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What to Know About the Guitar

Updated on October 19, 2017

Figure 1


To start let's talk about the two most common guitars; the acoustic guitar and the electric guitar. If you are going to play guitar you will have either one or both of these types of guitars. As it is in any craft you need to know about the tools you use and how they work. First we will cover the acoustic guitar. When playing an acoustic guitar not much is really required aside from the guitar its self such as it not being necessary to have an amplifier, cable, or electronics. However you will find most modern acoustic guitars wil indeed contain electronics and be able to make use of amplifiers. There are many different types of acoustic guitars such as the steel guitar, classical, and dreadnought. The most common of which is the dreadnought acoustic and will be the type of guitar discussed in this lesson. To understand the acoustic guitar a little further take a moment to study the image in figure 1. The first thing you wil notice about an acoustic guitar is that the body is a hollowed out shell and in most cases comprised of wood. This allows the body to amplify the sound through the sound hole from the vibrations on the strings and allow the instrument to become audible without the assistance of electronics.

The next thing you will notice is the guitar neck. On the neck you will find metal bars spaced across the fretboard and these are the frets. Frets allow the player to find all the notes on the guitar by holding the strings down in the spaces between the frets creating the notes desired. The dots or inlays on the neck are fret markers that make it easier to identify where the player is playing on the fretboard. At the top of the neck is the headstock. Separating the headstock and the neck is the nut which holds the guitar strings in place. The headstock houses the tuning pegs so the pitch of each string may be adjusted by tightening or loosening the tuners. Now let's talk about the strings of a guitar. There are many different types of guitar strings most commonly made using nickel and steel. However there are also nylon strings commonly found on classical style guitars. The strings are held to the body of the guitar with bridge pins that slide and lock into the bridge at the bottom of the guitar.

Figure 2

Figure 2a
Figure 2a
Figure 2b
Figure 2b


In figure 2 you will see a pretty standard electric guitar. The electric guitar is very similar to the acoustic with a few differences. Most electric guitars are solid body guitars and do not have the need for a sound hole. Instead magnetic pickups are used to pickup the vibrations of the strings and the signal is carried through the electronics housed on the inside of the guitar and sent out the output jack through a cable into some form of amplifier. There are many different types of pickups as well. The pickups in the guitar in figure 2a are known as humbucker pickups. There is another common type of pickup in figure 2b known as single coil pickups. On the body of an electric guitar you will find knobs and a toggle switch. The knobs are used to adjust the tone and volume of the guitar or specific pickup and the toggle switch allows you to switch between pickups or use them in combination with each other to alter the tone of the guitar.

Figure 3

Tuning Diagram
Tuning Diagram


Now that you understand the different components to a guitar it is time to learn how to tune the guitar. There are a few different ways to tune a guitar however for a beginner I would recommend an electronic tuner or some other tuning device that you may purchase at your local guitar shop. If you don't have access to a tuner but have internet and/or a smart phone there are several nice apps that can help you tune your guitar. To tune your guitar you'll need to know there are 12 notes total in the chromatic scale labeled A-G with a half step in between each letter that are either sharp (#) or flat (b) except for B & C and E & F. I will cover the chromatic scale in further detail in later lessons however for now what you need to know is that each string is tuned to a note and for this lesson you will be tuning to what is known as standard tuning. When tuning your guitar start at the thickest string at the top of your fret board known as the 6th string and often referred to as the low E. Pluck that string and loosen or tighten the string with the appropriate tuning peg until the string makes an E note. If you are using a tuner, the tuner will show you if the note is either sharp or flat and you'll want it to be center. If the note is flat, tighten the string. If the note is sharp, loosen the string. Be cautious not to over tighten your strings as they may break and even cause injury if you are unlucky. Once you have managed to tune the low E appropriately you can now tune the rest of your guitar. If you take a look at the picture in figure three it will show you the order of standard guitar tuning (EADGBe) and numbered accordingly (654321). If you hold down the low E string at the 5th fret it will make the same note (A) that you want to tune the string below it to. This can be done across the fretboard and the picture in figure three will show you where to hold the note on each string so you can tune the rest of your guitar. Once you have finished tuning your guitar it is ready to play! Take this time to play around holding different notes to make different sounds. Remember playing and mastering guitar takes time and patience as is with anything worth having. Take your time and get comfortable with your tool. With persistence in this craft the rewards are nearly endless! Once you are comfortable with what you have learned in this lesson you will be ready for lesson 2. Thanks for reading and if you have not done so, check out the video below where I personally teach this lesson!


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