The Anatomy of a Guitar: Inside Acoustic & Electric Parts

Guitars on stage

What constitutes a guitar?

To answer that question, we're going to dissect each component of the guitar and uncover what each part does, to thoroughly explain the anatomy of modern music's most iconic instrument.

Guitar anatomy diagram
Anatomy of a Guitar - Electric and Acoustic Parts Diagram

Guitars have come a long way from their most basic form, an ancestor of the gittern, a small medieval string instrument with a round back and a shape similar to a lute. Like the gittern, the most basic parts of a guitar are the neck, tuning keys, and the bridge. But modern guitars come in may different shapes and forms, and with many additional bells and whistles. There are full-size guitars, jumbo guitars, or mini guitars, travel guitars, guitars with headstocks, headless guitars, and you can get them made out of wood, carbon fiber, and even metal. But we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves!

To start with it’s important to understand that guitars are built with two major parts: the neck and the body. This could be a set-neck (usually reserved for pricier instruments) or bolt-on construction (for cheaper manufacturing and better inter-changeability). To kick things off we'll start by discussing the basic parts of the neck most commonly found in both acoustic and electric guitars.

Neck Guitar Parts

Guitar Anatomy Diagram - Neck
The Anatomy of a Guitar - Neck Guitar Parts Diagram


Or simply known as the head

Most people would argue that the headstock is a separate piece from the neck but, as it is mostly attached to the guitar neck, then we will include it as a part of this major section of the anatomy of a guitar. Ok, now that we have that out of the way, the guitar’s headstock is one of the most recognizable parts of a guitar anatomy. This is where the tuning pegs go, and usually the guitar company’s brand or logo. 

It’s also where you’ll find other pertinent things like the guitar’s model and model number.

Guitar headstocks can be angled or straight which has an effect on the tuning stability and construction durability of the guitar.

Headless Guitars: Yay or Nay?

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been on the fence about headless guitars or guitars with headstocks. So, tell me, how important is the headstock?

How Important is the Headstock?

The headstock holds the tuning keys, is usually where the truss rod cover is where it makes it easy to access the truss rod for minor adjustments. It also completes the guitar the guitar’s look. These days, there are guitars without headstocks. Well technically, what guitar engineers have done is reverse the position of the headstock so that the body of the guitar acts as the aforementioned part and the end of the neck has accommodations for each string to go through. The tuning keys are also found on the body.

String Posts

Technically Known as the Capstan

The end of each individual string go through the hole of their designated string posts and wrap around it to secure it. Turning the tuning keys then increases the tension or slack affecting the note produced by each string.

String posts are often included as part of the tuning key but since they serve a very specific role, they are regarded as an important element in the anatomy of a guitar and is worth mentioning in a separate entry as an essential part.


Also known as Tuning Keys, Machine Heads, or Tuning Machines

Tuning keys, however small they may be, has a great effect on a guitar’s playability. Without tuners, you’d have a complicated mess of a stringed instrument with no discernable way to tune it.

Faulty tuners often render most guitars useless.

What makes up a guitar tuner? These are usually housed in a self-contained unit where the gears attached to the string posts and the tuner buttons align to increase or decrease the string’s tension when you turn it clockwise or anti-clockwise.

The guitarist usually interacts with the tuning keys through the buttons. Buttons can be plain or have some engraving in them (usually on classic electric guitars and acoustics) for aesthetic purposes.

Tuning keys come as individual units or can be in groups of twos, threes, fours, and sixes,  depending on the make of the guitar. Additionally, tuning keys can be locking to increase the convenience of stringing your guitar.

They can also come as brushed metal parts, plain plastic, ceramic, ivory or be colored in a variety of ways.

Needless to say, this is one of the most modified parts of the anatomy of a guitar


Throughout this article, you’ll find that the anatomy of a guitar is made of multiple small parts that serve a purpose. Much like a human being’s body.

For example, the nut. '

The nut is a small but crucial component located where the headstock meets the neck. It's usually made of bone, plastic, or other hard materials. The nut has small grooves cut into it, one for each string. These grooves guide the strings from the tuning machines down to the fretboard.

The nut serves several important functions:

  • It helps define the spacing between the strings
  • It sets the height of the strings above the first fret
  • It contributes to the overall intonation of the guitar
  • A well-cut nut is essential for good playability and accurate tuning, especially for notes played on the first few frets.


Now on to the actual neck. 

The guitar neck is the part of the guitar that receives the most interaction from the guitarist. Technically the anatomy of a guitar is made up of two parts: the fingerboard/fretboard and the actual guitar neck. 

