Guitar Anatomy

Steel String Acoustic Guitars

  • Steel String Acoustic Guitars can be divided into 3 main parts: the Guitar Body, the Guitar Neck and the Headstock.  
  • The Acoustic Guitar Body holds the Bridge, the Sound Hole, and the Pickguard while supporting the Guitar Neck and the Headstock.
  • The Bridge – is the elevated piece connected to the front of the Guitar Body that supports the strings.
  • On the Bridge are the Bridge Pins and the Saddle.
  • Bridge Pins lock the Strings in place by anchoring the strings inside small holes on the Bridge. 
  • Saddles hold the Strings in place on the top of the Bridge in an elevated position above the body and the neck.
  • Bridge Pins transfer the Strings Sound Waves or Vibrations (energy) to the Soundboard (the front of the guitar body). 
  • The Bridge and the Pickguard are both attached to the Soundboard.
  • The Pickguard protects the Body from being scratched from playing with a Guitar Pick or Fingernails etc. 
  • Pickguards come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can also be customized. 
  • The back of the body is simply called the Back.
  • The Wood that the Soundboard is made from, shapes most of the Acoustic Guitar’s Tone.
  • Tone is the unique sound of the guitar.
  • Sound Hole is the round opening (hole) on the Soundboard in between the Bridge and the Neck.  Its purpose is to project the sound of the guitar strings more efficiently, creating resonance and volume.
  • Sound Waves travel through the Soundboard and resonate from both the Soundboard and the Sound Hole.
  • Some Guitar Saddles have grooves to hold in place each individual String, some do not.  The main purpose of the Saddle is to raise the height of the strings over the Body and Fingerboard.
  • The Guitar Strings are numbered from the bottom up.  The bottom thinnest string is String #1 and the top (thickest) string is String #6

Acoustic Guitar Bridge

  • The Guitar Neck includes the FingerboardFrets, and Fret Markers.  The Fingerboard is also called the Fretboard. 
  • The Fingerboard holds the Frets.  The Frets are Metal Wires embedded into the Fingerboard
  • Fret Markers are symbols on the Fingerboard itself, and usually denote (mark) the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th Frets.  
  • The Nut separates the Neck and the Headstock, and minimizes the String’s vibration energy moving towards the Headstock. 
  • The Nut has grooves that hold the Strings in place and can be made of many materials, but usually plastic or bone (cow bone).

Steel String Acoustic Guitar Neck and Headstock

  • The Headstock holds the Tuners.
  • Tuners are also called Tuning Pegs and Machine Heads.  
  • The Tuners have holes where the Guitar Strings slide through and then are wrapped around the Posts.
  • Turning the Machine Heads Clockwise tightens the String raising the Pitch.
  • Turning the Machine Head Counter-Clockwise tightens the String lowering the Pitch.
  • Acoustic Guitars have Truss Rods inside the Neck for reinforcement and to allow adjustments.  
  • The Truss Rod is usually accessed inside the Soundhole at the beginning of the Neck.


Electric Guitars

  • The Electric Guitar Body holds the Bridge, Magnetic Pickups, the Output Jack, Pickup Switch, and the Volume and Tone knobs
  • Some Bridges have a Tremolo, sometimes called a ‘Whammy Bar” or a “Trem Bar“.
  • A Tremolo is used to bend the Bridge forward and backward to create a Vibrato effect. 
  • There are many different kinds of Tremeloes with different technologies and mechanics.
  • The term “Tremolo Bridge” is used to describe a bridge with a Tremolo.
  • A Fixed Bridge is a bridge that cannot move and does not have a Tremolo.
  • The Saddles can be adjusted to correct Intonation.
  • Intonation is the process of adjusting the Bridge Saddle for better Pitch Accuracy of the Fretted Notes. 
  • Intonation can also be described as Fretboard Tuning.  
  • The Electric Guitar Bridge and Saddle can also be adjusted to raise and lower the strings. 
  • The Magnetic Pickups pick up the string’s vibrations and transfer it as energy through to the Output Jack.  
  • The Pickup Closest to the Bridge is often referred to as the Bridge Pickup.
  •  The Pickup in the Middle position is referred to as the Middle Pickup.
  • The Pickup closest to the guitar neck is referred to as the Neck Pickup
  • The Output Jack is plugged into a Cable and Output to an Amplifier to Amplify the Sound that is being “picked up” by the magnetic Pickups.
  • The Volume Knobs control the output from the Pickups, therefore controlling the volume. 
  • Tone Knobs control the higher frequencies (the treble).  When the Tone Knobs are turned down, the output will have less treble.

Electric Guitar Body

Electric Guitar Neck and Headstock

  • Electric Guitar Necks on average are thinner than Acoustic Guitar Necks.  
  • Fret Markers are symbols on the Fingerboard itself, and usually denote (mark) the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th Frets.
  • Inlay – an Inlay on the Guitar Neck is a symbol made with decorative materials placed into the Neck itself.
  • The 12th Fret usually has a different Fret Marker Symbol such as two dots instead of one.
  • The Nut is a small piece of hard material that supports the strings near the headstock ending the strings vibration. 
  • Electric Guitar Necks are usually thinner than both Nylon and Steel String Acoustic Guitars, and therefore the strings are closer together.

2 Famous Solid Body Electric Guitar Shapes

Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul guitar shapes

Parts of the Electric Guitar

Nylon String Guitars

  • Nylon Stringed Acoustic Guitars are also sometimes referred to as “Classical Guitars” or “Spanish Guitars”. 
  • These Guitars are mostly used for playing Classical, Latin, Flamenco and other Fingerstyle Guitar music.
  • The Nylon Stringed Acoustic Guitars (Classical/Spanish) usually have the widest Necks.  
  • The wider the neck, the further apart the strings.
  • Nylon String Guitars do not have a Truss Rod.  Do not put Steel Strings on a Guitar made for Nylon Strings.
  • The anatomy and functionality of Nylon String Guitars are mostly the same as Steel String Acoustic Guitars excluding the Truss Rod and the Nylon Strings.

Further Information

  • Frets are the embedded metal bars that rise up from the fingerboard. By pressing your finger tip down on a string behind a fret, (causing the string to be pulled over the top of the Fret) the strings vibration length is shortened thus raising its Pitch.
  • Fingerboards are usually made with Rosewood or Maple (wood). Many other types of woods and materials are also used including synthetics, metals and mixed materials. 
  • Nylon Strings cause less tension on the neck, therefore Nylon String Guitars do not need a Truss Rod.  If you place Steel Strings on a Nylon String Guitar the tension will be to much for the neck.
  • Action describes the distance of the Strings from the Fretboard. With Lower Action, the guitar strings take less effort to push down. 
  • A Guitar Setup (Set Up), is the process of which a Guitar Repair person sets the Action of the Guitar as well as Intonation and other adjustments and repairs.