The guitar is without a doubt one of the most beloved and played instruments around the world.
But what do you actually know about this instrument of such captivating music? And have you ever considered what the electric guitar is composed of?
Classical guitar, manouche guitar, folk guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric bass guitar, whether brand new or a vintage guitar… Each of these is made of many elements that make it possible for you to “riff”!
From its headstock and neck to its body, guitars come to life in factories or in the luthier’s workshop. They might be constructed from a range of wood media: ebony, spruce, cedar, rosewood, mahogany, maple…
By the time you come across one, in a custom shop or guitar lessons for beginners, it’s all assembled.
Nothing left but to play it! Maybe take a cue from the book of Eric Clapton or Pink Floyd?
But if you’re a guitarist interested in the manufacture of your guitar, read on to discover all that goes into this multi-layered process. What goes into making your Les Paul Traditional, Fender Stratocaster or Gretsch?
How are guitars made?
The major luthiers, or makers of string instruments (violin, ukulele, harp, banjo, mandolin, guitar…), are expertly versed in all the stages of guitar production. They themselves played an important role in the history of the electric guitar.
Here is how they carry out their work:
- This artisanal production begins with the creation of each element. One guitar is composed of a headstock, a body and a neck, a veritable living machine. These individual components might be made of different types of wood (spruce, cedar, mahogany, rosewood, oak, maple…)
- Once these elements are constructed it’s time to assemble them into a contoured beauty. The guitar takes its familiar shape as each element gets welded together. The luthier completes the fabrication with an array of adjusting and finishing touches.
- The 3rd step consists in the varnishing the wood, and the way this is done will determine the final price of the instrument.
The more advanced the finishing details, the more expensive the guitar will be. And of course, guitars produced artisanally are generally the most high-end. And this is because of the skill and time involved in labor; for instance the ebony artisan must work in a meticulous manner to master all the stages of production (the brace, guitar body, electrics, string tautness, varnish…).
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And when do pickups come in to this?
Making an electric guitar is essentially like installing a system. The mechanics are installed after the third step so as not to varnish each element. Ant the process is completed with the addition of strings!
This multifaceted process gives the electric guitar the capacity to achieve a range of sounds and effects.
How can one make a guitar oneself?
With a little bit of basic knowledge, it’s actually possible to create your own guitar. With the help of a few key tools of course!
The mechanic components can be purchased online. You must next find the ideal wood for your instrument. Draw a life-size model of your guitar on paper. This will make it easier to reproduce it in wood.
With the help of tools, cut all the elements of the guitar and assemble them together. The last steps are varnishing the finished object with a special product and inserting the mechanics!
Some guitar amateurs propose online tutorials that show the step-by-step fabrication of a guitar.
You could even invent your own guitar with salvage material if only you had a breakdown of the guitar to follow. Take a cue from the many brilliant people behind Guitar Box.
The body of the guitar
Very obviously, one of the essential elements of a guitar is its body. It’s composed of several elements including the hard shell, pickups and the bridge.
Here’s a quick overview of all its components…
Without the pickups, it would be impossible to detect the vibrations of the played guitar strings, as it converts them to an electrical signal, and transfers them to your amplifier to project their sound.
Two pickups are placed on the body of the guitar:
- The bass pickup is located in the spot where the sound of the guitar is at its lowest, as its name indicates!
- The other pickup is placed a few centimeters away. This one is high-pitched.
The bridge is a small component situated just next to the pickups, which holds the strings in place.
The fastening of the strings varies according to each guitar model.
The pickup selector switch
On the body of your guitar, the pickup selector switch allows you to choose between the two pickups, according to what you’d like to play and the effect that you want to make.
Certain guitars allow you to use both at the same time.
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The volume control
This button allows you to choose the sonic level of your guitar.
It gives you the choice between several volumes, a control that you equally have on your amplifier.
You have the capacity to turn the sound up very high if you like. All the same, be considerate of your neighbors!
The jack outlet
This is where you plug the cord to link the guitar to the amp!
Watch out for false contacts that can be frequent, preventing you from playing the guitar the way you’d like. So be sure to protect this outlet and its accompanying cable.
The strap fastener
This small connector is placed in the same place as the jack outlet.
This allows you to attach a strap to your instrument, so that you can play standing up by resting it on your shoulder. A sure way to imitate your idols!
It’s vital that you understand the frame and components of your electric guitar, from the amps to the fretboard, to be able to apply different playing techniques to it!
The neck of the guitar in 4 parts
Now that you have an idea of what is on the soundbox, let’s check out what is going on next to the neck.
This is where you’ll pluck the strings to play chords or even arpeggios - once you've learned the basics through guitar lessons London, Exeter or Truro.
The neck is divided in compartments.
The number of compartments varies according to each guitar. Generally speaking, classical guitars have fewer sections than acoustic or electric guitars.
This is where you must place your fingers to play the chords.
These little bars determine the limit between two sections.
The fingers should be placed close to the fret to pluck the strings correctly and avoid making too much vibration (not everyone is a fan of vibrato…).
It can be a pain to have to always count all the sections to know where to place your fingers.
To facilitate the lives of guitarists, most of these instruments have points of identification!
This might be dots, squares or triangles, or any other sign. They are often indicated on the side of the neck, in sections 5 and 7.
4. Guitar Strings
A neck would obviously be quite useless without strings. Most electric guitars possess six strings: Fender, Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jumbo, Ibanez, Epiphone, Gibson Les Paul, Yamaha, Dean…
The first being the lowest, and the last the most high-pitched, the strings exert a pressure on the neck that makes it keep straight. That’s why it’s important to quickly replace broken strings if you don’t want to deform your guitar.
You may also come across guitars with twelve strings.
The headstock of the guitar
Lastly, we come to the headstock of the guitar. This is the place where you will tune your strings one by one.
The little pegs that allow you to tune the strings by turning them are called mechanics. The more you stretch the guitar’s strings, the more it makes a high-pitched sound.
The tuning pegs
The tuning pegs are linked to the mechanics. When changing a string, you’ll pass it through these. To do so, push it inside then turn the mechanic so that the string wraps around the tuning peg.
This element plays an important role in the vibration of the strings so you can achieve that perfect tremolo!
The nut is placed between the guitar’s headstock and neck. Made from hard nylon, it enables the strings to not vibrate further than the neck.
Little holes allow the strings to play correctly.
The neck’s reinforcement rods
The rod that reinforces the straightness and shape of the neck is integrated inside it, and thus isn’t visible.
To access and maintain the rod, a screw is accessible at the guitar’s headstock.
Do you also know the different types of electric guitars?
Repairing these parts?
After a certain time, your guitar may begin to show signs of weakness. You can also break your guitar during a moment of bad luck or, in the style of the great Jimi Hendrix, in the heat of the moment on stage.
Don’t wait until the damage is irreversible before taking your guitar to the repair shop!
Know that each part of the instrument can be fixed. Unless of course your guitar met its fate in the grinder of a waste disposal…
First of all, get a repair diagnosis or get yourself to the luthier. Depending on the scope of repairs needed, the luthier will advise you on whether it’s cost efficient to repair it or to buy another guitar.
And if you possess a certain amount of repair knowledge, you can always attempt the job yourself! If you’re up for this challenge, there are a few tools you’ll need to procure, as well as advice that’s accessible online.
And that ends our discussion of the guitar’s many components. But this instrument is more complicated yet, and necessitates a range of accessories, such as tuners, spare strings, left-handed playing accessories, single coil, mixing desk, diapason, sound system, sheet music, and tablature, to name a few…
Are you ready to learn how to play the electric guitar?