Parts of an electric guitar and their various functions

Electric Guitar
Photo credit: Dmitry Demidov

If you are just getting started with music, there’s no doubt that you are looking for that right instrument that can really get your creative juices flowing! The right guitar will be your trustworthy assistant, helping you craft those tunes that you always wanted, so you may one day end up one of the big and famous names, drawing millions of people to concerts all over the world!

Whether your aspirations are to be Led Zeppelin, Metallica Slayer or Black Sabbath, you need to start out strong when you’re picking your electric guitar. 

The electric guitar is in fact a revolutionary invention that can do a lot of things, create a lot of memorable moments that the acoustic guitar may only wish to be able to mimic. While acoustic guitars have their audience, they can’t craft the same little piece of heaven.

If you really want to be creating heavy metal, and we’re not talking about the type that you may find in the old kinds of paint across the country, like pointed out by Check4Lead, we’re talking about the musical part, you not only need the right instrument, but you also need to make sure that you know how to use it.

Here’s a systemic look at the various different components.

  1. The head

At the top of the guitar, you will find its head which consists of a flat part of wood. In fact, the way that the guitar is put together reminds us a lot about the anatomy of a human being, as the head is situated on top of the neck. On the head of the guitar, you will find the tuners. Did you know that the way that the head is shaped can influence how the different notes sound as various shapes may create slightly different variations in the vibrations.

  1. The tuners

We already mentioned that this important component sits on top of the head, and is determined by the way that the head is shaped. The two main variations that you will see include either having all the tuners on one side or having half of them on each side. With 6 strings and one tuner per string, you will find three on each side, or you’ll see them all being on one side. 

  1. String retainers

These may not be the first component of this musical invention that you think about, but without them, you still wouldn’t be able to get those tunes flowing! The string retainers have the important purpose of being able to keep that good tension going and making sure that your strings are staying in the position that they are meant to stay in. Without the retainers, the strings could simply be popping out of place. 

  1. The truss adjustment

The truss adjustment is there in order to ensure that the height of the strings is correct and also keep you from messing up the guitar. They’re the component that will keep the strings going nicely on top of the neck rather than scratching along it when you’re playing on it. 

  1. The nut

The nut of an electric guitar can come in various different types of material including plastic, bone and tusk that will each produce a slightly different sound for the guitar. One way of actually seeing the difference that the material will do for your guitar is to drop each of the nuts on a hard surface at which point you can clearly tell there’s a difference between the various materials. If you are getting serious about your music-making abilities, the nut is one of the components that you may want to look into. The pros will often recommend that you switch out a plastic nut with one that is either made of bone or tusk instead. This small component ensures that each of the individual strings is held firmly in place exactly where it is supposed to be, and will also greatly affect the play-ability of the guitar. 

If you don’t get a nut that has been cut with the proper precision, thereby ensuring that it keeps the strings at the height they’re intended to be at, you will soon realize that the consequence is that your guitar will make a bunch of buzzing sounds, and it won’t be as easy to play as a proper nut would make it.

  1. The neck

Up until this point, we’ve been looking at some of the smaller components of the guitar, and now we’ll take a look at one of the components that takes up a little bit more space – the neck. The neck is the long piece of wood, as it’s the long, slim piece of wood that holds the head and body of the guitar together, but it’s also the piece where the tuners and string travel on top of. Inside of it you will find a rod that is there to make sure that the neck sits at the right angle, again, another important part to make those sweet tunes. 

  1. Frets

Lying on top of the neck of the guitar, you will find the frets, as these are pieces of metal that are located with a specific amount of distance in between them, with the string being on top. These are the components that you will be pressing the string down against, whereby the string’s length is shortened, creating the vibrations and tunes. 

  1. Fret markers

While fret markers aren’t technically an important technical component of the guitar, they will surely help you when it comes to playability, and especially if you don’t already have that much experience with this piece of equipment that you just purchased. They’re in fact there more so so that you can make sure that you are hitting the strings at the right places, and the most common ones are dots. They will let you know how far down the strings your hand is currently placed, and as you get better at playing, you will notice that you are paying less and less attention to the fret markers as well. 

  1. The fretboard

This part of your electric guitar sits on top of the neck, so that the strings won’t in fact ever be touch the neck, making it a replaceable object as well. This component is where the frets and fret markers are placed on top of and the most common material for this piece of your guitar is usually wood. One of its other names includes fingerboard.

  1. The strings

If you are buying a conventional guitar, you probably already know that you are looking at something that has six strings of varying thickness, and it often becomes a personal preference which ones you are going with. 

  1. The body

Whereas the body of acoustic guitars is hollow, that is not the case when you go the electric route, and that is a big part of where the two types of instruments differ. While solid wood bodies are usually the most common way an electric guitar is made, there are also options that are semi-hollow.

  1. The pickguard

While pickguards ensure the important function of keeping your body scratch-free, they have additional tasks as well, including being the component where all the electronics is located.

  1. Pickups

While the name of the electric guitar indicates that it is in fact something that requires the use of electricity, all of this wouldn’t be able to come together without the use of a pickup, which will listen to the vibrations that the guitar is creating and translating it into the signal that is sent to the amplifier, why there is a range of different options for pickups depending on the type of sound that you are going for. Changing the pickup is the easiest way to entirely change the way that your instrument sounds. 

  1. Pickup selector

Some options won’t just have one pickup but may in fact have several, and when that’s the case, there is going to be a pickup selector that will let you choose between the different options, and therefore changing the sound that your instrument is making. 

  1. Tone controls and volume

The names of these components make them pretty self-explanatory and can be used for regulating the volume of your equipment. 

  1. The bridge

While the strings start up at the head of the guitar, the bridge is where they end. With the purpose of anchoring the strings, it’s still a very important component but it’s also the place where the intonation is done. 

  1. The strap button

Are you getting ready to get started with your new piece of equipment and have you made sure that all the other components have been set up properly? Well, as you will want to make sure that your strap is properly around your shoulders, you will need somewhere on the body where you are hooking it up to, and that is this button. With a locking option, you’ll be making sure that your guitar is staying in the position it has to be in. 

  1.  The output jack

That’s where you’ll be putting that sound cable so you can start playing some sweet tunes. 

  1. Tremolo bar

If you are looking at creating special effects as you’re playing, the tremolo bar plays a very important role by changing the pitch of the notes that you are playing, either raising or lowering them according to your settings.