Have you found yourself in this position? Maybe you’ve played the guitar for several years and feel somewhat proficient at it, yet when you try to describe a problem to a repairman, you’re not sure what some part of the guitar is really called. “Well, it’s that little deal that holds the string in – you know, that little peg thing with the slot down the side.” Or “it’s that do-hicky you turn when you tune the strings.” If this sounds like you, read on for a lesson in guitar lingo.
The piece at the end of the neck is called the head or the headstock. Different companies use distinctive designs in the shape of the headstock, and usually the logo of the manufacturer is printed here. On each side of the headstock you will see three tuners. These are called tuning machines or sometimes tuning pegs. The strings attach to these pegs. On some guitars, particularly electric ones, the tuning pegs are all on one side of the headstock.
The tuning pegs are turned by the tuning keys. If you look on the back of the headstock, you’ll see the gears that operate the tuning machine. Moving down toward the neck, the next part of the guitar is the “nut.” The nut is the plastic or bone bar that the strings run through before progressing down the neck. It has slots in it to keep the strings in place.
On the neck, you’ll find metal bars running perpendicular to the neck. These are called frets. The term “fret” can also apply to the space between the metal bars. For instance, the “first fret” can refer to the space between the nut and the first actual metal fret. This is where you place your finger for making various notes. You don’t place your finger directly on top of the metal frets.
On the neck, you will usually find mother of pearl markers that mark the third, fifth, seventh, and other frets. These “fret markers” are helpful reference points for finding notes. They are not usually found on classical guitars. At the bottom of the neck, where it attaches to the body of the guitar, you will find the “heel.” Sometimes there is a button on the heel for attaching a strap.
The hole (or holes) on the front of the guitar is called the sound hole. Some jazz style acoustics have two holes called “f-holes” because they are shaped like a small cursive letter f. The sound hole of a basic flat top guitar is generally round, although there are some variations among some manufacturers. Solid body electric guitars don’t have a sound hole, although hollow body electrics do.
The plastic piece below the sound hole is called the pick guard. It provides a safe place for the pick or fingers to land when playing. Past the sound hole, the strings run over the “saddle,” (another plastic or bone piece with slots in it, similar to the nut) and down into the “bridge.” The “bridge pins” are the little pegs that hold the strings in place.
Knowing a few basic guitar parts should help you describe your problems to a repairman, and keep you from feeling like a newbie at the same time.