So today I am looking at acoustic guitar components, I’m sure most of you will have heard names like the nut, the sound board and bridge pins but do you know exactly what they are? Well if you don’t hopefully this page should clear things up.
Knowing you Necks from Your Nuts
We will look at the nylon stringed classical guitar in more detail later but first let’s examine the steel stringed acoustic guitar. steel stringed acoustic guitar. Classical guitars have nylon strings. According to MusicCritic, many types of classical guitars traditionally have 12 frets sometimes are referred to as a Spanish guitar adapted from one developed by Spanish luthier Anonio Torres Jurado. So, steel stringed guitars are more common today.
The Head stock is a platform for the tuning pegs or machine heads as there often referred to, these are used to tighten new strings and for tuning. The head stock is one of the most significant differences between the steel string guitar and the classical guitar as you will see later.
The neck supports the finger board in which the frets are placed. In days gone by gut string was used as the frets and strings, much to the relief of the sheep or goats who were usually the donors steel has proven to be a much more suitable alternative.
The neck is attached to the body by the heel, a steel bar called a truss rod runs the length of the neck from the head stock to neck block, the neck block is a block of wood in the body of the guitar used to spread the load from the truss rod to the body.
You Sound Board
The top of the guitar is possibly the most most important part, known as the sound board the type of wood, thickness and bracing on the rear make the biggest difference to the tone of the instrument, the size of the sound hole is also significant in that a bigger hole increases the treble and inversely a smaller hole will increase the base. Antonio Torres Jurado is said to have made a guitar with the back and sides of paper mache that played perfectly well to prove the significance of the sound board.
The upper and lower bout of a guitar refers to the figure of 8 shape, this can be more pronounced in some guitars than others.
The finger plate, pick guard or golpeador as it is referred to in the Spanish guitar world is there purely to protect the body work from tapping from fingernails or picks. Many choose not to have them as they prefer the look of the grain of the wood, or as I suspect is often the case people like to show off their battle scared guitars as a sign of the journey they’ve taken. Virtuoso Jon Gomm’s Lowden looks like he’s just pulled it out of a skip and I feel quite sure he’s proud of that. I have to confess to feeling a kind of envy and admiration at these battered guitars.
The six strings (or six pairs (coarse) for a twelve stringed guitar, and yes a twelve string guitar needs a tuning peg for each string,) pass from the peg over the nut down the length of the neck and sound hole, pass over the saddle and are held in place by the bridge pins on the bridge.
There are variations in materials and coatings used to make the strings and the gauge (thickness) can create different tones, however any acoustic guitarist will need to be proficient at changing broken strings, not a particularly difficult skill but an essential one all the same so I will go into more detail about changing and choosing strings on another day.
I’ve Got Wood
As I said the type of wood the sound board is made from significantly alters the sound of the instrument, traditionally Cedar (which produces a warm tone,) and Spruce (which produces a brighter tone,) were the preferred choices of the early Spanish Luthiers (the craftsmen who build guitars are called Luthiers,) and pretty much still are today. Other woods are commonly used such as Redwood, Koa, Mahogany and many more, the prices of these guitars is however going up as supplies of these timbers are reduced.
Carbon fibers and epoxy resins are being used in some modern guitar struction and whilst not common or for that matter not particularly cheep my guess is they will become more common place over time. Cheaper guitars tend to be made made from laminated wood and whilst not up to the spec of their solid topped cousins can make excellent beginners guitars.
The cutaway is a noticeable difference between different types of acoustic guitar, the reason for this is simply to make it easier for the fretting hand to access the frets further up the neck, the downside can be that you are removing a large bite of the sound board which can effect on the tone of the guitar.
Let’s get Classical
As stated earlier the main difference between a steel string guitar and a classical guitar is the head stock at one end of the guitar and the bridge at the other. The strings are would in a more traditional manner with the pegs at 90 degrees to the head stock, in short nylon is stretchier then steel and therefor needs more space for the excess string after it’s been wound a number of times, steel strings and especially the base strings only need a couple of turns to be held in place and bring the guitar into tune.
At the other end there are no bridge pins. The end of each string has a loop, the string passes through the bridge and then through the loop to hold it in place.
So there you have it all the major acoustic guitar components, if you’d like to learn a little more on how these instruments ended up like this, you may visit the odyssey this site owner is my nearest friend John Anthony.
I hope this has been of some interest and as always please leave any questions or comments below and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.