The guitar anatomy is often-times overlooked when people start learning the guitar. You want to pick up the guitar to play it, not learn about the different pieces. However, these different pieces of the guitar anatomy are actually quite useful in your quest to becoming a better guitar player. Let me show you the 3 most important parts of the guitar anatomy and how they can help you!
1. Guitar Tuners – Guitar String Notes and Intonation
How to Memorize the Guitar Tuning Notes
In the picture above you can see the 6 guitar tuners of a standard 6-string guitar. As I’m sure most of you know, the guitar string notes are as follows:
E – 6th string
A – 5th string
D – 4th string
G – 3rd string
B – 2nd string
E – 1st string
I like to remember these notes in order by using a mnemonic device, “Eat All Day, Go to Bed Early.”
What is Guitar Intonation?
But what most of you don’t know is that these tuners hold the secret to one of the most important aspects of the guitar and it’s sound: Intonation.
Because the guitar is a multi-stringed instrument, you will have multiple strings ringing at the same time. This means that if you have two or more strings playing together and one of them isn’t perfectly in tune, the intonation will be off and you will get a sour sound.
Many students can’t hear this at the start because they don’t know what the chord is supposed to sound like regardless. That’s why it’s imperative that you make sure to tune all of your strings as close to perfect as you can. I would recommend tuning the guitar once and then going back to double check each string and making whatever slight adjustments are necessary.
Tuners can all be very different so you may need to twist the tuner of one string a little bit less than a tuner of a different string to change the tuning the same amount. Get a feel for this on your guitar and get used to it. It will help you in the future when you are really keen to the sound of the intonation and want to make it perfect.
2. Acoustic Soundhole and Electric Pickups
Acoustic Soundhole – How to Achieve Great Tone
The acoustic soundhole is obviously the hole where the sound comes out of an acoustic guitar but do you know where to pick the strings to get the best tone? When we strum or pick, you’ll get the most lovely, vibrant tone if you pick over the bridge half of the guitar. That means you want to strum between the middle of the sound hole and the edge of the sound hole closest to the bridge. The bridge is where the strings end on a guitar near our picking hand.
Give that a shot and see if you can actually hear the different tones when you play! This will help to get you the sound you’re looking for when playing your acoustic guitar.
How Guitar Pickups Work
The short of it is that they consist of magnets and when you pick a string, the vibration of the string will pull the magnet around creating a signal based on the changing magnetic field of the pickup.
There are two main types of pickups to give you drastically different sounds: Single Coil Pickups and Humbucker Pickups. In a nutshell, humbuckers will give you a chunkier, more full tone and single coil will give you a little more twang. The cool part is that no matter what type of pickups you have, the location on the body also changes the sound!
Neck Pickup vs Bridge Pickup
Most electric guitars have two pickups, the neck pickup and the bridge pickup. These are aptly named because the neck pickup is closest to the neck and the bridge pickup is closest to the bridge. However, the sound difference can really be astonishing. Using your pickup selector switch, you can choose between just the neck pickup (switch to the top position), the bridge pickup (switch to the bottom position) or a combination of both (switch to the middle position). All three of these settings alter the tone and can be utilized in different settings.
Most people will say that if you’re ripping some leads and want that nice crunch, throw it on the bridge pickup. If you’re playing more rhythmic and fuller sounding music, then throw it onto the neck pickup to get that nice low end. Don’t get me wrong, this is not the end of the story when it comes to guitar tone using pickups but this will get you a good start. I recommend that you try different pickup combinations and see what you think!
3. How to Get the Most Out of Notes On a Guitar Fretboard
The fretboard on a guitar is extremely important not just to know the guitar notes on the fretboard, but it’s also important because it can help us get better intonation and can provide reference.
Further Steps to Achieve Guitar Intonation
When dealing with intonation on a guitar, you’ll want to use your fretting fingers to play on what I call, “the tops of the frets.” This means that you are fretting closest to the fret bar of the next fret. For example, if you’re fretting 5th fret of any string, you want to place the finger that’s fretting that note as close as you can to the fret bar in between the 5th and 6th fret. However, you don’t want to put your finger on the fret bar as that would mute it.
This can get very tricky when fretting entire chords, but just do the best you can. It’s something that won’t come naturally for you but with practice, you’ll make a good habit out of it.
Memorizing the Notes on a Fretboard
The fretboard is also very important as a visual reference for where your hands are. You’ll notice in both of the pictures above that there are dots or bars inside of the frets. Most guitars also have dots on top of the neck so that you can see them without having to flip your guitar towards you.
These dots give us a reference to what position we are in and will greatly help to memorize the notes on the fretboard. For example, if you memorize the fact that 5th fret of 6th string is an A, then when you look for a B on the 6th string, you’ll know where A is and that B can’t be too far away. For a lesson about how to memorize the fretboard easily and effectively, check out this lesson I’ve written.
Final Thoughts on Guitar Anatomy
Knowing the different parts of the guitar anatomy will really help you dial everything in. When you know what kind of tone you want to achieve, all of these different parts of the guitar really make a difference. It will take time to learn all of these things but that’s the fun of it! Besides, I would imagine your tastes will change over time and you’ll be looking for more tones and know how to find them with ease.
If you’re looking for other ways to achieve your guitar playing goals, I would love for you to jump into my free 5-day course that uses PDFs and videos to teach you the ins and outs of perfecting techniques such as finger exercises, fretting chords, playing chord transitions and even gives you an introduction to the world of guitar soloing! All you need is an email address and you’re good to go.