The modern guitar has evolved over the years from the early vihuela, invented in 15th Century Spain, to become the instrument that we all know and love. There are some lovely instruments out there that would make even those who don’t particularly care for the guitar sit up and take notice. There also exists a dizzying array of options and paint jobs to choose from these days, and the salesmen in the music store use so much jargon that it can be quite intimidating for a beginner who just wants to buy their first guitar.
So let’s demystify the guitar jargon and explain what all the different terms mean that relate to its anatomy.
The Parts of a Guitar
The different parts of a guitar have quite exotic sounding names that don’t necessarily give any obvious clues about which bit of the guitar they relate to. You wouldn’t expect a musical instrument to be made partly from a “nut”, or a “bridge”, would you? Some of the other pats are more logically named, for example the “sounding board” is a no nonsense description of the the function of that part of the guitar.
So lets look at a few of the parts in turn.
The body of an acoustic guitar is hollow and has a hole in it between the fretboard and the bridge. The purpose of the hollow body and the hole are to amplify the sound generated by the vibrating strings. Electric guitars on the other hand do not require hollow bodies because their sound is amplified electronically using an amplifier, or “amp”.
The headstock of the guitar is right at the opposite end of the guitar to the body and is the important section of the guitar from the point of view of making sure it is in tune. The headstock is where the tuning pegs are located. The tuning pegs (sometimes called “machine heads”), are used to adjust the tension of the guitar strings, thereby altering the pitch produced when they are played.
The Nut and the Bridge
The nut is usually made from plastic or bone and is a narrow strip with grooves cut into it across which the strings are stretched. The strings reach along the length of the guitar and pass over the bridge, which is located on the body of the guitar. The distance between the nut and the bridge defines the length of each of the strings that is free to vibrate when plucked. The further this distance, the lower the note produced.
These are the basics of the guitar. Now you know them you can go to the guitar store with confidence and not feel intimidated by all the jargon.
Don’t forget to take your wallet!
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