Parts of the Guitar – Anatomy Lesson

Parts of the Guitar Anatomy

Wondering what all of the different parts of the guitar are called? All will be revealed in my huge guitar anatomy guide below!

In this article, you will master the names of all of the important parts of both electric and acoustic guitar. In addition, we will also go over the function of each and every part so that you know exactly what they all do.

As a guitarist, it is super-useful to know how all of the different parts function and work together, so I encourage you to keep reading past the basic diagrams at the start of this post to really bump up your knowledge!

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Basic Parts of the Guitar

We’ll take a closer look at the guitar parts names below, but first, let’s break down the instrument into its 3 basic sections.

Main Guitar Sections Diagram
  • The body of a guitar is the part where you strum or pick the strings.
  • The neck is the section you hold with your fretting hand.
  • The head (or headstock) is where you tune the guitar.

These sections are the same on all types of guitar, with the exception of headless guitars which are designed without a headstock.

Not too difficult so far, right?

Next up we’ll take a look at both the acoustic and electric guitar parts in greater detail. And for those who are super-keen, we’ll go even further in-depth afterward.

Acoustic Guitar Parts Diagram

First up, let’s examine the acoustic guitar! I’ve put together this handy acoustic guitar parts diagram which identifies the majority of the main parts on the instrument.

Acoustic Guitar Parts Diagram

All of these parts are thoroughly explored and explained in the second half of this article.

Electric Guitar Parts Diagram

Now that you’ve got the acoustic guitar sections licked, we’ll take a look at an electric guitar parts diagram.

You’ll notice that many parts are exactly the same as those found on the acoustic guitar above, with a few notable differences.

Once you’ve memorized all of the different names, head to the next section where we’ll examine each of the parts in these two diagrams in greater detail.

Electric Guitar Parts Diagram

Guitar Parts Explained – The Headstock

Let’s now take a look at each of the parts mentioned above to find out exactly what they are and what they do!

We’ll start at the headstock and then work our way down.

As explained above, the headstock (often called the head) is the section at the top of the guitar where you will tune your strings.

Guitar Headstock Parts Diagram

Tuners

With the exception of headless guitars (which do not have a head), the tuners will be located on the headstock. The tuners are composed of many individual parts (tuning pegs, tuning posts, etc), but as a whole, we can just refer to the full piece as a tuner.

As you would expect, you will find 6 tuners on a regular 6-string guitar. The most common tuner layouts are either 6 in-line (6 in a straight line), or 3+3 (3 on either side). In the diagram above, the Fender Stratocaster headstock on the left has a 6 in-line layout, while the Gibson Les Paul on the right has a 3+3 configuration.

Other less common layouts include 5+2, which you will often find on Music Man guitars.

The part of the tuner that you turn to tighten or loosen the string is called the tuning peg (or tuning button). The section through which you thread and wind the string is the tuning post. There are other parts to a tuner, but these are the two most important to know.

Learn how best to tune your guitar in my huge guide to guitar tuners.

String Tree

On some guitars such as a Fender Stratocaster (shown above on the left), you will also find a string tree on the headstock. Your strings ‘hook’ underneath the arms of the string tree. The function of these is to provide a little extra pressure to ensure that the string stays firmly seated within the nut.

In addition, they provide extra sustain (the note will ring out for longer) when the string is played open (not fretted).

Truss Rod Cover

On some headstocks, you will notice a little plastic section located just above the nut, and underneath the strings. This is simply to cover the cavity where you can adjust the truss rod and is purely aesthetic.

On other guitars, the access hole is left exposed (such as on the Fender Stratocaster above), or may be located at the other end of the fretboard where it joins the body.

You can learn more about the function of the truss rod below.

Nut

The nut is a strip of slotted material at the top of the fretboard that holds the strings in place. Each slot is a different width so as to snugly accommodate each individual string.

Along with the bridge (see below), it defines where the vibrating length of the string ends.

The most common materials from which a nut can be made include plastic, bone, graphite, brass, and various synthetic materials such as Corian or Tusq.

Guitar Parts Explained – The Neck

Guitar Neck Parts Diagram

As you’ve seen in the diagram at the top of this page, the neck is the section of the guitar between the body and headstock. When playing guitar, your thumb will be located on the back of the neck. You cannot see the front of the neck as it is covered by the fretboard.

It’s important to note that the neck is not the same as the fretboard, something that people often get confused with.

The most common woods that necks are made from are maple and mahogany. More exotic necks might be made from woods such as rosewood, ebony, wenge, walnut, and many, many others.

Some will be carved from one solid piece of wood, whilst others might be constructed by laminating (joining) several layers of wood together.

