Instrument X-Ray: Acoustic Guitar Basics

Buying your first guitar can be a nerve-wracking process for beginners, but once you know the parts of a guitar, making that decision becomes much easier. Knowing the parts and purposes of parts of a guitar can help beginners understand their needs for an instrument.

Let's dive a bit deeper into the detail of the acoustic guitar and look at the separate parts of the instrument, what they are called and how they may influence the way your guitar sounds.

The biggest and most defining part of any guitar is the Body. The body of an acoustic guitar is effectively a hollow, wooden box that resonates the sound being produced by the strings. If you are looking at different guitars, you will notice that they all have their own unique shape. Each particular body shape results in a different sound, as the shape impacts how the sound carries throughout the instrument. Since the shape plays such a big role in the final sound, each guitar body is also specific to a type of music or a style of playing.

The guitar you see in the photo, for example, is a Dreadnought (also known as a DS model). This is the most common body shape for acoustic guitars. It is quite a bulky and big guitar and therefore also owes its name to a similarly big British battleship. The size of this guitar makes for a lot of bass-frequency response, so you are best off playing this guitar with a pick. There is a grand total of nine different acoustic guitar body types out there, each of which have their own sound and preferred style of playing! But, it is not only the shape of the body that shapes the sound. The kind of wood used in making the guitar also plays a major part. Quite often the top of the body is made of a different kind of wood to the sides or the back. This allows the manufacturer to shape the sound of the instrument more precisely.

The big hole in the center of the body is called the Sound Hole. This hole ensures that the sound produced by the guitar body is projected to the front of the guitar. If you have a guitar that lends itself to a picking playing style, you will usually find a Pick Guard on the body next to the sound hole. This guard is there to make sure that - when you are really going at it - you’re not scratching the wood. With classical acoustic guitars, which usually have an OO-body, this hole is sometimes surrounded by beautiful, graphic details: a Rosetta. Since the classical guitar is designed to be played without a pick, you will not find a pick guard on the body.

Of course a guitar is useless without strings, and to keep these in place we need a Bridge, a Saddle and some pins. These parts are also found on the guitar body, right underneath the sound hole. The bridge is an extra piece of wood that holds the pins to which the strings are connected. The saddle, which is mounted on top of the bridge, has five small notches over which the strings are tensioned. The strings run all the way up to the Headstock of the guitar where they are connected to the String Posts which, in turn, are connected to the Tuning Pegs. Since the strings are fixed in place on the bridge, connected to the string posts that can be turned and tightened by the tuning pegs, the strings can be tightened and loosened. This is what allows you to tune the strings into the notes that you want to hear. Usually the strings are tuned as follows: E, A, D, G, B, E - with the last E being a full octave higher than the first one.

Finally, after having jumped all the way from the body to the headstock, we get to one of the most important pieces of the guitar: the Neck. The Neck of the guitar is divided into little sections by Frets. These frets locate the spots on the neck where you can press down on the strings to change the pitch to a specific note. When you press down on a guitar string, you are effectively making it shorter so that the note you create will always be higher than the note that the guitar string is tuned to. By changing the pitch of different strings and playing those strings all together, you can create the chords that you need to play your favorite song.

Now that you know how to identify the parts of an acoustic guitar, you can browse our collection and pick out the perfect one for you to get started! Stay tuned for our next post covering the electric guitar.