An electric guitar is a stringed musical instrument played with fingers or a plectrum (pick). It consists of a body, a neck and a headstock to which usually six steel strings are attached. The magnetic pickups transform the vibrations of the steel strings into audio signals that are driven through an amplifier. Thus, the amplifier is also an essential part of the electric guitar. It was the need of amplified sound in musical instruments that started guitar manufacturers to innovate the electric guitar at the beginning of the twentieth century. The first electric guitar appeared in 1931 by George Beauchamp. Since then, the instrument has become very important in popular music and a major factor in the growth of rock and roll.
Discussion The Headstock The headstock is the top part of the guitar. Its main purpose is holding the strings. The six metal strings (1.3) go through a thin metallic strip called the nut (1.2) and are fixed to the machine heads (1.1). The machine heads are simple worm gears that players rotate in order to tune the strings thus getting the desired tone. The size of the headstock depends on the layout of the tuners (machine heads): •For a 3×3 layout (three tuners aside), the average length would be 6 in. •For a 6 in-line layout, the average length would be 7 in to 9 in. Usually, the neck and the headstock of a guitar are made from a single piece of wood but some headstock may be constructed separately and glued to the neck.
The Neck The neck is the longest part of the instrument, around 25 inches in length, right under the headstock. It is the base of the fretboard (or fingerboard) where the player places his fingers in order to stop the strings at the desired note. The fingerboard is separated by 19 to 24 thin metal strips called frets (2.1), marked with decorative inlays (2.2) and marker dots, helping the player find the notes. Although it is part of the neck, the wood used for the fingerboard is different. In addition, the neck’s stability and rigidity is an important aspect of the instrument for determining its quality. The neck is fixed to the guitar’s body, and can be glued or bolted at the neck joint (2.3).
The Body The body is the bottom part of the guitar. It can be made of wood, plastic or cardboard, and its shape and size depend on the manufacturers’ style: the average body is 14 inch wide, 21 inch long and 1.75 inch thick. The body of an electric guitar has many functions due to the large number of subparts it contains. First of all, we have the tailpiece (3.4), a component that holds the opposite end of the strings, and right above it, a device that supports them called the bridge (3.3). There are a lot of different bridge/tailpiece systems that can be found on electric guitars. Attached to the bridge/tailpiece is the tremolo arm or whammy bar that can change the pitch by temporarily tightening the strings. Secondly, we have the pickups (3.2) which are bar magnets covered with very fine wire.
There are two types of pickups: one bar magnet under all six strings or separate magnets under each string. On an electric guitar’s body, there can be two to three pickups: the “neck” pickup close to the neck, the “bridge” pickup close to the bridge and sometimes another one in between. The player can switch between pickups with the help of the “pickup selector switch” (3.1) and adjust the volume with the volume controls (3.5). The main function of the magnetic pickups is transforming the vibrations of the steel strings into audio signals that are driven through an amplifier. Finally, usually under the body, we have the output connector or output jack (3.6) that connects the electric guitar to the amplifier when a cable is plugged in.
The Amplifier The amplifier is a device that boosts an audio signal. Because the signals from the electric guitar are weak, the amplifier’s job is to increase those signals, making them audible. Amplifiers can produce many sound effects but musicians mainly use distortion or clean. The size of an amp depends on the power of the speaker: whether the musician plays at home or in a concert.
Conclusion An electric guitar is a stringed musical instrument played with fingers or a plectrum (pick). It consists of a headstock, a neck and a body. Six steel strings are attached to the machine heads of the headstock and to the tailpiece of the body. A musician can change the pitch of a string by placing his fingers on the neck’s fretboard. When a string is plucked, its vibrations are converted by the body’s magnetic pickups into weak audio signals. The signals are then driven through an amplifier that increases their power, making them audible. Thus, the amplifier is an essential part of the electric guitar. Today, the electric guitar is the most important instrument in rock and roll music and the most played instrument in the Canada and United States.