Fretboard (or Fingerboard)

The fretboard (also known as the fingerboard) is a thin slab of wood that is glued to the top of the neck. Different types of wood are used to affect tone, as well as the feel of the fingerboard.

The most common woods used as fretboards include maple, rosewood, and ebony. You can find out more about fretboard woods in my guide.

If you closely examine a fingerboard you’ll notice that it isn’t completely flat, but actually slightly curved. This is called the fretboard radius. The larger the radius is, the flatter the fretboard will feel to play.

Frets

Along the length of the fretboard, you will find short lengths of metal wire called frets. When you press your fingers down on the strings they will contact the frets and determine what notes are played.

Typically, most guitars have between 19 and 24 frets.

Traditionally, frets are made from a mix of nickel, copper, and some other materials such as zinc and lead. Another popular option is stainless steel, which is much harder wearing (but also much more expensive!).

Various thicknesses of fret wire are also available, which can greatly affect the feel of your guitar.

Truss Rod

A guitar’s truss rod is an adjustable metal bar that runs through the middle of the neck, just underneath the fretboard. Its function is to allow for adjustment of the relief (curvature) of the neck, and to help stabilize it against the force of the strings.

Without a truss rod, the neck might bow significantly under the pressure and make playing difficult.

The neck can also warp due to the effects of humidity and temperature. Find out how humidity can destroy your guitar!

The nut where you can adjust the truss rod is usually located underneath the truss rod cover on the headstock, or at the neck where it meets the body.

Inlays (or Fret Markers)

Along the length of the fretboard, you will find a series of dots, blocks, or more intricate markings which indicate fret numbers. These are also commonly referred to as fret markers or position markers.

They are usually found at frets 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 21, and 24. Frets 12 and 24 (if your guitar has 24 frets) will usually have a different inlay design to indicate these octave positions. For example, 2 dots rather than 1.

In addition, you will probably also find position markers on the side of the fretboard, usually in the form of small dots.

Common inlay materials include plastic, abalone, mother of pearl, paua, and wood. A modern option that has become popular is Luminlay, a special glow-in-the-dark material that is super handy on dark stages.

Skunk Stripe

On some guitars, you will find a thin strip of wood that runs down the back of the neck. This is simply a decorative filling to cover the cavity where the truss rod is inserted.

Find out more about the truss rod below.

Neck Plate

A guitar neck plate helps to spread the load of the pressure exerted by the screws where the neck is mounted to the body. They are only found on guitars with bolt-on necks.

Guitar Parts Explained – The Body

The body is the section of the guitar where you will strum or pick the strings. We’ll start off by looking at the parts more commonly found on the body of an electric guitar, but later on, we’ll also look at parts that are more exclusive to acoustic guitars.

Electric Guitar Body Parts Diagram

Strap Buttons

The strap buttons are where you attach your strap to the guitar so that you can play in a standing position.

Most guitars will have two strap buttons, one for each end of your strap, although it is common for acoustic guitars to only have one. The button located at the bottom of your guitar is also called the end pin.

Various designs are available, including strap locks, which securely fasten the strap to the guitar so that it won’t accidentally fall off.

Neck Pocket

In the diagram above I have indicated where the neck pocket is located on the Strat-style guitar. This is the area where the guitar’s neck is seated and bolted or glued into place.

It will be routed so that the connection between the neck and body is as tight and secure as possible. This helps to ensure that the guitar resonates well.

Scratchplate

The scratchplate (or pickguard) is a plastic sheet that serves to protect the guitar body from pick or finger damage over time.

If you look at the acoustic guitar diagram at the top of this page you’ll see that the scratchplate is a simple sheet of plastic. However, on the electric guitar above it is a little more complicated, with the pickups and other controls being incorporated into the pickguard.

Depending on your playstyle you may not need one at all, and indeed many guitars do not come with pickguards as standard.

Pickups

Your guitar’s pickups are responsible for picking up the vibrations from the strings and converting these into sounds which you can hear from your amp or recording device.

The pickup located next to the bridge is called the bridge pickup, and the one nearest the neck is called the neck pickup. The Stratocaster in the diagram above also has a pickup in-between, called the middle pickup. Pretty simple, right?

The most common types are single-coils (shown in the diagram above) which are usually found on Strat and Tele style guitars. They are known for their bright, bell-like tone.

Also typical are humbuckers, which you will generally find on Les Paul style guitars. These are usually twice the width of a single coil and produce a much thicker/ warmer tone.

Pickup Selector Switch

On an electric guitar, the pickup selector switch lets you choose which pickup, or combination of pickups, is currently active.

The two most common types are 3-way and 5-way switches. You will usually find 3-way selectors on guitars with 2 pickups (for example a Gibson Les Paul), and a 5-way selector on guitars with 3 pickups (for example a Fender Stratocaster).

