  • Mahogany is a extremely dense, heavy wooden with a high quality, open grain and huge pores. The colour is reddish brown. Tonally, it offers good low frequencies, a compressed mid-range and clean sounding highs. General, its tone is mellow, delicate and heat with a full and thick high quality. Its density offers wonderful maintain and in addition makes it much less prone to dents and scratches. Its density and weight have led some producers to experiment with a thinner physique as seen on the Ibanez S sequence.
  • Nato (also referred to as Japanese Mahogany) is a local wooden from the Caribbean and South America. Nato is just not a mahogany although its look and tonal similarities to mahogany has led to it getting used on guitars as a mahogany substitute. It is usually a industrial grade wooden utilized in cupboard constructing. It has a vibrant tone with pronounced midrange however lacks in sensitivity and punch in contrast with mahogany. Nato is utilized by the producer B.C. Wealthy for his or her Murderer vary.
  • Maple is used for the backs and sides of dearer acoustics just like the J200 sequence by Gibson. Although not usually used as a desk for flat-topped devices; it’s the wooden of alternative for arched high guitars, mandolins, and the violin household of devices. Its normally white in coloration with tight pores and skinny grain traces. There are two important forms of American maple:
(1) Japanese Arduous Maple (also referred to as Arduous Rock Maple or Sugar Maple and normally related to maple syrup) is a superb tonewood. As named, it is rather onerous and dense with a medium weight which makes it tough to work and subsequently it’s normally reserved for necks. When used for the physique, it offers a vibrant sound with very robust highs and higher mid-range however quieter bass frequencies. General, onerous maple has a really lengthy maintain. Japanese onerous maple can exhibit a determine (grain sample) referred to as the chook’s eye whose aesthetic attraction has led to it getting used for guitar tops and backs normally bookmatched.
(2) Western Smooth Maple (also referred to as Huge Leaf Maple) is far lighter in weight than Arduous Maple. It has a vibrant tone with good chunk and assault although not as brittle as onerous maple. Its tonal qualities produce singing highs with a decent low-end. This type of maple is usually seen with a determine referred to as flame or curl and fewer generally a determine referred to as quilt.
  • Rosewood is used for the backs and sides of acoustics and in addition for fingerboards. It possesses an especially excessive density which makes for an acoustically reflective tone wooden. Its coloration is darkish brown with reddish, purple or orange streaks working by way of it. There are a lot of types of rosewood which might be appropriate for guitar building.
  • Poplar is a wooden utilized by producers of price range guitars most notably Danelectro who use masonite (high and again) glued to a poplar body (sides). Its a closed grain wooden with a greyish-green coloration and much like alder in weight and tone. As a result of resurgence of curiosity in price range guitars from the 1950s onwards some trendy reissues that use poplar are comparatively costly.
  • European Spruce is a premium tonewood used within the design of many stringed devices together with the violin, viola and lute. Growing shortage has resulted in using substitutes such because the North American species of spruce and crimson cedar.
  • Walnut is a medium onerous wooden with a powerful grain sample. Its physique has a relentless density. Walnut is more durable, heavier and extra dense than mahogany and subsequently nearer to maple. Tonally, it’s hotter than maple with a strong low-end. The mid-range is comparatively advanced and the high-end is clean and vibrant. As a consequence of its density it offers good maintain.

Physique high[edit]

Some electrical guitars have an additional high added to the physique to mix the tonal qualities of various kinds of wooden collectively. Maple with figuring is a well-liked high and produces a pronounced look and tone (provides brightness). Physique tops should not used on acoustics because the layering of two items of wooden for the desk would inhibit the resonance and uninteresting the tone.