The neck of the guitar is the long, slender part that extends from the body to the headstock. On parts of acoustic guitar, the neck is typically made of wood, often maple or mahogany. '

The shape and thickness of the neck can vary between different guitar models and can significantly affect how comfortable the guitar is to play.

The back of the neck is usually curved to fit comfortably in the player's hand. Some necks have a satin finish to allow the player's hand to move smoothly up and down the neck. Some opt to sand the back of their guitar necks to have that unique feel specific to them.

Inside the neck is a metal rod called the truss rod. This can be adjusted to counteract the tension of the strings and keep the neck straight. The truss rod adjustment is usually found either at the headstock end of the neck or inside the body of the guitar, accessible through the sound hole.


Technically Known as the Fingerboard

Regardless if it has frets or not, the most common name for the fingerboard is the fretboard. 

It is usually glued on top of the guitar neck and is usually made of a hardwood like rosewood or ebony. The fretboard is also where you press the strings to change the notes you're playing.

Most fretboards are slightly curved from side to side (this curve is called the radius). This curvature makes it easier for players to press down on individual strings or play chords.


Frets are the thin metal strips that run across the fretboard. They divide the neck into semitone intervals, with each fret representing one semitone. When you press a string down behind a fret, you're shortening the vibrating length of the string, which raises its pitch.

You'll find 20 to 22 frets making up the anatomy of a guitar on most acoustics. The frets are usually made of nickel-silver or stainless steel. The size and shape of the frets can affect the feel of the guitar and how easy it is to play.
Frets aren’t evenly spaced throughout the fretboard. The spaces between frets become narrow as it ascends toward the guitar body. There are also guitars out there with fanned frets or highly specific fret placement that decreases intonation issues. 

These come at a higher price value and is often done as a custom job after the guitar has been purchased.

Fret Markers

Or Dot Inlays

Many fretboards have small markers, usually dots or other shapes, inlaid at certain fret positions (typically the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets). These fret markers help players quickly identify their position on the neck.

Fret markers can also be custom-made to fit the individual guitar player. Check out samples from PRS and Gibson. Fret markers can be birds, hearts, diamonds, or anything the individual guitarist desires.

Body Guitar Parts

Guitar Anatomy Diagram - Body
The Anatomy of a Guitar - Body Guitar Parts Diagram

Guitar Body

The biggest part of the guitar is called the body. Both electric guitars and acoustic guitars have them. But this is where the anatomy of a guitar differs between the two.

Electric guitars are solid or semi-hollow while acoustic guitars are generally chambered so they don’t need an external speaker to be heard or be amplified.

Although technically, you can still hear the sound produced by an electric guitar when you strum the strings. It just isn’t as loud or as defined. It’s basically the sound of plinking strings that can only be heard by people nearest to the instrument, you.

Guitar bodies have two sections, called bouts. We call these two the upper and lower bout. For parts of acoustic guitar, they’re usually plain and curved and don’t provide as much access to your guitar neck’s upper frets.

Electric guitars on the other hand have cutaways, transforming the bouts into horns. Now electric guitars are either single or double cutaways. 

There are also massively customized bodies because the lack of a sound hole allows more room to experiment with the body shape.

Take for example the classic V which has very narrow bouts which would prove nearly impossible to construct if you were to do it to an acoustic guitar shaped like a V.

We’ll go into more similarities between the electric and parts of acoustic guitar bodies in the list below.


Acoustic guitar saddles are usually just a strip of plastic or the same material as the nut. It also acts in the same manner as the nut. On electric guitars, each string usually has its own individual, adjustable saddle, unlike the single saddle on acoustic guitars.


Fixed, Tremolo, 2-Point, and Floating

The guitar bridge is present on the anatomy of a guitar for both acoustic and electrics. How it looks is slightly different though. Usually on acoustic guitars, the bridge is made of wood and is made aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It is also glued to the body making it a more permanent fixture on the acoustic guitar’s body and isn’t customizable.

Electric guitar bridges are more functional in appearance and can be replaced with near identical or manufacturer-recommended guitar bridge replacements. Electric guitar bridges can also be fixed, 2 point, or floating in nature. These guitar bridges, save for the fixed-bridge can be equipped with a tremolo or vibrato arm.

The bridge’s main functions are to anchor the strings to the body of the guitar and help set the string height (action) and intonation. The bridge has six small holes or pins that hold the ends of the strings. Some bridges use bridge pins to secure the strings, while others have the strings tied directly to the bridge.

On electric guitars, the string holes are sized small enough to hold the ball ends of the strings. Floating bridges, like the Floyd Rose bridge, have small screws that help secure the strings further.

