Anatomy of a Guitar
Different Types of Guitars

Inspiring Creative Project Ideas

different types of guitars all in a row

Welcome to Anatomy of a Guitar – Different Types of Guitars, an Adventure Learning Initiative in mentoring and instructing apprentice artists. We hope you enjoy this adventure into the creative and expressive simple life of guitar and music!

Each type of guitar is like a musical work of art. By sharing this information with you, you’ll be better equipped when choosing a guitar that suites your style and personality. Since I’ve been a guitar mentor I’ve had many rewarding experiences. One of my favorites is accompanying my students to buy their first guitar. Seeing the light in their eyes grow brighter as they strum the first few notes on their guitar really deepens my own sense of appreciation for the guitar. Join me on an adventure in discovering the different types of guitars.

Guitar Bodies

Shapes, Sizes and Sounds

There are a lot of different types of guitars, each with their own unique anatomy. Ever wondered what the doohickey that turns the stings is called? Or how about the wacha-macallit that picks up the sounds on an electric guitar? This page will explain the basic anatomy of a guitar for both types of guitars - electric and acoustic. I’ll also explain what all the little bits and pieces do. There are 3 main types of guitars:

  1. Classical: A hollow bodied guitar with 3 wound steel strings and 3 nylon strings. These guitar bodies are generally smaller and the necks are wider. Most classical and Spanish guitar players use this type of guitar.
  2. Acoustic/Semi-Acoustic: Also called a steel string guitar, because it has 6 steel strings (4 wound and 2 solid). The Acoustic guitar is also a hollow bodied guitar. The neck is typically longer and thinner than its classical counterpart. Guitar bodies of this guitar vary, however, there are 2 basic shapes - Jumbo and Dreadnaught. The difference being the shape of the guitar bodies. A Semi-Acoustic, or electric acoustic has a built in pick-up, or microphone, so you can plug it directly into an amp without any other peripherals.
  3. Electric: most electric guitars have a solid wood body. To produce any sound worthwhile they are played through an amp - the louder the better! With no resonator chamber to amplify the sound as in the acoustic and classical variations, electronic amplification is necessary to boost the sound. Instead of a sound hole, these guitars have pick-ups. In layman’s terms, pick-ups are magnets that detect the vibration of a string and transmit it through to the amp, and in turn rock the audience!

Anatomy of a Guitar

All the Bits and Pieces Laid Out

  • Head Stock: Holds your tuning Pegs (Machine Heads). Different manufacturers typically have a unique head stock design. Many types of guitars can be identified simply by the shape of the headstock.

    Tuning Pegs (Machine Heads): Used for tuning the guitar strings. Depending on how your instrument is strung, when turned in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, will adjust the pitch (highness or lowness) of the string.

    Nut: Typically made out of plastic or bone, the nut ensures that your strings are the correct distance apart from each other and keeps them firmly in place (works in conjunction with the bridge).

    Fretboard: This is where most of the action will take place! It varies in length and width, depending on the guitar. The fretboard is quite often made from a different wood (usually a harder word) than the neck. The neck and the Fretboard are actually two different parts of the guitar anatomy. The fretboard is laid on top of the neck.

    Frets: These are the thin metal strips than run vertically across the fretboard. They get closer and closer together the further up the fretboard you go. The frets will determine what note the string will resonate at when you place your finger just behind the fret.

    Resonator Chamber (Sound Hole): Found on Classical; Acoustic; and Semi-Acoustic guitars. The sound hole allows the sound from the string to be amplified and projected outward without the use of electronic amplification.

    Pick-Ups: Found on Electric guitars (and semi-acoustic, although you may not be able to see them as they’ll be located, at times, in the resonator chamber). Pick-Ups are magnets that convert the vibration of your string into a digital signal that gets transmitted along the cable to the Amp. The Amp then takes that signal and converts it back into a sound wave and plays it through the speaker.

    Bridge: The bridge (and the nut to a lesser extent) determines the action (the distance between the fret board and the strings) of your guitar. A lower action usually implies easier playability than a higher action. However on an acoustic guitar, a lower action could lower the loudness of the sound. A bridge can be fixed or floating. A fixed bridge is attached to the body and cannot move. A floating bridge is attached to the body at only 2 points. It can be bent up or down by means of a ‘whammy bar’ to create a vibrato effect or to lower/higher the pitch of the strings in an instant. You’ll only find floating bridges on an electric guitar.

    Well, that's the basic anatomy of a guitar. Remember that are many types of guitars available, so no matter what the size, shape or style, there's one out there with your name on it!

    Musically Yours,
    Andrew Pittendrigh in association with
    The Adventure Learning Muso Mentors

    If you feel you would like to mentor or instruct in a creative short course or program, simply complete the Creative Project Ideas Mentor Application form.

    Enter the Magic Theatre...

    Click forward to Tuning a Guitar

    Click back to Play Guitar by Ear

    Return to the Simple Life for more Creative Project Ideas

    Return from Types of Guitars to Adventure Learning Home