The acoustic guitar itself is a fantastic instrument. It is versatile, useful, it sounds great, and it is easy to understand. However, there is one aspect of the guitar that many guitar players still have questions about: the parts of the instrument.
What are all the parts of the acoustic guitar, what do they do, and why are they there? Let’s find out!
The main parts of the acoustic guitar are the headstock, tuners, neck, nut, fretboard, frets, truss rod, body, bridge, and the guitar strings. Each component determines the quality of the instrument, the way it sounds, and how it feels to play. Every acoustic guitar component is critical.
There are several parts on acoustic guitars – some of which have obvious purposes and designed features, but others are less straightforward to understand.
Exploring the parts of your guitar and understanding the function of each is critical for getting the most from your guitar, since this teaches you how the instrument works. Let’s explore the parts of the acoustic guitar to better understand the instrument.
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The Parts Of The Acoustic Guitar
Every acoustic guitar is a work of art and a marvel of engineering. These instruments are intricately made (especially among top acoustic guitar brands), and every component on the guitar has a specific purpose. The instrument would not function well without it.
Even the most seemingly insignificant components of the acoustic guitar are critical to the function of the instrument or critical to the way the instrument sounds.
Understanding each component and its function is the best way to understand how to get the most from your guitar and the best way to learn how to maintain the instrument properly as well.
Let’s take a deep dive into the parts of the acoustic guitar to learn about each component, their critical functions, how they fit into the overall guitar, and some general information about each part as well.
The best place to begin when exploring the acoustic guitar parts is at the top: the headstock.
The acoustic guitar headstock is the square-ish part of the instrument at the end of the neck, and it houses specific components that are critical to the function of the instrument.
There are various types of headstocks, headstock shapes, headstock sizes, and headstock components, but every acoustic guitar has a headstock.
The headstock is where the tuners and the tuner components are attached, which give the strings somewhere to attach at the top end of the guitar. They enable the string to be tuned to their correct respective pitches.
This component also forms part of the structure of the instrument, providing rigidity to the guitar and an anchor point for the ever-important guitar strings.
- Read More: How to Change Acoustic Guitar Strings (Step-by-Step)
The headstock is angled to create the correct tension angle for the strings as well, which also means that it is critical for maintaining string tension and tuning stability.
The headstock is a very understated component of the guitar, and not many understand its true value.
However, without a properly crafted headstock, the instrument would not stay in tune, it would not have string anchor points, and there would be less structural integrity to the instrument.
We have examined the headstock itself; now, let’s explore the hardware that is mounted to the headstock of the acoustic guitar.
The headstock holds the acoustic guitar tuning mechanisms, also known as tuners, and each tuner has multiple components within itself to explain.
The term ‘tuners’ is often misused, as it is typically used to describe the part of the tuning mechanisms that you turn to tune the instrument, when in fact, the tuners are the entire self-contained tuning mechanisms, and each individual component of each tuner has its own name and function.
The tuner is made of four parts: the tuning key or tuning peg, the string post, the tuning gear, and the tuner housing.
The tuning key is the part of the tuner that you turn to tighten the strings to tune the instrument – often with a guitar tuner (different piece of gear, equally important!).
The string post is the component of the tuner where the string is attached and wrapped around to ensure tuning stability.
The tuning gear is the mechanism that keeps the tuner in position and prevents the string from unwinding, and the tuner housing includes the screws, caps, and nut that hold the tuner onto the guitar.
The entire tuning mechanism keeps the instrument in tune and keeps the guitar strings at the correct tension. If the tuners are not well-cared for, damaged, or if they are misused, the instrument will not stay in tune at all and will be completely unplayable.
Moving down the guitar to the next major component, we find the neck of the guitar. The neck is the shaft of the instrument that connects the body to the headstock and provides a mounting place for the fretboard and frets to enable the instrument to be played.
There are several different neck designs, and not all acoustic guitars have the same neck profile, shape, thickness, width, or feel in hand.
The shape of the back side of the guitar neck is known as the neck profile, and it can be flat, square, rounded, curved, or sloped, or it can be a combination of multiple profile types.
The profile of the neck is a contributing factor to the playability of the instrument and ultimately determines how comfortable the neck is in the hand of the guitarist.
Some guitar necks are thicker than others; some are thinner, some are shorter, and some are longer. There are many various designs of guitar necks, and which is best for you is determined by your own preferences and playing style.
The guitar neck also holds many critical components that make the guitar playable, and without a good sturdy neck, the instrument would not stay in tune, it would not be comfortable to play, and it would not be very strong either.
The fretboard is a component of the guitar neck, but it is a separate piece of wood that is typically harder than the wood used to craft the neck. The fretboard provides the required area to play the instrument, as well as providing a mounting place for the guitar frets.
The acoustic guitar fretboard is typically made from hardwood such as ebony, but it can be made from woods such as ash, maple, or even composite woods depending on the quality of the instrument.
The fretboard is where the guitar frets are mounted, which allows the guitarist to press the strings and change their pitch to play the instrument.
The role of the fretboard is to provide a hard surface for the guitarist to press their finger against to apply sufficient pressure to the string as it is pressed over a fret to produce a note.
The fretboard covers the entire front surface of the neck and typically carries over onto a portion of the body as well until it reaches the sound hole.
The length of the fretboard is dependent on the length of the neck, and the radius shape of the fretboard is dependent on the shape of the neck.
