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BC-104 • Guitar Anatomy

The Beginner's Course

The neck is connected to the body... The tuners are connected to the headstock... The pick-ups connected to the output socket... and hear the word of the Clapton.

The anatomy of the guitar is pretty simple, many of the names are like the human body! This should fill you in on all that, so that you know what I am talking about in my lessons!

Watch The Video Lesson

Common Guitar Anatomical terms...

These are some of the terms you will see when people talk about guitars. I will try and add to this over time to have a complete list of guitar "bits" :)

Guitar Anatomy

The main part of the guitar, where you'll find the bridge, and on electric guitars, the volume and tone controls. This is easy to remember: the body is the bit that is in contact with your body!

The part of the guitar where you place your fingers to play; the flatter side of the neck.

The bit that pokes out of the body, which the strings run along.

The bit at the end of the neck where the strings stop and we find the tuners.

Position Markers
The dots on the fretboard are a handy indicator of the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th frets. The 12th fret has two dots; then the pattern repeats.

The small strips of metal that go across the fingerboard.

Actually means the spaces in between the fretwires. However when people talk about ‘frets' – as in, “place your fingers near the frets” – they are actually referring to the fretwires. This seems to be in such common use that on this site we'll stick with ‘frets' to mean the fretwire.

Pick-up (s)
A pickup is found under the strings of an electric guitar, and ‘picks up' the sound. They contain magnets, and measure the changes of the magnetic field made by the moving strings. They come in two basic types: single coil (as found on most Fender guitars) and humbucker (found on most Gibson guitars). humbuckers have a fatter sound, and create less hum (hence the name).

Pick-up Selector
Most electric guitars have more than one pickup, and the selector will allow you to choose which is being used. You can often choose to use more than one at a time. Fender Stratocasters have three pickups, but have a five-way switch. Gibson Les Pauls have two pickups and a three-way switch.

Input Jack Socket
This is where you will plug your guitar in if you use an amplifier. Make sure the cable is pushed all the way in or it will make a lot of noise!

Strap Pin
This is thing that your guitar strap fits on. I seriously recommend getting some kind of strap lock for this! 
(see lesson BC-103)

Guitar anatomy part 2

The far end of the strings from the nut, on the body of the guitar, usually metal. This is where the ‘ball' will sit when you change your strings (see lessonES-110 and ES-111).

Volume Knob(s)
Pretty obvious really: these control the volume of the electric signal of your guitar. If you've got more than one pickup, you'll usually have more than one volume knob (this is more often the case with Gibson-type guitars rather than Fenders)

Tone Knob(s)
Most guitars have one or two tone controls. These control the amount of bass (low) and treble (high) sounds that the guitar makes. Take some time to play a chord and move the tone knob so you know what it does, because you really have to hear it to understand!

Scratch Plate
Scratch plates have a couple of functions. On acoustics they are there to protect the body and on electrics they hold all the electronics in place and protect the wood.

‘Whammy' Bar
This is a metal bar that comes out of the bridge in some instruments and by pushing it down will lower the pitch of the notes being played. They can make your guitar go out of tune, and in my opinion are not a very useful attribute on a beginner's guitar, but they are a lot of fun and can be very expressive once you know what you are doing!

Guitar Anatomy Part 3

The things that you turn to change the pitch of the strings. Usually found on the headstock.

A bone or plastic (sometimes metal) piece at the end of the fingerboard near the headstock.

String Tree
Some guitars have a small 'tree' that the strings run under in between the nut and the tuning pegs, to keep the strings from jumping out of the nut. This isn't needed on most guitars.

Floatin Tremolo

Floating tremolo
A type of bridge system whammy bar that locks the strings so that they don't go out of tune, a common problem when you use a whammy bar on a regular guitar. They are great if you are doing serious whammy bar tricks, like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, but for the beginner they are usually a complete nightmare. None of my guitars have them because I don't play that style much, and my Jeff Beck Stratocaster is pretty good at staying in tune with a normal Fender bridge!

Acoustic Guitar

Most of the terms on this page apply to both electric and acoustic guitars. Here are a few which are specific to acoustics:

Acoustic Guitar Anatomy

Sound Hole
This is where the sound of the guitar will come out after it has bounced around inside! When you strum you don't want to cover this too much if you can help it.!

This is just decoration around the Sound Hole.

String Peg
A string peg is a plastic (or sometimes metal) pin that holds the string in the bridge. Make sure these are pressed in firmly because there is a lot of pressure on them and they can be dangerous if they spring out. Read the lesson on Changing Acoustic Strings (lesson ES-111) carefully before playing with these!

Beginner products you may like from
Justinguitar Beginner's Course DVD set
Justinguitar Beginners Songbook
Justinguitar Beginners Songbook
Beginners Course Book
Practical Music Theory

I have five great beginners products that will help you make the most of this course and you'll find them all at The Official JustinGuitar Store. If you want to really support the site then please buy direct from us. :)

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