The bridge is discovered on the decrease bout of the physique and types one one finish of the vibrating size of the strings, the opposite finish being the nut, which is situated on the finish of the fretboard. On most electrical guitars, the peak of the bridge is adjustable by screws, permitting the guitars motion – distance that the strings sit above the frets – to be raised or lowered. On most electrics, the horizontal place of the bridge saddles can also be screw-adjustable, permitting the guitar’s intonation to be set by the consumer. These changes are mentioned additional within the Adjusting the Guitar part.

Relying on the guitar, the strings might terminate on the bridge or simply go over it.

The bridge of an acoustic consists of two elements: a saddle and the tie block. Saddles are both a chunk of plastic or polished bone. Acoustic guitar saddles are made with a clean high edge (no notches) and the bottom of the saddle is seated in a groove minimize into the tie block. The wooden tie block of a classical guitar is glued to the decrease bout and acts as a string terminator. A classical guitar string is pushed by way of the outlet within the tie block and the string is then introduced again below itself three or 4 instances and pulled tight to kind a knot. As soon as the saddle is seated within the groove of the tie block the strain of the strings clamp it.

Metal string acoustics even have a saddle and tie block although because of the strings having terminating finish balls there isn’t any must knot. The ball finish of the string is thrust right into a vertical gap within the tie block and secured with a pin. The place and peak of the saddle and tie block on acoustics are set by the producer, and normally don’t require consumer adjustment. Changes to the peak of the acoustic saddle are doable by shaving (decreasing) the saddle although this job is greatest left to a luthier since if an excessive amount of is taken off, a brand new saddle will required except one resorts to the temporizing measure of shims.

The design of bridges varies between producers and the above generic descriptions might not apply to some guitars.

Fretboard and Frets[edit]

The fretboard is a chunk of wooden that’s glued to the entrance of the neck. These are generally made from rosewood although different onerous woods corresponding to ebony might also be used. Embedded within the fretboard are a variety of metallic frets (fret-wire) normally numbering twenty one to twenty-four. Strings are pressed down behind a fret which adjustments the size that’s left free to vibrate thereby producing a special word. A easy demonstration is to be discovered on the twelfth fret. On all guitars that is the fret that divides the string precisely in half and produces a word an octave larger than the open word. Any open string that maintains its unique pressure and is halved produces its octave. This is applicable to all stringed devices together with the piano and violin.

There are a number of fret designs. Jumbo frets are larger and wider than regular frets and require much less fretboard contact to sound a transparent word. Medium frets are nearer to the board and should be firmly in touch with the fretboard to sound a transparent word. Some guitarist desire jumbo frets because of the ease with which you’ll be able to bend strings and the quicker play supplied by much less fretboard contact. As with many design components of the guitar this can be a subjective space that’s extra private choice relatively than benefit. Good approach is just not depending on fret measurement

The primary fret is the one nearest the nut. Some producers place a zero fret instantly after the nut and the strings sit on the zero fret. This brings the sound of the open strings nearer to the standard of a fretted word.

A fretboard might have ornamental inlays on the third, fifth, seventh, ninth and 12th frets which function markers for the positions of the guitar. Fretboard inlays might be extremely ornamental or easy shapes and on costly guitars could also be produced from unique materials like mom of pearl or abalone.


The headstock lies on the finish of the guitar’s neck. The aim of the headstock is to help the tuners, which terminates the strings of the instrument. The tuners are hooked up to tuning pegs and this permits the guitarist to decrease or elevate the pitch of the string. A secondary function of the headstock is identification and lots of guitar producers select to make use of a particular headstock form usually together with the title of the mannequin and a trademark emblem. On some guitars the mannequin title and trademark emblem could also be created utilizing inlaid supplies although decals are additionally generally used.


The neck generally is a single piece of wooden or a number of items glued collectively and minimize to form. The fretboard is a separate piece of wooden that’s hooked up to the neck. Necks might be glued to the physique (set neck) or bolted on. Set necks are normally discovered on acoustic guitars and lots of different devices together with the violin, lute and cello. The bolt-on neck is a design function extra generally related to electrical guitars. Most necks are wooden although various supplies corresponding to carbon fibre composites have been used.