The fretboard will also have small dots known by many names: fret markers, dots, or dot inlays. These markers help the guitar player quickly reference which fret they are playing on while navigating the fretboard. Speaking of frets…
Frets are a standard on most guitars, especially acoustic guitars. The frets are thin metal rods that are mounted into the guitar fretboard at specific intervals.
When the guitar strings are pressed onto them, the frets help to change the tension of the string and therefore change the pitch of the note. The frets are how a guitarist plays a guitar.
Frets can be made from various metals, including nickel and stainless steel, and the hardness of the fret determines how long the fret will last and how the strings sound when played against the frets.
Most acoustic guitars have between eighteen and twenty-two frets, depending on their size and scale length.
The Truss Rod
The truss rod is a component within the guitar neck that is not seen, and not every guitar player even knows that it exists. However, the truss rod is a pretty important piece of the instrument!
This component is a rod that is mounted within the neck of the guitar. Found underneath the fretboard, it adds structure and rigidity to the guitar neck, but it is always used to straighten the neck when it bows.
Guitar necks are made from wood, and wood moves, flexes, and bows depending on air humidity and other such factors. If the neck bows outward, the guitar will be very difficult to play, and if the neck bows inward, the guitar will not play at all.
- Read More On: Why Do Guitar Necks Warp?
The truss rod is used to straighten the neck of the instrument by turning it within the neck with an Allen wrench, which keeps the guitar playable and provides better tuning stability.
It can also be used to help adjust the action of the guitar – the height of the strings form the fretboard – but should never be adjusted if you don’t know what you are doing as you can cause permanent damage to the guitar neck.
Back to near the headstock for a moment, the acoustic guitar nut is a small component that is found at the top of the neck and at the base of the headstock.
This small part of the guitar is critical to its function and its tone. The nut provides a tension point for the strings to be pulled over, which keeps them in tune.
The nut is also grooved according to the strings and keeps the strings in place within the grooves.
The nut is typically made from various plastics, animal bone, synthetic animal bone, or various resins. The material the guitar nut is made from determines the tone of the strings when played.
The next major component of the instrument is the body. Compared to the parts of an electric guitar, the body is probably the biggest difference between guitar types.
The acoustic guitar body is the main resonant chamber of the instrument, and it forms the largest component of the guitar.
The body is designed for internal resonance that amplifies the sound of the guitar strings when they are played and is the main contributing factor to the tone of the guitar.
The body is made of three separate pieces of wood that are connected with binding. The three pieces are the top plate, the backplate, and the sides. The top plate is where the strings are connected to the body and therefore resonates with the strings as they are played.
The quality of the top plate determines how well it resonates with the strings, which in turn determines the sound quality of the instrument.
The top plate also contains the acoustic sound hole, which allows the sound of the played strings to enter the acoustic chamber that is the body of the instrument and then allows the amplified sound to leave the body to reach our ears.
Some top plates might also have a pick guard. This shaped piece of plastic (or other inlay material) protects the guitar body under the strings and around the sound hole from potential damage caused by strumming.
There is also internal bracing for structure inside the hollow body but this is rarely seen (unless you peek inside the sound hole).
Lastly, the body of the acoustic guitar might also have one strap button at the bottom.
The strap button is used to attach a guitar strap to an acoustic guitar: one end of the strap goes around the button and the other end (usually with a lace) ties onto the headstock behind the strings at the nut.
The bridge is another critical component of the acoustic guitar, and it consists of three major sub-components that form the entire bridge itself.
The bridge consists of the bridge plate, which is a strip of resonant wood that is glued onto the top plate of the guitar, the saddle, and the bridge pins.
The bridge plate has holes that pass through to the inside of the body of the guitar, and these holes are where the strings are attached to the guitar with bridge pins.
The strings are placed into the holes in the bridge, and the pins are used to hold the strings in place individually by friction.
The saddle is the thin strip of harder material, usually made from the material as the nut, that is attached to the bridge where the strings contact the instrument.
The saddle forms the opposite contact point for the strings from the nut, forming the second tension point to keep the strings tight and suspended above the fretboard, ready to be played.
The bridge forms one of the most critical components of the guitar, and it determines how good the guitar sounds, how well it plays, and the overall feel of the instrument.
The last major component of the acoustic guitar is the strings that every guitar is equipped with. If you’re new to understanding strings (for any guitar), you can read all about guitar string types for a solid overview.
Acoustic guitar strings are typically made from steel and nickel. The thinner strings are made of only steel, and the thicker strings have a steel core and are wrapped in nickel.
- Read More: Types of Guitar Strings Explained
Some strings are made from other metal types, but these are the standard string metals used in the industry today. Makes it easy when you want to clean your guitar strings!
The quality of the strings and how well they are made directly impact the sound of the instrument, the feel of the instrument, and how well the instrument stays in tune.
Strings come in different thicknesses, known as gauges, and the thicker the strings are, the more challenging they are to play, but the more reliable they are, the richer the strings sound.
If you liked this article all about acoustics, check out these other helpful guides:
- Easy Acoustic Guitar Songs to Learn
- The Best Campfire Songs to Play
- How to Cut Guitar Strings (Step-by-Step)
Every component of the acoustic guitar is critical to how the instrument sounds and how well it functions overall. The better the quality of the components, the better the quality of the guitar is, and the better it will sound.
Every guitar is different, and there are thousands of variations to choose from. Take the time to understand the components of your guitar to understand them well, to get the most from your instrument!
As always, Happy Playing,