Despite the simplicity guitars as an instruments, they still feature a modest quantity of parts that contribute to their richness and complexity of sounds. This section will deal with the main parts of the guitar and their uses. Let’s take a closer look at each part:
1. Headstock or peg-head. Located at the end of the neck, it contains the machine heads or tuning keys.
2. Tuner keys. They hold the strings and control their tension. The player can alter the pitch of a string or “tune” it, by turning the knobs.
3. Nut. This is small indented strip located right between the fret board and the headstock.The strings are placed in each of the grooves or indentations, providing a steady guide for them. It also marks the start of the vibrating length of the strings.
4. Fret board or fingerboard. It is the flat side of the neck, and it is marked by several metal or bone strips called frets. Most classical guitars offer a completely flat fingerboard, while electric guitars often display a slightly rounded surface. Fret boards are often made of a different wood of that of the neck.
5. Frets. Each one of the metal or bone strips that crosses the fingerboard. When a string is pressed against a fret, its vibrating length is shortened producing a higher pitch when struck. Each fret represents a half-note interval. Most guitars have between 20 and 24 frets.
6. Neck. While it can be thought that only the long portion of the guitar can be called a neck, in the guitar world all previously mentioned parts are components of the neck. The wood used in its long portion should be strong enough to hold the tension of the strings without significantly bending. The better the guitar, the stronger the wood used for its neck.
7. Body. It is the largest part of the guitar and where the sound of the strings resonates. Acoustic guitars have a large hollow wooden body, which is also known as the sound box, where the vibration of the strings is amplified. Contrastingly, electric guitars do not always rely on their resonator boxes to produce sounds. Electric guitars might have solid bodies, which can only produce sound through electronic pick-ups, or semi-hollow bodies, which have a resonator chamber but also use pick-ups to amplify their cleaner sound.
8. Pick-ups. These are actually magnetic transducers that capture the vibration of the strings as they interfere with their electromagnetic field. It then translates it to electric signals and sends it to an amplifier, which transforms it to actual sound on a loudspeaker. Electric guitars often have two or three pickups.
9. Pick-guard or scratch plate. Guitars are considered as works of art by many, but playing them, especially with a pick, can ruin their delicate finish. The pick-guard is a plastic or nylon flat piece placed on top of the body to prevent roughing the guitar while playing.
10. Bridge. This straight piece affixed to the body marks the end of the vibrating length of the strings. It also holds them to the body of the guitar. In acoustic guitars it serves to transfer the sound of the strings to the resonance box.
Each part plays a very particular role in the sound and feel of a guitar. Go ahead and try a number of guitars with different set ups, and try to distinguish their differences in sound and playability. It is all part of finding what works for you!