Getting To Know Your Guitar. Part 1

author: UG Team date: 09/08/2006 category: for beginners

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Today we're launching a series of free guitar lessons, originally prepared and popularized by Kid Mercury -- the developer and owner of website. These lessons cover young gitarists' long way from beginners to quite professional musicians. We hope this series will help you to reach your own desired level, as well as improve all your guitar skills that you already have. So, let's get it started!

Table of Contents:

1. Anatomy of a guitar\r\n
2. Basic guitar terminology\r\n
3. Guitar strings names\r\n
4. How to hold your guitar

1. Anatomy Of A Guitar

This lesson contains a couple of videos that summarizes things. If you're looking for something a bit longer and more comprehensive, try reading the text below the video.
Additional Videos -- contains a nice review of anatomy and other basics. While certainly not the most glamorous part of playing guitar, learning how your instrument functions is vital towards becoming a successful guitarist. Once you have an understanding of all the parts of your guitar and how they work together to create sound, you'll be better equipped to manipulate your instrument to get the sound you want. Below is an analysis of the various parts of the guitar.
  • Head
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    The head's primary purpose is to serve as the location where the tuning knobs can meet the strings to ensure that the strings are properly wound. Resting on the head are extensions of the tuning knobs; these extensions serve as points where the string can be entered into and then wound. Also known as tuners, tuning knobs are used to tighten and loosen the strings on your guitar. How tightly wound the string is directly correlates its pitch; the tighter the string, the higher the sound of the note it will produce.
  • Fretboard / Fingerboard
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    The fretboard is the "star" of the guitar; it is the instruments most glamorous part. The fretboard is broken up into many different sections, with each section being separated by thin metal bars. The term "fret" actually refers to the space between the metal bars. For example, the first fret is the region before the first metal bar. Likewise, the third fret is the region between the second and third metal bars (it is also the first fret with a small circle in it). The frets serve to all the guitarists to manipulate the note that each string is produced. For example, when you press your fingers down on the first fret of a string, it sounds different than when you play the string open (meaning with no fingers pressing down on a fret). In the forthcoming lessons we'll show how you can manipulate the strings to get the sound you want, and will include examples from classic songs to illustrate how the sounds were derived.
  • Position Markers Position markers are the small circles that can be found on certain frets. In a way, they serve as a map of the fretboard. The third fret is the the first fret to have a position marker. The fifth fret has one as well, as does the seventh and the ninth. Note that two position markers are placed at the twelfth fret; that is because notes played on the twelfth fret are exactly one octave above the note of the corresponding string when it is played open. If this is a bit confusing now, don't worry; it will make more sense in the music lessons section.
  • Body
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    The body of the guitar is the wide, bulky part of its anatomy. If you are sitting down, it is the part of the guitar that will rest on your thigh. It also is where the sound hole can be found; on electric guitars, it is where the pickups can be found.

  • Sound Hole/Pickups
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    click to zoom
    The sound hole is, as the name implies, the hole in the acoustic guitar. The pickups, on the other hand, are the rectangular objects that protrude from the body of an electric guitar. Both pickups and sound holes serve the same function; they make the sound derived from plucking the string louder and richer.
  • Input Jack
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    The input jack can only be found on guitars that plug into amplifiers; acoustic guitars that do not plug into an amplifier will not have an input jack. Its purpose is to serve as the entry point for one end of the cable. The other end of the cable can be plugged into amplifiers, pedals, tuners, recording devices, and various other machines used process guitar sounds.

    2. Basic Guitar Terminology

    Like any field of study, the science and art of playing guitar is filled with its own terminology. In order to play the guitar and interact with other musicians and guitarists, you'll need to have an understanding of key terms. Below are some key terms defined. As always, reply to this thread if you have any questions about guitar terminology. Instructors are here to offer their support.
  • Guitar Pick. [picture] The guitar pick is a flat, triangular device used to play notes. Note the picture below.
  • Guitar String. The string is the lengthy, metallic wire is pulled across the length of the guitar, running from below the sound hole (or pickups) to over top of the head. The term "note" refers to the striking of a single string to produce a sound. In the video clip below, the guitarist uses a pick to pluck a single string on his guitar. The sound that is generated from the pluck of a single string is referred to as a note. The sound of a note can be manipulated by pressing the strings down on the fretboard, and by playing different strings as well. The video clip below shows two notes being played, one after the other, on a single string. Note that only one string is played.
  • Guitar Chord. A chord is simply multiple notes played in unison. In the video clip below, note how the guitarist plays multiple strings in a single strum. The video clip below shows a chord, the E Major chord, being played.