All strings go by way of a nut on the headstock finish of the fretboard. Its perform is to take care of right string spacing and alignment in order that the strings feed into their respective tuning pegs. On acoustic guitars the nut and saddle are normally made from the identical materials. Electrical guitars generally use plastic or artificial nuts although generally metallic is used. As tremolo bars may cause tuning issues, guitars outfitted with them normally have some method of locking nut, the place the strings are clamped down.

Tip: Some guitarists lubricate the nut grooves in order that the strings transfer extra easily. You are able to do this at house with a delicate graphite pencil. There is no want for extreme marking with the pencil just some swipes by way of the groove ought to deposit sufficient graphite.

Choose Guard[edit]

Guitars, in widespread with all wooden devices, are liable to dents, scratches and put on. A choose guard (also referred to as a scratch plate) protects the physique of the guitar on the level of most contact. Some electrical guitars have raised choose guards so your choose is directed out and away from the pots and strings. Choose guards generally want changing on account of put on or injury. Within the case of an costly or uncommon guitar, which can have a tortoise shell choose guard, the guitar should be despatched to an skilled luthier.

Sound Gap[edit]

Sound holes are discovered on all acoustics. Their function is to permit the air stress to remain equalized in order that the soundboard can vibrate. Archtop guitars have f-shaped sound holes – a design function they share with the violin, viola, cello and double bass. Spherical sound holes normally have a adorned edge based mostly on a geometrical design often called a rosette. On trendy guitars these decorations are machine-made although some luthiers of pricey guitars nonetheless use the standard methodology of laying by hand small items of unique materials like mom of pearl.

Truss Rod[edit]

Metal-strung guitars, whether or not acoustic or electrical, have a metallic truss rod that runs the size of the neck below the fretboard. Strengthening the neck with a truss rod counteracts the strain exerted by the strings and permits the curvature of the neck to be adjusted. Classical guitars don’t require a truss rod because of the decrease pressure of nylon strings. Some cheaper steel-string acoustics do not need a truss rod. Adjusting the truss rod can have a marked influence on the tuning and playability of a guitar.

Truss rod changes must be carried out with nice care as it’s doable to break the neck or the truss rod. Overtightening is very to be prevented as a result of if the truss rod snaps or its threads strip, a really concerned restore job will probably be necessitated. For that reason, the truss rod nut ought to solely be tightened one quarter flip at a time. It ought to then be left alone for a day so the neck has time to imagine the brand new form. If additional adjustment is important, repeat the method – 1 / 4 flip, max. If one is just not mechanically inclined, truss rod adjustment must be deferred to somebody who’s, together with maybe a guitar repair-person.

Tuning Pegs[edit]

The strings are tensioned via tuning pegs, also referred to as tuners, tuning machines, or machine heads. A excessive gear ratio provides smoother, simpler tuning however is just not important. A guitar might be tuned efficiently even with pretty low cost tuners. Most guitar tuning issues originate in different areas, particularly string sticking within the nut slots, and soiled or worn strings.

As a result of pressure of the strings and the fixed turning of the pegs the screws that safe the tuners to the headstock might loosen. It is suggested that you just verify that they’re screwed in tightly although keep away from over-tightening which can trigger alignment issues or injury the screw head or the wooden.

Electrical Guitar[edit]


Three magnetic pickups on an electrical guitar. From left to proper they’re a humbucker and two single coils.

A pickup is a magnet wrapped in a coil of wire. When a string is plucked the vibration of the string causes the magnetic flux to range, inducing a voltage within the coil. That is then amplified and performed by way of a speaker.

