March 22, 2024

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert manager of London Guitar Institute is passionate about adult education. He believes that absolutely anyone can learn to play the guitar and it is just a matter of getting good education and getting started.

If you find yourself reading this article, you’re probably on a quest to deepen your understanding of guitars. These instruments, crafted with precision by luthiers, stand as pillars of musical expression, offering a rich palette of sounds and textures.

Understanding the anatomy of a guitar, along with the specialised terminology used to describe its parts, is crucial for anyone looking to master the instrument or simply to appreciate the artistry behind its creation.

Join us as we dissect the guitar, piece by piece, in a journey that promises to enhance your knowledge and connection to this musical icon.

Acoustic and electric guitar

But first, what is a guitar?

A guitar is a musical instrument with strings that you can play by strumming, picking, or pressing down on the strings to make sounds. When you pluck or strum the strings, they vibrate and create sound waves. These sound waves travel through the hollow body of the guitar, which acts like a resonating chamber, amplifying and shaping the sound. The vibrations are then transmitted through the neck of the guitar and into the air, producing the beautiful music we hear.

Guitars can be acoustic, which means they make sound without needing electricity, or electric, which uses pickups to convert the vibrations into electrical signals that are then amplified through speakers. Whether acoustic or electric, guitars are loved by musicians and audiences alike for the wide range of sounds they can produce.

Now, let’s jump into the anatomy of a guitar and terms you need to know:

Guitar head


The headstock is found at the end of the neck, like the guitar’s head. It’s where you’ll see the tuning pegs or machine heads, which you use to make the strings tighter or looser to get the right sounds. It’s a bit like tuning a radio to find your favourite station! Sometimes, the headstock also has the name of the guitar brand written on it, like a sort of badge. So, it’s not just for tuning; it’s also like the guitar’s own little name tag.

Hand tuning guitar

Tuning key

Tuning keys, also known as tuning pegs or machine heads, are small knobs located on the headstock of the guitar. They’re attached to gears that adjust the tension of the guitar strings when you turn them. By tightening or loosening the strings with these keys, you can change the pitch of each string to make sure the guitar is in tune.

It’s like turning the knobs on a toy to tighten or loosen strings until they sound just right. Each string has its own tuning key, and by carefully adjusting them, you make sure your guitar sounds harmonious and ready to play beautiful music.

Guitar nut


The nut is a tiny part that hangs out between the headstock and the neck of the guitar. It’s often made from stuff like bone or other strong materials. Think of it like a little bridge that guides the strings to where they need to go on the headstock.

You know how your shoelaces go through the holes on your shoes? Well, it’s a bit like that, but for guitar strings. This little piece is super important because it helps keep the strings in line and at the right height. Just like how the right shoes make walking easier, the nut makes sure your guitar strings stay in tune and play nicely.

Guitar neck


The neck of a guitar is like its long arm that reaches out from the body. It holds up the fretboard, where you press down the strings to make different sounds. This part is where all the magic happens! You see, it’s got these little metal bars called frets that help create different notes when you press the strings against them.

How comfortable the guitar feels in your hands depends a lot on the neck’s shape and size. So, when it comes to playing, the neck plays a huge role in how easy or hard it is to strum your favourite tunes.

Hand playing guitar


Frets are like little metal lines that sit on the fretboard, spaced out just right. They’re kind of like markers that help you know where to press down the strings to make different sounds. You see, when you press a string behind a fret, it makes the string shorter, which changes the sound it makes. It’s like pressing a button to make a toy car go faster!

The way these frets are laid out also affects how well the guitar stays in tune and how long it is from one end to the other. So, frets are like the secret helpers that make sure your guitar sounds just right when you play it.

Guitar fret board

Fretboard or Fingerboard

The fretboard, also called the fingerboard, is like a smooth, flat road on top of the neck of the guitar. Usually, it’s made from wood, like the same kind they use to make furniture. Picture a smooth piece of wood where you put your fingers when you play guitar.

Now, it’s got these little metal lines called frets all along it. When you press the strings down behind these frets, it changes the sound the string makes. It’s a bit like changing gears on a bike; each fret is like a different gear, giving you different notes when you press down. So, the fretboard is where you do all the fancy fingerwork to make music on the guitar!

Guitar on leather bag

Position makers

Position markers are small dots or shapes typically found on the fretboard of a guitar. They serve as visual guides to help players navigate the fretboard and locate specific frets or positions while playing.

Common positions for markers include the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, and twelfth frets, although they can vary depending on the guitar’s design.

Man grinding guitar body


The body of a guitar, typically made from wood, serves as the central structure housing the components responsible for producing sound. Its shape and size significantly impact the guitar’s tone and resonance. Various body styles, such as dreadnought, concert, jumbo, and classical, offer different sound characteristics.

