Entry level acoustic guitar lessons for the beginner

Before learning to play any instrument, it is good to learn the basic anatomy or parts of that instrument so that the learning is based on a good foundation. Additionally, teachers, instrument store owners and other musicians will use the common language for your particular instrument when having a conversation. With the guitar, it is important to understand all of the parts of a guitar for many reasons, including:

  • Learning from a book or video with guitar language
  • Learning from a guitar instructor or band instructor
  • Talking with other guitarists about the guitar
  • Shopping for guitars and understanding “guitar-speak”
  • Knowing how to talk to a guitar technician for adjustments, fixes or improvements
  • Better understanding an appreciation for the craftsmanship of your acoustic guitar
  • and the list goes on.

Before beginning to learn the acoustic guitar, be sure to have a solid understanding of all of it's parts and workings so that your lessons and guitar conversations are sensible. Also, if you are a parent, looking to buy an acoustic guitar for your son, daughter, or student, it helps to be familiar with the guitar to be able to ask intelligent questions and to know what you are getting so that you find the best entry level acoustic guitar for your budget.

The acoustic guitar is usually divided into 3 regions, each with it's specific parts that add to the playability and sound of the acoustic guitar: The head, the neck, and the body. Though the head and neck are often made out of 1 solid piece of wood (or composite for some electric guitar models) they are usually divided on most acoustic guitar charts and diagrams.

Let's start with the head region. To the luthier (or guitar maker) the head region is also called the “headstock” and it is not uncommon to find the “headstock” labeled as an alternative for the head region of the acoustic guitar.

The term, “stock” affiliated with the head is derived from the stock or supply of wood that was used to create the head an neck region. The head and the tuners are very important for maintaining the tuning / tension on the strings at 1 end. Because the acoustic guitar belongs to the family of instruments known ad the “chordophones”, it is most commonly familiar in this family because it creates sound by the vibration of a string or strings taut between 2 points (like the piano, banjo, harp, dulcimer, etc.

Any class of instruments that created sound by the vibration of strings taut between two points is called a chordophone. Can you think of other instruments that fall into this category? The head region marks one end of the string's end point, while the other end is at the saddle on the body of the acoustic guitar (which we will refer to later).

The strings are set through slots on the “nut” of the acoustic guitar, which serves to suspend the strings while also keeping them equidistant from each other. The nut is usually made from some hard platic or polymer that does not absorb vibrations or deaden the strings much. Older guitars used ivory and bone for this nut, but with the advancements in technology and polymer technologies, most guitars use some kinds of hardened plastic. Other materials used for the nut have been graphite, steel, alloys, and corain to name a few. The nut must be a stationary point for one end of the strings in order for the guitar to hold it's tuning well.

While the strings pass through the slots on the nut, they are wound through holes and pegs that make up the machine heads. Some other interchangeable names for these are the tuning keys, tuners, or tuning gears. Quality tuners are a must for any acoustic guitar, and if not, they can ruin the playability and reliability of the instrument.

One quick way to begin appraising an acoustic guitar for it's quality is to assess the tuners. Make sure they feel solid and are made by a quality manufacturer. If they are difficult to turn, or are too loose when the guitar is strung properly, then they are indicating age or poor quality. Though tuners are not the only quality measure to review, one would not put inferior tuners on a quality guitar.

The head region is also a distinct area for inlays, ornaments or decorations that reveal the luthiers trademark or the guitar-maker's brand. Often, guitars can demand higher prices based off of the quality of inlay that is set into the head or headstock of the acoustic guitar. Often times, one can find a quality model guitar made from the same tonewoods, giving the same quality sound as a much more expensive model by the same maker, simply because of the artwork / inlaying that has been fashioned.

In other words, inlays do not improve the sound quality or tonal quality of an acoustic guitar, unless they are poorly crafted around the sound hole- depreciating the ability of the guitar to resonate or vibrate. One could expect to find two guitar models of the same exact quality and craftsmanship, with great price differences simply due to the inlays. Some common inlaying materials include mother of pearl, precious metals, exotic woods, and other precious gems and materials.

(End of part 1 - we'll discuss the neck and body region in part 2)

This beginners guide was provided by Aaron Schulman from StrumViews.com. They provide honest acoustic guitar reviews for the beginner, intermediate and advanced player. Buying your first or next acoustic guitar is a sometimes complicated process. Be sure to study how to buy an acoustic guitar on their site to be confident in your next purchase decision.

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