Parts of the electric guitar … basic guitar anatomy

This article if for the very beginner that wants to know the name of the parts of the electric guitar.

Most electric guitars have the same components but with variations. We will be learning some of these variations along with what they all have in common.

Headstock and it’s components

The top part of the guitar is called the headstock (see picture to the right). I have numbered the parts on the list to correspond with the numbers next to the picture.

1. Tuning pegs…. These are what we turn back and forth to turn the guitar, they have gears in them which allows this turning back and forth. Some people refer to these as just tuners.

2. String retainer… Not all guitars have string retainers. My orange one in the photo is one of those that don’t have them. These help keep the string in line of where it should be. On this Green guitar of mine (picture 2),it is just one long piece that goes across, on some guitars they are smaller pieces that hold 1 string on each side of it.

Picture 2

3. Truss rod / truss rod cover. Some guitars do not have a cover, instead you can see the truss rod in the groove that is located in this spot. The truss rod runs through the length of the neck and is used to make adjustments to the neck. By turning it. (I don’t recommend you messing with the truss rod unless you know what you are doing. Take your guitar to a reputable luthier for adjustments)

4. Nut. The nut is what holds the strings in place by the grooves that are in them. They are made out of different materials such as : Plastic, Metal, Bone, Graphite, Ebony and Ivory,
With some guitars that have whammy systems they have locking nuts that lock the string down to help prevent it from going out of tune when you use the whammy bar,as seen on the green guitar.

Neck 

The Neck of the guitar is the long part that goes from the headstock to the body of the guitar. The neck is where the fingers are placed to produce sounds on the guitar by pressing down on the strings. Each fret has a different sound/tone.

1. Fretboard. The fretboard or as some calls finger board is in the front of the neck are made out of rosewood, ebony or maple. Some maple freboards are part of the neck on some maple neck guitars, in this case it’s all just one piece of wood instead of two

2. Frets. These are metal pieces that are on the neck. Though it’s the metal part that is the fret itself, the space between the metal pieces are usually called frets.

Frets come in a couple different sizes. I prefer Jumbo frets because they allow you to do bends a lot easier since you can get more string on your fingertips due to their height compared to standard frets. Guitars typically have 21 frets, some have 22 or 24 and now days you can find some with even more.

3. Inlays, also known as fret markers help aid in knowing where the frets are quickly by sight. There are numerous types of inlays from dots, squares, shark tooth, birds, crosses, almost anything can be put as a custom inlay, Some guitars don’t have markers on the face of the fretboard, instead just on top of the fretboard and some have makings on both.

Fret markers are usually found on fret numbers 3 5 7 9 and a double marker on12th representing the octave and then 15th 17th 19th 21st and double marker on 24th fret of 24 fret guitars. Some guitars even have one on first fret but that’s not as common

4. Strings … Typical standard guitars have 6 strings but 7 strings are pretty popular now days and even 8 strings are being used in newer music, but it don’t stop there.

Body

The body is made out of various wood. Depending on whether you want a light guitar or heavy guitar depends on what wood is used to construct it. The wood also effects or contributes to other things such as sustain. The body is home for at lot of parts. Here is where you will find the pickups. Volume knob and more. Let’s look at a list.

1. Pickups. Pickups are what causes the guitar to sound through an amp they are made of magnets, wound with metal. There are 2 basic types of pickups. Single coil and Dual coil, commonly referred to as humbuckers.

Some guitars just have 1 pickup, others have 2 or 3 pickups. Pickups close to the neck are neck pickups, the bottom pickup is known as the bridge pickup since it is near the bridge and if there is a pick up in the middle of them it is usually called the middle pick up.

Single coil pickups. A are just one magnetic coil wrapped giving a thin sound

Double coil pickups. B are two magnetic coils wrapped giving a fuller. richer sound

Both single coil and double coil pickups are either passive or you can

get them active. Active pickups require a battery and are more sensitive

and have longer sustain. ( I prefer active pickups over passive they

just seem more powerful)

2. Bridge There are a few different styles of bridges which we will not get in to here, we will just describe the function. Bridges are what the strings rest over and they are used to raise or lower the strings in order to set intonation and action to be able to play in tune once you tune your guitar

 

3 Saddle Saddles are the pieces underneath the string that also help set action and string from fretboard height by moving them forwards and backward

4 Volume knob, usually located closer to the neck, most guitars have at least 1 volume knob that controls the output volume of the guitar. Some guitars have a couple volume knobs that control volumes of individual pickups

 

5. Tone Knob Tone knobs like volume knobs can control the brightness or lower tone in a pick up, again there can be more tone knobs for individual pickups

6 Pick up selector switch A pick up selector switch is a switch that allows you to control which pickups or coils you want the sound to come from. There are 2-way switches,3-way switches,4-way switches and 5-way switches, that allow you to use pickups separately or in different configurations together.

7 Pick Guard My guitars do not have them but I am sure you have seen them on other guitars. As the term applies, a pick guard guards your guitars finish from the pick. Pick guards are made out of different materials and the electronics and wiring are sometimes attached to them

8 Tremolo / whammy bar Not all guitars have whammy bars as they aren’t necessary in order to play. A whammy bar allows you to make a pitch go higher or lower after you strike a string. There are many techniques. To hear the effect of one listen to some Jeff Beck as he uses one a lot and guitarist like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai use it often as well

Conclusion

There you have it a list of the main components of an electric guitar. Though they come in many shapes, sizes and numerous variations with more or fewer gadgets they all require main / common parts in order to play.

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6 thoughts on “Parts of the electric guitar … basic guitar anatomy

  1. Linus Udochukwu Marvellous

    Knowing the various parts of a guitar is the very first step to knowing how to play one. You must first study the anatomy of a guitar and know how they work before ever playing a guitar. You simplified the various parts of an electric guitar in such a way that a beginner can easily understand. I love it

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment. I try to break things down and explain them in a way so that non experienced and experienced alike can understand. According to your comment, the purpose of this article has been achieved

  2. Abbas

    Thanks for your informative post about the anatomy of an electric guitar. My son is getting into guitars so  I will be sharing this post with him. If he has any queries I’m sure he can contact you directly for help. Good to know the difference between active and passive pickups and he mentioned getting a guitar with an active pickup and I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, now I do, Thanks for sharing

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment. There is also beginning lessons on my site, from chords to finger exercises and more to come, so be sure to share my site with your son as there is some valuable information and things that will help him progress along on his guitar playing journey.

  3. Daniel

    I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. Playing the guitar is one of my hobbies and I must say that it relaxes me. Although I play the guitar for over a year I did not know how all these parts are called. Thanks for explaining, I will forward this to my friend, he is just starting with lessons.

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment and thank you for forwarding this to your friend. There are lessons and information on my site that will help both of you out, especially the chord changing exercises for your friend and you if you need work in that department and I have beginner and intermediate finger development exercises that may benefit you both as well

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