A good workman knows his tools. Below are diagrams of the two most popular types of guitars: electric and steel string acoustic (classical or nylon string guitar parts are basically the same as steel string acoustic guitar parts.) Each type has numerous variations but the parts are basically the same. Some electrics may have two Humbucker pickups while others may have three Single Coil pickups, but they are all still pickups. On electric guitars the bridge can be part of a single unit with a “tremolo” (like a Stratocaster) or it can be a separate unit and include a Stop Tailpiece (like a Les Paul.)
There are also various terms for the same items. For example: tuners, tuning machines, tuning keys, and tuning pegs are all the same thing. Tremolos, vibratos, and whammy bars are also the same thing. The Fretboard is the piece of wood on the top of the neck that contains the frets, although this is often referred to as “the neck.” Compare these diagrams with your guitar and you should be able to figure out the parts of your guitar.
Acoustic Guitar Parts
Electric Guitar Parts
It is not necessary to memorize all these parts immediately, but you should refer back to this section from time to time until you do know them all.
- This lesson was adapted from my book: Better Guitar Method Book 1, which is available at the Better Guitar Shop.
The Vibrato Bar
Many types of solidbody guitars, and some hollowbody guitars, come with a bar attached to the bridge that allows the player to raise and lower the pitch of the guitar strings. Using this bar, you can create subtle effects such as vibrato all the way up to extreme effects such as “dive bomb” pitch changes.
Unfortunately, when these bars were included on early Stratocasters they were misnamed “Tremolos”, when in fact they were “Vibratos.” Tremolo is a fluctuation in volume. Vibrato is a fluctuation in pitch. The bars raise and lower pitch so they are really Vibrato bars. But the incorrect name stuck, so now it is common to hear them called tremolos.
Actually, they have several nicknames including “Whammy Bar”, “Bigsby” (a brand name), and “Floyd Rose” (another brand name for a locking vibrato bar.) Regardless of the name, they all raise and lower the pitch of the strings.