The Guitar – A Primer

by

Ged Richardson

man under rock

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know what a guitar is.

In case you're from under that rock, hello, and welcome to the world 🙂 You've chosen very well in learning about Guitars - they're the best things on earth! 

So, just to be on the safe side, what's a guitar?

  • Guitar usually have 6 strings (although some don't, like Keith Richards' telecaster guitar with 5 strings)
  • The Guitar's sound is projected either acoustically, using a hollow wooden box or electrically through a guitar amplifier
  • You typically pick or strum the strings with a plectrum, or use your fingers (and fingernails - unless you chew them, like Elliott Smith)
  • Your other hand does the fretting (pressing your fingers to the fretboard)

So where do guitar's come from?

Along with violins, lyres and harps, the guitar is a type of chordophone, a musical instrument that makes sound by vibrating strings across two fixed points. The modern guitar is preceded by a few instruments you've never heard of such as the gittern and the vihuela

The anatomy of a guitar (what all the bits of a guitar are called)

Remember when you took your driving test, the instructor asked you to name some random part of the car (if you haven't taken it yet, you’ve got all this to come!).

He or she would point to something on the car and ask “what’s that called?” You’d say ”erm...the cooler” or something. Knowing the name for parts of your guitar (also known as guitar anatomy) is just as important as knowing the name for bits of your car.

So let’s take a look:

The body

guitar body

The main bulk of the guitar, this is the ‘empty box’ (in the case of an acoustic guitar) or chunk of wood (in the case of most electric guitars).

Guitar bodies come in many shapes and sizes. With acoustic guitars especially, the shape and size of the body has a massive effect on the sound as this is where the sound is generated.

The material used in the body of guitars also varies widely, with laminated to solid wood density for different models


The neck

guitar neck

The protruding piece of wood that is attached to the body at the 12th fret (or thereabouts) is called the neck.

Sitting on top of the neck is ‘the fretboard’ which is often made in a different wood to the neck.

The fretboard, as the name suggests, has a series of ‘frets’ along the length of it, spaced out at intervals going up to in some cases 25 intervals.

The frets are thin metal strips that run perpendicular to the strings that mark each note.


The soundhole

soundhole

The hole in the middle of your guitar’s body is called the ‘soundhole’.

In a similar way that the size and shape of an acoustic guitar’s body effects the sound, the size and shape of the soundhole also has a dramatic effect on the sound.


The bridge

bridge

The bridge as the name suggests is the part of the guitar that sits between the soundhole and where the strings are attached at the base of the guitar.

Bridges come in many shapes and sizes depending on the style of guitar, some what are called ‘fixed’ versus ‘floating’ bridges.

The material used for their construction often varies widely.


The headstock

polished guitar headstock

At the top of the guitar, we have the headstock.

This is the part where the strings are attached and adjusted to tune the guitar using the ‘machine heads’ or 'tuners' (the knobs or levers you use to change the elasticity of each string).

Headstocks come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes.

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