For instance, the dreadnought produces a powerful, booming sound suitable for strumming chords, while the classical guitar delivers mellow tones ideal for fingerstyle playing. Understanding these distinctions helps players choose a guitar that aligns with their musical preferences and playing style.

Guitar focus on strings


Strings are the heart of the guitar, running from the headstock, over the neck and fretboard, and down to the bridge on the body. They’re made from nylon or metal and vibrate when you pluck, strum, or pick them, producing the guitar’s sound.

The guitar usually has six strings, but some types have more or less, each one tuned to a specific note. When you press down a string at different frets, it shortens the vibrating length, creating a range of musical notes and melodies. Strings are like the guitar’s voice, allowing it to sing, whisper, roar, or cry, depending on how you play them.

Man woking on guitar


The pickguard is like a shield made of plastic or something similar that goes on the body of the guitar under the strings. It’s there to keep the guitar safe from any scratches or marks when you strum or pick the strings.

Imagine it’s like a superhero’s armour, protecting the guitar from harm while you’re playing. So, the pickguard isn’t just for looks; it’s like the guitar’s own bodyguard, keeping it safe from any accidental bumps or scrapes.

Acoustic guitar soundhole


Located on the body of an acoustic guitar, the soundhole serves as a vital opening that allows the sound produced by the strings to escape outward. It’s like a window that lets the music out into the world. This opening is crucial because it helps the guitar to be louder and creates a fuller, richer sound.

Without the soundhole, the guitar’s sound would be quieter and more muted. Additionally, the size and shape of the soundhole can affect the guitar’s tone and resonance, just like how changing the size of a window can affect the amount of light that comes into a room. So, the soundhole isn’t just a simple opening; it’s a key part of what makes the guitar sound the way it does.

Man fixing guitar pickups


Pickups are like little magnets on electric guitars that can feel when the strings move. They turn these movements into electricity, which then gets made louder by an amplifier. It’s kind of like how a microphone listens to your voice and makes it louder through speakers.

These pickups are really important because they help give the guitar its special sound. Depending on the pickup, the guitar can sound bright and twangy or smooth and mellow. So, pickups aren’t just magnets; they’re like the ears of the guitar, helping it sing its own unique song.

Guitar pickup selector switch

Pickup selector switch (electric guitar)

The pickup selector switch is a control found on electric guitars that allows players to choose between different pickups or combinations of pickups. Each pickup captures the sound of the strings in a unique way, and the selector switch enables players to access various tonal options to suit their preferences or playing style.

This switch is commonly positioned near the guitar’s bridge or on the guitar’s body within easy reach of the player’s picking hand.

Guitar volume and tone control

Volume and tone controls

On electric guitars, you’ll often find knobs or switches called volume and tone controls. These let you change how loud the guitar is and what it sounds like. It’s a bit like adjusting the volume and bass on a stereo to make the music sound just right. These controls are super handy because they let you tweak the sound to fit whatever kind of music you’re playing.

So, they’re not just buttons; they’re like the DJ’s tools, letting you fine-tune your guitar’s sound to match your style.

Guitar saddle


The saddle is a small component located on the bridge of the guitar. It serves as a support for the strings and helps to maintain their proper spacing and alignment. The saddle also plays a crucial role in transferring the vibrations of the strings to the guitar’s body, contributing to the instrument’s overall tone and resonance.

In some guitars, the saddle can be adjusted to fine-tune the string height, intonation, and overall playability of the instrument.

Guitar bridge


The bridge is like a little platform on the body of the guitar where the strings hang out. It helps keep them in place and makes sure their vibrations travel through the guitar’s body to make sound. It’s a bit like how a drum makes noise when you hit it.

Sometimes, the bridge has slots where you can adjust how high the strings sit and how well they stay in tune. So, the bridge isn’t just a place for the strings to hang out; it’s like the stage where all the action happens, making sure your guitar sounds its best.

Electric guitar output jack

Output jack (electric guitar)

The output jack is a socket or receptacle found on electric guitars that allows the electrical signal produced by the pickups to be transferred to an amplifier or other audio equipment.

When a cable is plugged into the output jack, it establishes a connection between the guitar and the external device, enabling the amplified sound of the guitar to be heard through speakers or headphones. The output jack is a crucial component for electric guitarists, as it facilitates the transmission of their music to an audience or recording device.


Understanding the anatomy of a guitar and familiarising yourself with the associated terminology empowers you to better appreciate and utilise this iconic instrument.

Whether you’re strumming an acoustic ballad or shredding an electric solo, the intricate interplay of components within the guitar’s anatomy contributes to its timeless allure and musical versatility.

So, pick up your guitar, explore its anatomy, and embark on a musical journey filled with creativity and expression!

Tags: guitar, Guitar anatomy, Guitar deconstructed, Parts of the guitar

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Tags: guitar, Guitar anatomy, Guitar deconstructed, Parts of the guitar