Parts that Make Up a Guitar

What Makes a Guitar a Guitar?

Whether you have played guitar for a while or just love guitars, you may not have taken much time to become acquainted with all the important parts that make up a guitar. It’s not uncommon to take these parts for granted. But each component has an important function, and each one affects the tone and/or the performance of the instrument. Here is how a guitar breaks down.

The body

The body is what gives the guitar both its resonance and durability. The body of an electric guitar and the bottom part of an acoustic guitar are typically made of woods or veneers known for their tone. Rosewood and maple are commonly used woods.


On an acoustic guitar, in contrast with the heavier woods used for the bottom, the top is made of softer wood for its better vibrational nature. Typically, woods such as spruce or cedar are used. The soundhole is usually placed under the strings at the point of maximum sound.


This is where the music starts. As the neck needs to be extra solid for durability, mahogany is most often used. Koa and maple are also used on occasion. Because fingerboards take the most punishment of any part of the guitar, extra dense woods are necessary for their construction. Ebony is preferred, and available on high-end guitars. Rosewood is most commonly used on mid-level guitars, while softer woods are used on budget models.

Headstock/tuning keys

The headstock is where most guitar makers get to advertise their brand and model. (Most of these designs are vigorously protected under copyright laws.) More importantly, this is where most guitars have their tuning keys. These are where the strings are typically wound on the guitar. Most are made of metal or plastic. The workings are well-lubricated metal gears.

The bridge

A bridge is a device for supporting the strings on a guitar and transmitting the vibration of those strings to the soundboard or the pickup (see below) in order to transfer the sound to the surrounding air. These are usually located near the bottom of the guitar.

Acoustic guitar bridges usually consist of pins that hold the strings down with a saddle that lifts them slightly so they resonate properly. On an electric guitar, tremolo bridges use a group of springs in the guitar body which oppose the tension of the strings.

The other types of electric guitar bridges, non-tremolo bridges, are bolted directly onto the guitar body. Because of the more direct connection between strings and guitar, these tend to have better tuning stability.


Strings are sold in various thicknesses, or gauges. Basically, lighter strings are going to be easier to play, and have a brighter sound, while thicker ones are harder to play, but have a deeper, richer sound.

Pickups/knobs/switches (for electric)

Pickups are magnets that “pick up” the sound made by playing the strings of an electric guitar, then send them through a cable to the guitar amp. Many guitar models have multiple pickups and corresponding knobs and switches that allow you to shape your guitar’s sound.


As you can see, all of these components can have a profound effect on a guitar’s sound and appearance. Try out a few different ones, and you may now have a better appreciation of the differences.