    3. Guitar Strings Names

    Each of the six strings on your guitar has a name so that you can easily identify it. These strings are identified below. The naming conventions will make more sense once we get to the additional lessons, but for now aim to memorize their names; this information will serve as a stepping stone to getting the sound you want out of your guitar, so it is important to master the material. 1 - the High E String. The high E string is the thinnest string that produces the highest pitched sound. It is the string that is closest to the ground when you are holding your guitar properly. Many guitarists will also refer to this as the 1st string. 2 - the B String. The B string is the string directly above the high E string. It is also referred to as the second string. 3 - the G String. Likewise, this is the string directly above the B string. It is also referred to as the third string. 4 - the D String. Located directly above the G string, the D string is also known as the fourth string. 5 - the A String. By now you may be sensing the pattern. The A string is located above the D string, and is also known as the fifth string. 6 - the Low E String. The final string, the one furthest from the ground when the guitar is held properly, is the low E string. This string produces the same musical note as the high E string, but does so at two octaves lower. Octaves, as well as the distance between notes, will be discussed in greater detail in the music theory section. The strings have some clear patterns with respect to their naming conventions and their positioning on the guitar: The strings are numbered one through six starting with the bottom string. Starting from the low E string to the high E string, each string gets thicker and produces a deeper sound. In particular, the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings are referred to as the bass strings, as they produce a deeper, fuller sound. Here's a video that runs through this same topic.
    There you have it -- that's pretty much all there is to guitar string names.

    4. How To Hold Your Guitar

    Being sure to hold your guitar properly is something that is extremely important, but is often overlooked by many guitar students. How you hold the guitar is something that easily becomes habitual, so it is important to learn how to hold the guitar properly from the start; otherwise, bad habits will develop. Holding the guitar correctly is simple; there are only a few key matters that you need to be aware of. These are outlined below.
  • Left Hand, Right Hand. The elbow of the hand that you strum with should be at an angle that is slightly less than 90 degrees, so that your hand naturally falls close to the sound hole / pick ups. If you are a right handed guitarist, this will apply to your right hand; your left hand will be the hand that manipulates the fretboard. The opposite is true for left handed guitarists.
  • Back of Body Against Stomach. Ideally, you should hold your guitar so that the strings are properly aligned, and are directly above one another. If you are doing this correctly, the back of the guitar's body should be resting against your stomach. Holding the guitar in such a position will allow you to maximize the mobility of your fingers across the fretboard.
  • Bottom of Body on Lap. When seated, the body of the guitar should rest on your lap. You'll notice that both electric and acoustic guitars have curves in their body; the curve is the perfect place where your guitar can meet your lap.
  • Palm Away From Neck. This third mistake is by far the most common one, and is an easy trap for guitarists to fall into, even after they have become experienced: the palm of the guitar should not touch or rest against the back of the guitar's fretboard. Your thumb can push against the back of the neck -- this often makes pushing the strings down easier -- but the palm should not "hug" the neck. Hugging the neck can substantially limit the guitarist's mobility up and down the fretboard. This is important! Check out the video below; note the guitarist's hand is not hugging the fretboard. This is what allows him to move up and down the fretboard so quickly, and to play notes clearly. The guitarist also has the guitar positioned properly with respect to his body.
    Still unsure of how to hold your guitar? Check out the pictures below for an example of what's right and what's wrong. Incorrect | Correct. ActoGuitar's purpose is to help people learn to play guitar, and to help experienced guitarists with professional ambitions reach their aspirations. Be sure to check out ActoGuitar website at this location. To be continued...
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