Bridge Pins

Only Found on Acoustic Guitars

These are used to secure the strings on an acoustic guitar’s bridge. You just push it down where the strings come out of and keep it in place. Bridge pins also serve an aesthetic purpose that completes the look of an acoustic guitar.

Tremolo Arm

Also known as a whammy bar, this is a lever attached to a tremolo bridge that allows the player to quickly raise or lower the pitch of all strings simultaneously.

Sound Hole

Only Found on Acoustic Guitars

If there’s anything that truly defines what an acoustic guitar is, it would have to be the sound hole.  It serves as the acoustic guitar’s built-in amplifier. What it does is it collects the vibration of the strings and amplifies it as it reverberates within the acoustic guitar’s body.

Magnetic Pickups

While acoustics have a sound hole, electric guitars depend on pickups to magnetically receive the vibrations and translate it electrically into sound. Pickups are arguably the most crucial component on the anatomy of a guitar that distinguishes electric guitars from acoustic guitars. They're electromagnetic devices that capture the vibration of the steel strings and convert it into an electrical signal, which is then sent to an amplifier.

There are many guitar pickup companies providing different types of pickups and is considered another highly customized guitar part. Acoustic guitars can also have magnetic pickups built within the chambered body so they can be plugged in. This opens up a whole new world of features as pickups add a complex layer of technology to an otherwise simple and basic instrument. You see, pickups also come with potentiometers, pickup selector switches, onboard graphic EQ, tone and volume knobs.

There are two main types of pickups:

  • Single-coil pickups: Produce a bright, crisp sound but are prone to picking up electrical interference (hum)
  • Humbucker pickups: Consist of two single-coils wired together to cancel out hum, producing a fuller, warmer sound

Guitars may have multiple pickups in different positions along the body. Each position offers a different tone, with pickups closer to the neck producing a warmer sound and those closer to the bridge producing a brighter, twangier sound.

Control Knobs

Electric guitars typically have several control knobs:

  • Volume knobs: Control the overall output level of the guitar
  • Tone knobs: Adjust the guitar's tone by cutting high frequencies

Some guitars have individual volume and tone controls for each pickup.

Pickup Selector Switch

This switch allows the player to select which pickup(s) are active. On a guitar with three pickups, a 5-way switch typically offers these options:

  • Bridge pickup alone
  • Bridge and middle pickups together
  • Middle pickup alone
  • Middle and neck pickups together
  • Neck pickup alone

Output Jack

This is what allows you to connect to an amplifier or a set of effects via a guitar cable. It is usually placed along the guitar body’s side or the front.

Pick Guard

Or Scratch Plate

Often regarded as an aesthetic piece of the anatomy of a guitar, the pickguard helps protect the guitar’s finish from nicks, scratches, dents, and bumps. But on some guitars, the pickguard is where the guitar pickups are anchored.

Strap Buttons

These are small metal knobs, usually one at the bottom of the body and one at the top horn or on the neck heel, where a guitar strap can be attached.

Rare Guitar Parts

Schecter Hellraiser Flame Limited Edition headstock fretboard 2015 04 20 18 47 26 by Monika Fischer
Fretboard inlay designs are popular enhancements on higher-end guitars, such as the inlaid flames on the limited edition Schecter Hellraiser

String Trees / String Guides

These are usually found in Stratocasters and Telecasters or headstocks that aren’t angled. They guide the strings from the nut to the string posts and ensure there is adequate pressure to hold the string down and prevent it from slipping out when the guitarist bends the guitar. These are usually small metal parts in the anatomy of a guitar, with just enough lubrication to prevent the string from catching against the surface of the string tree that it comes in contact with.

Truss Rod

Technically this isn't "rare" as it should be  standard. However, some guitars still come without truss rods. These are usually the cheaper or low-quality build guitars that end up as a terrible first instrument for beginners.

Truss Rod Cover

This small piece is usually found in electric guitars. It covers the truss rod end and prevents dust from entering and affecting the truss rod’s functional ability. Some manufacturers also use the truss rod as a decorative piece to display their brand, logo, or model name and number.

Neck Binding

Neck bindings usually only serve an aesthetic purpose in the overall anatomy of a guitar. This is usually made of plastic and runs the entire length of the neck. Because it looks good, people usually pay more money to have their guitars come with a neck binding.

Fretboard Inlay Design

This is one of the wilder fretboard designs that guitarists like Steve Vai have adorning their fretboards. Check tree of life fretboard inlay design for more info on beautifying the anatomy of your guitar.

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