When you get your very first electric guitar you will want to know everything you can about all the different parts and pieces that makes up this amazing instrument. In this article we’re going to take you deep into the parts of an electric guitar, searching through every nook and cranny so you become a master of guitar parts. After you’ve read our guide you’ll have a deeper understanding of what each part of an electric guitar does and how you can find it.
Table of Contents
You will find the headstock of the guitar right at the end of the instrument. It’s the part that you hold with your non-dominant hand a.k.a. the hand you don’t strum the strings with. You’ll notice at the top of the headstock a flat piece of wood with some pegs sticking out. These are the tuners which change the pitch and tone of the strings so you can play the notes. Usually the brand of guitar and the logo is displayed on the headstock as well.
Headstocks come in different types, sizes and shapes. The one you have will be determined by the kind of tuner you have and the arrangement of the tuning pegs.
Next up are the tuners which you find at the head of the guitar. These look like pegs and they are small geared mechanisms which make different pitches on the strings. You can turn the tuners to either raise or lower the tension on the strings so they make different noises. Around each tuner you will see the strings wrapped tightly and then connected to the back of the headstock. There’s lots of different names for tuners including tuning gears, tuning pegs and tuning machines.
Ever wonder what that piece of metal is sticking out of your guitar that the strings are wrapped around? This is the nut. Electric guitars need the nut because it both guides and holds the strings in place so they don’t go flying off when you play. It’s a really skinny piece of metal and it has a tiny slot in it that the string goes through to hold it in place.
The nut may be small but they’re actually a vital part of an electric guitar. The reason why this is one of the more important parts of an electric guitar is that the nut stops the strings from vibrating beyond the neck of the instrument. The strings also stop vibrating on the bridge of the guitar too which is how they make that crisp, clear tone.
Of course, the strings are probably the most important parts of an electric guitar. Without the strings you wouldn’t be able to make any sort of sound on the instrument, after all. The entire guitar will have been shaped, moulded and specifically designed to make those strings sound the best they possibly can at the right pitch and tone too.
There are different types of strings you can which come in all shapes and sizes and the strings you choose will all be down to your own personal preference. If you have never changed guitar strings before we would recommend taking your instrument to a professional who can install and adjust the strings properly on your behalf.
Take a look at the fretboard of the guitar. There you will find the frets- the skinny piece of metal. If you want to change the pitch and sound of a note you can push down the string onto one of these frets. This changes the vibration of the strings by shortening it, therefore changing the pitch and sound of the note you are playing.
The Fret Markers
Fret markers are the small dots or shapes on the fretboard which show you where you are on the neck of the guitar. Once you’ve had some practice and are getting to grips playing your electric guitar you won’t need the fret markers as much anymore. You’ll be able to move from one fret to another without even having to look down with plenty of practice.
The fretboard or fingerboard to some people is the part made from wood at the top of the guitars neck. It’s where the frets are embedded, allowing you to change the tone of the strings. You will need to place your non-dominant hand on the fretboard to produce the chords and notes you want.
You may have an idea of what the bar is where you hang out with your friends and enjoy a beverage or two. However, we’re talking electric guitar parts here so it’s not the one you’re thinking of. The bar on an electric guitar is on the other end of the strings from the neck of the guitar which helps to stop them from vibrating. To find it, look for a metal rod which is attached onto the bridge of the guitar. The bar helps to vary the tension of the strings. It has lots of different names including the whammy bar, the tremolo bar, the vibrato bar and the wang bar.
The Pickups and Pickup Selector
These are probably the easiest electric guitar parts to explain to a beginner. We’ll start with the pickup selector which is a switch that goes on to determine which pickup is activated.
The pickups are a bit more complicated guitar part to explain but we’ll try to do it as best we can. The pickups are associated with the pickup selector and are made up of small magnets that creates an electrical current. The magnets look like small bars and they allow the amplifier to convert the electrical current from the strings into the rock and roll sound you want.
To make the explanation of pickups a little bit easier, think of them as tiny little microphones for the instrument. If the pickups on the neck are close then sound you produce will be soft and rounded. If the pickuops are closer to the bridge then the sound produced is a lot sharper.
You’ll have two options for pickups as guitar parts. The first are single coil pickups and the second are humbuckers. A single coil pickup on electric guitars will consist of exactly what it says on the tin – one coil of wire. Many electric guitar players aren’t keen on single coil pickups because sometimes they have a humming noise to them but the benefit of them is that they create a clean and thin sound. A single coil will pick up any electrical noises in the environment such as fluorescent lighting and computer monitors. Pretty cool, huh?
Your other option is a humbucker pickup. Instead of just one single coil there are two coils that are attached to ends of a magnet. Using two coils instead of one means that any humming coming from the guitar is cancelled out, making these the more superior option over the single coil pickup. Because they cancel the hum they got the name humbuckers – a name that was patented back in the 50s by Gibson guitars.
A humbucker pickup creates a much warmer, smoother sound that works wonderfully for music like blues, rock and jazz. If you’re interested in being a guitarist in any of these genres then the humbucker pickups are for you.
The bridge on electric guitars has a lot of different purposes. It consists of a metal plate that keeps the strings securely in place on the body of the guitar. The entire guitars intonation can be changed by simply adjusting the bridge. By doing this you are ensuring that the guitar is properly tuned throughout the fretboard so the strings make the right sound when you play them.
The body of the guitar is the surface of the guitar itself. It holds the bridge and all the electronics such as the pickups and volume controls. You can get three different types of guitar bodies which consist of hollow bodies, semi-hollow bodies and solid bodies.
A hollow body electric guitar is the one that is most similar to an acoustic guitar. If you want to be a jazz guitarist then this is the type of body you will want on your electric guitar. The hollow body creates more feedback if you have your amp up at higher levels.
Semi-hollow bodies are your standard classic electric guitars. For these to sound the best you will want to get a high level amp and the sound will be loud.
Your last choice is a solid body guitar. These are the best options if you want loud amplification and long sustains from your guitar. A solid body guitar will perform well if you want to use plenty of effects when you’re playing.
The Volume and Tone Controls
The volume and tone controls are the parts of the guitar that let you control your loudness when you are playing the guitar. You can also change the frequency with the tone controls for treble and bass sounds. They’re pretty straight forward to use.
The Output Jack
The output jack takes the signal from the pickups on your guitar and pushes them out to the amplifier or whatever electronic device you are using. An electric guitar won’t sound any good without being plugged in to an amplifier. You will need a 1/4′ male jack plug to plug your electric guitar into an amp.
The String Numbers and Names
An electric guitar has six separate string. The thickest string that will be closest to you is referred to as the sixth string, and the thinnest one at the bottom will be the first string. As you can probably tell the four strings in the middle are the second, third, fourth and fifth strings respectively. Going from the sixth string to the first the string names are E, A, D, G, B and E.
So there you have it. You’re now an expert in all of the parts that make up an electric guitar and you’ll be ready to begin shredding in no time. We know this is a lot of information so make sure you go through it bit by bit and feel free to ask us any questions if you get stuck. Happy playing!