Anatomy-Understanding How an Acoustic Guitar Works
Jun 15 2015
In many ways, understanding how a guitar works is as important as acoustic guitar lessons for beginners. Guitars are quite different from other instruments. If you’ve just picked up an acoustic guitar, it’s vital that you understand its various parts and pieces.
Learning to make music is about understanding sound, and knowing how a guitar transfers sound can aid your progress. For the basics, check out Dummies.com. Their article on guitar pieces will give you a good diagram of the acoustic guitar’s pieces. Additionally, it’ll help you learn what to look for—based upon your playing style.
All About the Body
An acoustic guitar’s body is its main bulk. The body resonates sounds emitted through string plucking. On an acoustic guitar, the body is the instrument’s most important section. It effectively captures any noise, vibrating it within its insides to produce music.
The acoustic guitar’s body is wider at its bottom—called a lower bout. Its middle is thin, and its upper bout area is a bit thicker. The acoustic guitar body can either be one-piece, layered, solid, or hollow, and its shape and size greatly determine how sound bounces around within its interior (The Guitar Lesson).
All About the Bridge
An acoustic guitar’s bridge holds its strings. The strings are connected to the neck’s “face”, or topside–the fretted surface. A guitar’s strings, meanwhile, are supported by this area’s tightness and adjusted tone. You can change the guitar’s tone by tightening the strings. When string length is shortened or lengthened, the sound it produces is altered. This is the “guitar tuning” you’ve heard about.
Tuning your guitar is incredibly important, and it’ll need to be done for different songs and for per-session maintenance. If you’re looking for a great acoustic guitar tuning resource, How to Tune a Guitar can help you. The resource provides instructions, lessons, and an active blog.
All About the Neck
While the bridge contains the strings beginning and tuning points, the neck is the guitar’s lengthy portion. It’s where you “hold” the guitar with your non-dominant hand. The strings are connected to a guitar’s face via the bridge, and they’re pressed down while strummed. Pressing down alters the pitch produced by plucking, changing the “notes” of the guitar.
The Fretboard and Inlays
The acoustic guitar’s fretboard contains hard woods needed for pitch control.
The areas directly below plucked strings contain “inlays”, or position markers. These inlays are located on the third, fifth, seventh, ninth and twelfth frets, and they help you to know where to place your fingers when trying to play certain chords.
On acoustic guitars, the sound hole captures and echoes sound waves. If you look at a guitar, the soundhole is, quite literally, a hole. You strike the strings immediately above the hole, and striking here tosses sound waves into the acoustic guitar. The sounds rebound within and are amplified.
The Sound and You: How Reverberation Occurs
When an acoustic guitar’s strings vibrate, the vibrations travel across the bridge and soundboard. Once they’ve reached the acoustic guitar’s soundhole and body, they’re amplified. Two guitars with two separate bodies will produce different sounds, and tuning a guitar’s strings—via the keys located at its head—can further alter produced sound.
Sound, in essence, is changing air pressure. Our ears detect and process different sound pitches, and understanding different frequency ranges can greatly enhance your acoustic knowledge. While learning to play the guitar can take time, knowing its parts can greatly enhance your process.
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Philips, Mark and Jon Chappell. The Anatomy of an Accoustic Guitar. 2015.
Power, Rock Guitar. The Importance of Daily Practice. 2015.
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