The Acoustic Guitar





The body is the most important characteristic of any guitar. It provides the resonance that shapes the tone of a guitar.

Body top

Solid Spruce is the recommended tone wood on acoustic guitars although Cedar is often used.   Cheaper guitars use plywood for the top.  Plywood is very stiff so it does not provide great sound quality.  Electric Guitars often use solid maple for solid body guitars and laminated maple for hollow body electrics.


On Acoustic guitars the bridge is fixed to the top.  Electric guitars often have movable bridges which allows adjustment to the intonation.  Acoustic guitars have a saddle that transmits the vibrations to the body top.  The material of the saddle is usually made of bone or a newer composite like Tusq.  Cheaper guitars use plastic which is stiff and does not transmit the vibrations well.  Bridge pins do not hold the string to the bridge, they just plug the hole for looks.


The headstock is where the tuning machines are mounted.  Quality tuners are crucial if you want to keep your guitar in  tune during heavy use.


The neck is usually made out of hard woods like rosewood and the fret board is often made of ebony.  The fret board is attached to the neck, along with the head stock at the end. Some necks are glued to the body (called a set neck) and others have it bolted on. Set necks are almost universal amongst acoustic guitars.

Nut & Saddle

All strings pass through the nut and the saddle. The function is to maintain proper string spacing and provide an endpoint for the string. Since the nut and saddle transfer vibrations to the body of the guitar their composition can be important. On quality acoustic guitars, the nut and saddle are usually made of bone or a quality polymer substitute.  Tusq is a popular brand.


Tuning heads or machine heads come in several varieties.  The most common acoustic tuning peg is attached to a gear box mounted on the back of the head stock.  The tuning peg goes through a hole and sits perpendicular to the head stock in front.  Classical tuners sometimes are inserted parallel to the head stock through the side.


A pickup is a magnet wrapped in a coil of copper wire. When the string is plucked, the vibration of the strings cause magnetic flux, which is then amplified and played through a speaker. There are three main kinds: passive single coils, passive humbuckers, and active humbuckers.

Switches and Knobs

Almost all electric guitars have a switch that changes which pickups are being used and at least two knobs, one for the master volume and one for the master tone. If the guitar has four knobs, then it has two volume and two tone, with each-volume-pair assigned to a pickup. Fender Stratocasters typically have one master volume and a tone control for the neck and mid pickup.

Electric Guitar  

Defining guitars as either acoustic or electric is a bit simplistic in this day and age.  Most acoustic manufacturers make guitars with built in electronics i.e.. pickups, volume controls and EQ.  some also include built in tuners.  Electric guitars come in solid body (as pictured above), hollow body and semi-hollow body.  Typically hollow body guitars have a mellower tone, use Humbucker pickups and are used extensively in jazz and blues.  Semi-Hollow body guitars like the Les Paul are used for many different styles while solid body guitars like the Fender Stratocaster are used primarily in rock and blues.