The extra ‘in-between’ positions (e.g. 2 and 4 on a 5-way selector) usually give a blend of two pickups, although a ton of different wiring combinations are available!

Volume and Tone Knobs

These knobs (also known as pots) allow for the adjustment of volume and tone levels of the pickups. Some guitars might only have a single volume knob, while others (such as a Les Paul) might have a volume and tone knob for each separate pickup.

In the diagram above you’ll notice that the Fender Stratocaster usually has 3 knobs. This is one overall volume knob, and then one tone pot each for the middle and neck pickups. So this means that on a Strat you cannot usually adjust the tone of the bridge pickup unless you rewire the guitar!

Acoustic guitars equipped with electronics may also have volume and tone knobs or sliders, as well as other tone-shaping controls.

Bridge

The bridge is where the strings meet the body of the guitar. Along with the nut, it is the other point that determines where the length of the vibrating string ends.

On an electric guitar, there are many different designs of bridge available, offering distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Although there are many styles available, the two main designs are fixed bridges and tremolo bridges. The main difference here is that tremolo bridges have tremolo bars (see below), which allow the player to raise or lower the pitch of the string.

However, on an acoustic guitar, the bridge is much simpler, and most designs are more or less the same. They are usually comprised of a single piece of wood, a saddle, and several bridge pins which clamp the strings in place.

Saddle

On an acoustic guitar, the saddle is a thin strip of plastic or bone that is slotted into the bridge. Its purpose is to hold the strings at the correct height and also to transfer vibration through the bridge, directly to the body. In addition, it also affects the intonation of the guitar.

On an electric guitar, each string usually has its own individual saddle (such as on the Stratocaster above). However, on guitars such as a Fender Telecaster, a 3-saddle assembly is common.

The saddles on an electric guitar will usually have adjustments to raise and lower the height (also known as the action) of the strings. In addition, they also have screws to alter the length of the string to allow for intonation adjustment.

On an acoustic guitar, it is much more difficult to adjust the intonation, however, the string height can be adjusted either by adding plastic shims beneath the saddle, or by removing material from the saddle itself.

Tremolo Arm

As mentioned above, tremolo-style bridges on an electric guitar will come equipped with a tremolo arm (also known as a tremolo bar or whammy bar). These metal bars allow you to either raise or lower the pitch of the strings to create some unique effects.

On a standard tremolo bridge (such as on a Fender Stratocaster) the bar can only be pushed down to lower the pitch. However, on a floating tremolo (such as a Floyd Rose), the bar can be both raised and lowered.

Output Jack

Also called the jack socket, this is where you plug in your cable to transfer the signal of the guitar to your pedals or amp. Players often mistakenly refer to it as the input jack.

Acoustic Guitar Body Parts Diagram

Heel

A guitar heel (also known as the neck joint) connects the neck of the guitar to the body. On acoustic guitars, the heel will be glued in the majority of cases.

Cutaway

A guitar cutaway is where a section of the guitar’s upper body has been ‘cut away‘ to allow access to the higher frets. On an acoustic guitar, it also gives a slightly less ‘traditional’ aesthetic that many players prefer.

A Gibson Les Paul has a body shape similar to the acoustic guitar above, and would be referred to as a single-cutaway guitar (single-cut). A Gibson SG has two cutaways and can be referred to as a double-cut guitar.

Body Top, Back, and Sides

The main parts of a hollow-body guitar are called the top, back, and sides. There are no prizes for guessing which part is which!

On cheaper guitars, all parts may be constructed from a laminate of woods. This helps to keep the cost down but doesn’t offer the same tonal benefits as more expensive solid wood.

As the price increases, you will generally find guitars where the top (also known as the soundboard) is made from solid wood. At the higher end, the top, back, and sides are all made from solid wood.

Sound Hole

An acoustic guitar’s soundhole is the opening located on the top (or soundboard) of the instrument. Its purpose is to open up the body of the guitar in order to release the internal sound vibrations which would otherwise be trapped inside the guitar.

It also enjoys ‘eating‘ your guitar picks should you accidentally drop them!

Rosette

On an acoustic guitar, the rosette is the decorative line of material that circles the soundhole.

Originally they were used to help stop cracking of the wood around the sound hole, but today they are purely an aesthetic addition. In fact, some are so nice that you can actually buy protective coverings to help keep them in tip-top condition!

Binding

The binding on a guitar is another popular decorative feature. These thin strips of material are laid along the edges of the guitar’s top and back where they join the sides.

In addition, binding can also often be found on the sides of the fretboard or headstock.

Thanks For Reading

I hope that you found this article helpful in your quest to understand the different parts of a guitar – almost every part serves an important purpose. Please share this with friends who may also benefit from the information.

If you have any further questions please feel free to send me an email.

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