Humbucking pickups use two coils having reverse polarity, positioned in magnetic fields of wrong way. The result’s that the sign from the strings is doubled, whereas electromagnetic noise from different sources is cancelled. Thus humbucking pickups, or “humbuckers”, have much less hum and different objectionable noise pickup than single-coil pickups. Nevertheless, having two coils in sequence, their inductance is usually larger, which decreases their high-frequency response in order that they sound much less vibrant than single-coils. Humbuckers are additionally much less in a position to reproduce very excessive harmonic frequencies of the string as a result of their magnetic area is much less localised than the sector of a single coil pickup.

Energetic pickups are pickups with a in-built preamplifier. This may cut back noise pickup and cut back sign losses within the guitar wire. In opposition to these benefits should be weighed value and the truth that an influence supply should be supplied for the preamplifier. The ability supply generally is a 9 volt battery on the guitar, or “phantom energy” piped in by way of the guitar wire.

Passive single coils are the usual pickup for Fender Stratocasters. They’ve a vibrant and twangy clear sound however historically have a comparatively low output voltge. They’re prone to noise pickup from transformers – together with the transformer in your amp –, neon indicators, and different AC electrical gear. This may occasionally or is probably not a vital drawback, relying in your bodily location, and on whether or not you employ a clear sound or a sound with lots of amplifier compression/distortion which is able to make electromagnetic noise pickup extra noticeable and extra of an issue.
Some single coils, such because the P-90, are bigger than common single coils, and thus hotter than a normal single coil. Nevertheless they nonetheless retain extra of a single coil sound and nonetheless can pick-up background hum. One other single coil design is the Lipstick, generally discovered on Danelectro Guitars, the place your entire pickup is positioned in a metallic enclosure with a small hole left between the 2 metallic halves. Lipstick pickups are usually vibrant sounding and the metallic case leads to some discount of hum. Energetic single-coils can have larger output and enhanced sensitivity.

Humbuckers present a heat and fats sound. They usually have the next output voltage than single-coils which fits them to overdriving an amplifier in order to create a heavy sound with numerous maintain and distortion. Some humbuckers permit coil faucet (utilizing solely one of many coils) or parallel connection which offers a sound much like a single coil.

Pickups of each sort are present in all genres of music, though single-coils, with their vibrant, twangy sound are sometimes related to nation; and humbuckers producing thick, heat sounds with the rhythm taking part in in rock. In heavy metallic music, humbuckers are the norm due to the need of getting a low-noise pickup when the amplifier acquire is so excessive.

Pickup Preparations[edit]

There are a lot of completely different preparations for pickups. Essentially the most fundamental is a single pickup close to the bridge.

  • S + S – the unique Telecaster design makes use of two single coils. Telecasters have a percussive twang with numerous treble. Even when utilizing thick single coils, as discovered on the Fender Jazzmaster and Gibson Les Paul P90, the tone is extra emphasised on the treble aspect.
  • S + S + S – three single coils are normal on Fender Stratocasters and Stratocaster copies.
  • H + S + S – used on Stratocasters which are sometimes referred to as Fats Strats to tell apart them from the usual three single coil Stratocaster. The pick-up on the bridge is changed by a humbucker. A favorite with guitarists who need the clear tone of single coils and the hum-free fats tone of a humbucker.
  • H + H – the usual configuration for the Gibson Les Paul. Also referred to as the Double Fats Strat configuration when mounted on a Stratocaster physique.
  • H + S + H – discovered on the Steve Vai signature mannequin by Ibanez and a favorite pickup association for metallic guitarists. Stratocasters utilizing this configuration are referred to as Tremendous Strats.
  • H + H + H – the usual pickup association for the Gibson Firebird VII, SG Customized and Les Paul

Pickup Selector[edit]

Each electrical guitar, besides these with a single pickup, has a pickup selector. Guitars with two pickups have a three-way change which permits the guitarist to pick out both the neck pickup or the bridge pickup. When the change is within the center place each pickups are used.

