Identifying the Parts
The design of a traditional acoustic guitar is both complex (it’s a true art to craft an instrument that sounds good, looks smashing, and plays great) and simple (there aren’t many parts). Let’s start from the top (you can also find excellent diagrams online).
Headstock. This fine piece of wood at the tippy-top of the guitar holds the tuning machines or tuning keys, which you use to tune each string of the guitar.
Nut. At the bottom of the headstock and at the top of the neck is a piece of material (typically bone, plastic, or composite) that sets the spacing between each string and also keeps the strings at a proper height from the fretboard.
Neck. The neck holds the nut, fretboard, and frets. It’s where you put your hand, and its shape and width often determine whether it’s comfortable for you to form chords and play riffs or not.
Fretboard. Also called a fingerboard, this is where your nimble fingers depress the strings to sound notes. The frets—those thin, raised metal bars—are set into the wood of the fretboard, and can be wide or thin, or high or low. The fretboard typically includes dots or other graphics inlaid into the wood to show you where you are on the neck—third fret, fifth fret, seventh fret, and so on. These are known as fret markers. You may also see small dots placed on the side of the neck that match the fret markers, and these are called position markers.
Body. Acoustic guitar bodies can be different shapes and sizes (there’s more info on this topic coming soon), but most all bodies include a top (or soundboard), back, sides, and a soundhole. Some bodies are shaped like the number eight, and some have cutaways that make it easier for your fingers to reach the higher frets.
Saddle. At the other end of the neck from the nut, the saddle maintains the strings at a desired height and transfers the vibration of the strings to the bridge and soundboard.
Bridge. The saddle is attached to the top of the bridge, which supports the strings and provides a resonant surface atop the soundboard. On many steel-string instruments, Bridge Pins fasten the strings to the bridge.
Onboard Preamp/Pickup System. Acoustic-electric models include an integrated pickup that can be plugged into an amplifier using a conventional guitar cable, or a pickup with its own preamp system that can include volume and tone controls, an anti-feedback filter, and even an electronic tuner.