The purpose of this article is to help readers in purchasing a guitar or guitars and to broaden their knowledge of the guitar. I shall talk about what each part of a guitar does does and what makes each part good (or bad). Some of the stuff I will talk about you may already know. Some of it is pretty basic and is only included to help beginner guitarists. You may know about every part of the guitar. In this case feel free to read over the article anyway.
Many guitar players regard the neck as the most important part of the guitar. I certainly do. A thinner neck (width ways) will inevitably suit someone with small hands and fingers whereas someone with larger hands may opt for a guitar with a slightly wider neck. However, this isn't always the case. A thinner neck tends to be easier for playing leads on whilst rhythem is more suited to wider necks. This width is measured in both mm and inches across the nut.
The curvature of the neck at the back very is important but very personal. This again depends on hand size but also takes in to account playing style and musical style etc. etc. For someone with small hands a neck which has a large, curved back is by no means ideal. They would be more suited to a flatter neck. Ibanez's Wizard necks are well known for their flatness. Soloing tends to be easier on a flatter neck rather than than a more curved one as well. A more curved neck would work well with someone who likes to play blues or jazz like music.
The fretboard is the piece of wood at the front of the neck. It is often made from rosewood, maple and ebony. The first most noticeable difference about these woods is their appearance. Rosewood is a dark brown colour and is the most commonly used. Maple has a very light creamy colour and ebony is black. Each wood produces a slightly different tone but more often than not it is aesthetics which will draw a certain person to a certain fretboard wood. A Hair metal guitarist would most likely prefer a maple fretboard whilst a nu metal guitarist would be more inclined to go with ebony. Rosewood fretboards need more care seeing as every now and again (every month or two) they will need some lemon oil applied to keep the neck clean and safe from drying out.
The radius of the fretboard refers to it's curvature. The system for measuring the radius of a neck is simple; imagine the curve of the fretboard continues around and forms a full circle. The radius of this circle is the radius of the fretboard. A higher radius neck is flatter whilst a more curved fretboard has a lower radius.
On flatter fretboards, a (slightly) lower action can be achieved but tend to be less comfortable to play on. More curved fretboards are trickier to do bends on but not to the point they are impossible. Unless you have neck with a radius of 1" but that is unheard of.
These are the thin metal parts that separate the frets which the note are played on. Extra jumbo frets are harder to perform slides on and when combined with low action are more likely to cause fret buzz.
This is a metal stick which runs down the length of the neck. It helps the neck cope with tension and can be adjusted using an Allen key. The headstock and everything on it
This is the light coloured part which the strings pass through. Guitars which come with Floyd Roses have locking nuts.
Tuning pegs are (as the name name suggests) the bit you tune the guitar with. Like nuts some can be locked. Unlike nuts don't share their name with a rather yummy type of food.
This is the guitars badge of honour (or shame). A guitar which bears the words Gibson or ESP can be proud of itself. If the guitar says Stag at the top it should hide it's headstock in shame.
The Guitar body
There are many different types of wood used in guitar bodies. Some are good some aren't (how profound of me!!!) Here's a list of some of the good and bad ones...
Mahogany - A dense wood which provides a thick and warm tone. Used in many Les Pauls.
Alder - (My personal favorite) Not as dense as mahogany but still rather dense. Has a thick and brightish tone. Often used in Jacksons and some fenders.
Ash - Has a bright tone. Used in many Fenders.
Basswood - Has a medium density and quite a warm tone. Used in many mid-range guitars.
Agathis - Has quite a dull tone. Used in many low end B.C. Rich's.
The shape of the guitar alters the fullness of the tone. The less wood there is the weaker the tone. A week tone is by no means bad. A Stratocaster has a thinner tone than a les paul for many reasons. One of them is because of the shape.
The shape also effects the comfort of playing. Whilst sitting down stratocasters are very comfortable (Think of playing guitar on a cushion). Unlike flying V guitar's they can be a nuisance to play sitting down due to their tendency to slide off you knee.
The bridge is one of the ends where the strings go in. These can be very basic or complex. Here are the three most common...
Vintage tremolos. Also known as Strat style bridges. Are capable of lowing the pitch of a note but not raising it (unless if you've done some jiggery pokery and in which case well done to you, I respect someone who can do jiggery pokery to a guitar).
Floyd Rose bridges. Personally I hate them. They are a system which is floating between the strings and a set (of normally three) springs, located in the back of the guitar. If the guitar has a good one (the term "one" referring to both the Floyd rose and the owner) they can raise and lower the pitch of a single note at the guitarists will. A huge problem with them is if one string is bent all the other strings temporarily go out of tune. This makes all sorts of bending techniques impossible on a Floyd rose equipped guitar unless if the Floyd rose is blocked making it effectively a fixed bridge.
Tune-o-matics. Also known as Stoptails are a fixed bridge which restrict the player from altering pitch of a single note (apart from bending the string). The player can push down on the string behind the structure closest to the pick ups or do the same to the peice of string behind the nut to lower the pitch of the note but can result in the string falling out of tune.
Other types of bridge include String through, Bigsby and kahler.
Pickups are located under the string, between the neck and the bridge. There many different types. There are high out putting ones, low out putting ones, single coils, humbuckers, Active pickups, passive pickups and yellow pickups.
The difference between high outputting pickups and low outputting pickups is that... wait for it... High outputting pickups have a higher output. Yes! profound moment number two!!! A higher out put tends to be noisier and more suited to over the top music styles such as Glam Metal. Low outputting pickups would work well with classic rock.
Single coils and Humbuckers are two types of pickup. You can tell which is which just by looking. Humbuckers are twice the size of single coils. Humbuckers tend to be more high output than single coils but not always. Humbuckers have a more "meaty" tone compared to single coils. Single coils are useful if you want a more "gritty" distortion. This explains why Cinderella (the band obviously) use telecasters and stratocasters with single coils pickups. Single coil pickups are also good for achieving bright clean tones.
Active pickups Use batteries which is bogus in one sence because when something says it uses a battery it should just say it doesn't always work when you want it to because it will run out. On the plus side however they can supply the player with a tone that packs more "UMPH". Passive Pickups provide less "UMPH" but more "SCHGARR". Some people say that passive pickups have a more natural tone and I have to agree. Active pickups are useful if you want to play very heavy stuff such as Death Metal or Nu metal.
Yellow pickups look weird
The sound of the pickup also depends on is position in the guitar. There are three basic positions for the pickups. Bridge, neck and middle. These aren't literally in the bridge and the neck but near them. The general rule is that the further away from the neck the pickup is, the brighter it is. Pickups nearer the neck will have a warmer tone to them.
The standard controls on a guitar are: Volume, Tone and Pickup select. They do as you'd expect and I really doubt I need to tell anyone what the volume control does. Some volume and tone controls are better than others. It is all about how smooth the change is.
Some guitars may have a mechanism which can convert humbuckers into single coils and some have a switch which cuts the volume off. There are many, many different sort of controls which do all sorts of things but most of them aren't so commonly used.
Here comes my third profound moment... These are what you make the noises with. You can get different gauge strings. Thinner ones are used in faster guitar playing such as shred metal. Thicker strings tend to be used in heavier music styles.
Thanks for reading and I hope it has helped widen your knowledge of guitars.