On guitars with three pickups there’s normally a 5 manner change. The positions are:

  • neck pickup
  • neck-middle
  • center pickup
  • middle-bridge
  • bridge pickup

Tremolo Bar[edit]

A tremolo bar alters the pitch of the strings. Pushing down on the bar lowers the pitch of the strings and pulling up raises the pitch. Quickly pushing and releasing will produce a modulation in pitch referred to as vibrato. Vibrato is usually confused with tremolo, a quantity modulation impact discovered on amplifiers, therefore the misnomer tremolo bar. Initially used only for vibrato; the trendy enhancements in guitar design, amplifiers and results has allowed guitarists to create a brand new palette of tremolo bar sound results like the favored dive bomb.

The Fender Stratocaster proven right here has a number of pickups, a whammy bar and quantity and tone controls.

There are 4 sorts of tremolo:

  • Bigsby tremolo – fitted on the backside finish of the physique and with a restricted pitch bend on each up and down. These distinctive wanting tremolos are usually discovered on archtop guitars. Due to its restricted vary, it holds its tuning and is extra steady than different non-locking tremolos that permit wider pitch bends.
  • Classic synchronized tremolo – (generally referred to as the strat-type tremolo) can solely down bend. This sort of tremolo is extra steady than the floating bridge tremolo although nonetheless liable to tuning issues.
  • Floating bridge tremolo – this design permits huge bends of a tone or extra in both path although this significantly impacts tuning stability. Poorly designed floating bridges on low cost guitars must be prevented because the flexibility of the design calls for the best high quality in building and parts to make sure tuning stability.
  • Floyd Rose locking tremolo – this design locks the strings subsequently making certain that the unique pressure of the strings should not affected by the tremolo bar and the strings return to their unique pressure after use. The locking tremolo makes altering strings and tuning barely extra difficult although as soon as in tune the locking tremolo maintains tuning stability much better than non-locking designs. You continue to must verify your tuning each time you play since tuning is affected by different components, corresponding to shifting from a chilly room to a scorching room, and the locking tremolo doesn’t negate these components.


Nearly all electrical guitars have at the least two pots (potentiometers) to regulate the amount and tone. The standard tone management circuit makes use of the inductance of the pickup’s coil along side an extra capacitor to cut back excessive frequencies when the pot is turned counterclockwise. Close to the minimal place (at about 2 or Three out of 10) there’s normally a noticeable midrange peak or nasality ensuing from the capacitor and inductor resonating with one another. It is a distinctive sound not simply achieved with the tone controls of the amplifier alone.

A Fender Stratocaster will usually have one grasp quantity pot and two tone pots for the neck pickup and center pickup.

Electrical Guitar Necks[edit]

This part describes the completely different strategies used for attaching the neck to an electrical guitar:

Bolt-on neck – the neck is hooked up to the physique with bolts that are held by a mounting plate for elevated stability. The mounting plate could make accessing the upper frets tough so some producers, notably Ibanez, use a hidden plate. The bolt-on neck is a normal design utilized by Fender.

Set neck – the neck is hooked up to the physique with adhesive. That is the strategy used on acoustics and barely is it used for mass-produced electrics. Electrical guitars that function a set neck must be constructed to a excessive normal since as soon as glued on the neck is everlasting and can’t be adjusted. Set necks are generally discovered on extra pricey electrical guitars. Gibson and Epiphone use set necks which is claimed to have these benefits over a bolt-on neck:

  • hotter tone
  • extra maintain
  • higher entry to larger frets

Via-body neck – the neck extends your entire size of the physique. The strings, fretboard, pickups and bridge are all mounted on the thru-body neck. The ears or wings (the bouts) are hooked up or glued to the central stick. The wings could also be book-matched as a way to give a symmetrical look.

The thru-body neck is normally discovered on high-end guitars because the design is just not favoured by mass-production producers. It’s extra widespread on basses than guitars. The thru-body neck permits simpler entry to the upper frets as a result of there isn’t any heel and is taken into account by some guitarists to supply higher maintain.


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