The acoustic guitar is probably one of the most popular and well-loved instruments in the entire world. Millions of new learners start with the guitar each year. An important first step on your learning journey is to learn all about the different acoustic guitar parts. Different from electric guitars, an acoustic guitar has fourteen parts in total.
In this guide, we are going through all of the parts of acoustic guitars and what they do.
Table of Contents
Even though the headstock is one of the smaller parts of the guitar, it’s actually one of the most important. Without having a headstock on your guitar you’ll pretty much just have a piece of wood. Typically the headstock of the guitar is a wooden rectangular shape that holds the tuning keys in place.
At the head of the instrument, you will notice the guitar strings wrapped around the various pegs that sit there. The result of this is that the strings stay tight and will remain in the right place. You can easily change the tuning of your guitar by adjusting these pegs which will then loosen or tighten your strings.
The head plays a truly important part in classical guitars. The instrument won’t make any sort of sound without it. If you are a beginner to acoustic guitars you will want to watch out for bumping or hitting the head as this can move the strings. The brand of your guitar will usually have its logo on the headstock too.
If you ever wondered why sometimes your guitar sounds of tune then you want to direct your attention to the tuning keys. The tuning keys have different names including pegheads, machine heads, and tuning machines. They are also an integral part of both acoustic and electric guitars because they help the instrument produce the right sound. Usually, with an acoustic guitar, the tuning keys will be gold or silver and you will find them protruding out of the headstock.
Strings can be manipulated using the tuning keys and when you do, the sound of the string will change. This is because the pegheads either tighten or loosen the string in a process referred to as tuning. For beginners, tuning your guitar can be very difficult. Many newbies make the mistake of tightening the tuning keys too much. Be aware that the more you tighten them, the more risk you have of the string breaking.
Tuning keys are one of the more important guitar parts. If they become damaged or are inaccurate then the sound of the guitar will suffer greatly.
The strings truly are the heart of your instrument. They are what you use to make your songs, chords, and melodies sing out. There are two places you will find the strings – over the soundhole and on the fretboard. You will pluck the strings on the soundhole and then push the strings down on the fretboard to adjust the pitch and sound.
Strings have to be maintained well so that the guitar sounds right at all times. You can get steel and nylon strings. Most commonly an acoustic guitar will feature steel strings, with nylon strings being used for more classical guitars.
Look below the headstock and you will find the nut. This part helps put your strings in the right place on the neck of the guitar. Each nut along the guitar features grooves on its surface that guide and keep the strings in place.
The nut isn’t one of the more well-known parts of the guitar. People tend to miss these out because they are subtly placed. This is a part that is also not featured on an electric guitar.
There’s a huge misunderstanding with beginners about the neck of the guitar and the fretboard. The fretboard is not the neck. Instead, it is the long wooden piece that holds your strings and frets. It’s not the neck at all. It is, in fact, positioned on the neck.
The neck is the long section of acoustic guitars that holds your strings, headstock and fretboard. You will find the neck at the bottom of your guitar and its main role is to connect the entire instrument together.
You may have noticed there are silver bars that run across your fretboard on both acoustic and the electric guitar. These are the frets and they will impact the sound your guitar makes. The fretboard is what holds your frets and there are several that run down the neck of the guitar.
When you look down the neck of your guitar you will notice that the spaces between the frets gets smaller and smaller as you go. Frets do the job of shortening your strings vibrating length by pressing down on the fret. They are in full control of the pitch and sound the guitar makes.
If you want to create a different sound then you can press down on the different frets and play the string you want. Each space between the frets represents a different note and learning these notes for a beginner can be tricky.
On your guitar you will see small dots that sit between the frets on the fretboard. They are there to help you know which fret you are playing. Some guitarists call them inlays. Whatever you want to call them, they all do the same job of making playing a lot easier.
There are a lot of different guitar bodies out there and the one you choose will purely be down to preference. The body of the guitar is the hourglass wooden shape at the bottom of the guitar that holds all the parts together. There are so many different styles of guitar out there, from concert ones to classic guitars. You will want to choose one that fits your taste and needs, always remembering that size is the most important factor in your guitar choice.
Next to the soundhole you will notice a slab. This is the pickguard and it’s a protective layer that keeps your guitar from getting scratched. You will normally need to use a pick to play your instrument and doing so could cause scratches when the pick hits the wood. The pickguard is there to prevent any sort of damage and keep your guitar looking like new.
This is probably the most important part of the body of the guitar. It acts as the speaker for the strings. It may just look like a hole in the body of the guitar but it provides all the acoustics you need to sound great. When you play a string the sound resonates into the hole which then intensifies it and plays the desired not. You will always want to play over the soundhole to get the cleanest and best sound possible.
The saddle has the same sort of responsibility as the nut does. It holds your strings in the right places at the bottom of your guitar. Thanks to the saddle, each string is supported and kept tight so the sound the string plays is strong and clear.
The bridge sits at the bottom of your strings and is generally made from a black material. It’s there to hold the pegs and saddle in place. Most of the time the bridge is purely cosmetic because there aren’t any problems when the saddle and pegs touch the body of the guitar. The bridge makes the guitar look more stylish but doesn’t have much importance in the overall sound and playability of the instrument.
The string pegs or bridge pins have a similar use as the tuning keys. They keep all of the strings tight over the saddle and guide them through the bridge. Replacing your bridge pins is normally an easy task. You just need to be careful that you don’t let the strings go lose and this will have a negative affect on the sound. When you do replace your string pegs hold that string tightly to stop it from falling out.
There are a few parts of the guitar that are classed as accessories to the main event. If you want to learn to play properly you will want to invest in some of these accessories that we’ve outlined below.
As we detailed earlier there are plenty of different string types that will change how your guitar plays and sounds. String choice is all down to the players preference so try out a few different styles and see which one suits you best and gives you the sound you want.
String Cutters and Winders
When you first buy a guitar you may notice that the strings fitted are quite long. The strings tend to be a lot longer than they have to be and you will want to cut off the part your don’t need. This is because leaving the strings so long will make adjusting the tuning pegs a lot more difficult and will take more time too. This is why you need a string cutter.
Using a string winder makes winding your strings around the pegs a whole lot easier. They are super cheap and can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
There are a lot of tools out on the market that combine both the cutter and winder aspect into one multitool. We would advise to stay away from these and purchase each accessory separately because the combination of the two makes the tool harder to use.
A capo is something no guitarist should live without. If you aren’t sure what a capo is, it’s an accessory that looks like a big clip that you can place on specific frets on the guitar neck. It helps to make playing easier, especially if you want to transpose a song into a different key.
Beginners should have the basic chords down when they begin to play the guitar. As you progress with your learning you will want to learn some more of the complex chords to tackle harder songs. Using a capo helps you to nail these harder songs and chord shapes.
If you are planning on performing with your guitar then you will want to invest in a guitar stand. A stand helps hold you guitar up and gives you easy access to it when it’s time to play. It will also stop it from falling over or getting damaged in any way.
So there we have it. The 14 crucial parts of the acoustic guitar in detail for you to learn. Hopefully having read through our guide you will have a better understanding of each part and how it works. Keep practicing and learning, and most of all have fun.