Classical Guitar Lessons: Learn The Elements Of The Classical Guitar

Classical Guitar Lessons - The Elements

Learn about all the parts and Functions of a Classical Guitar

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Classical Guitar Parts

Classical Guitar Elements

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In this Classical Guitar Lesson we will learn the elements of a classical guitar. This illustration above labels all the major components of the modern Classical Guitar. Read about the details below:

Guitar Headstock
  • The headstock or "head" as it is referred to is a the top portion of the neck that receives the strings. The classical guitar typically has string channels cut in the headstock where the strings run to make contact with the tuner rollers, on which the strings are secured. The main function of the headstock is to accommodate the string tuners or machine heads.
  • Another important function of the very top of the headstock is that this is where the luthier places his signature decoration. Every different guitar maker has a different signature and it is fun to see how creative some of these are.
  • Tuning Machines:
  • The Tuning Machines are the geared mechanical devices that are used to secure the strings and tune the instrument. They are usually gold plated on the upper priced guitars and chrome or silver plated on the lower priced units.
  • The roller portion of the Machine Head on which the strings wind around are either plastic on the lower priced guitars and ivory on the highest priced lines
  • The Nut  is the  small (usually white) piece of either bone or ivory that holds the strings off the fingerboard and separates the fingerboard from the Headstock.
  • The Nut plays a critical role in determining the string action (or playability) of the guitar in the lower positions. It also transfers a great deal of sound from the strings into the neck and bridge of the guitar and some control over sustain.
  • Fretboard:
  • The Fretboard on a classical guitar is almost ebony, which is a very hard and dense , almost jet-black wood. The fretboard plays a critical role of being the medium that the  Frets attach to the guitar. It varies in width  along it's length starting out at about 2-1/8" wide at the nut and gradually widening until it reaches the Soundhole.
  • Some Luthier's taper the Bass or Lower String side of the Fretboard by as much as 18" by the time it reaches the soundhole. This tapering method is to minimize any string buzzing possibilities by the largest strings, which tent to oscillate much more than the high or treble strings.
  • Frets:
  • The Frets are the small metal bars that are sawn into the fretboard and allow for the fingers to press down the strings at different intervals to produce all of the notes in the scale. There are typically 20 frets or less on a classical guitar and the fret spacing is reduced logarithmically as you reach the Soundhole.
  • Neck:
  • The Neck holds the Fretboard in place and is attached to the body of the guitar in a rather complicated channel arrangement. The neck is also attached to the top and the back of the guitar with a "foot", which you can see when viewing the inside of the guitar with the strings off, while looking through the soundhole.
  • Most luthier's use either Genuine Mahogany or Cuban Mahogany for the neck wood. Often the neck will be laminated with a 3/8" wide strip of Ebony going down the center of the neck.
  • The Neck also exhibits a unique scarf joint arrangement to joint the neck to the headstock. You can see this joint by looking at the backside of the neck/headstock.
  • Heel:

    The Heal  is the vertical component of the neck that allows the neck to connect to the guitar sides. It is usually built from stacked blocks of the same wood used for neck construction.

    Guitar Back and Sides:
  • The Back and Sides are constructed of many different choices of Tonewood. The most popular being East Indian Rosewood.
  • Although being almost impossible to acquire now because the wood is protected is Brazilian Rosewood. There is a minimal supply of this wood available and it comes at an extremely high price. Some of the best sounding guitars are made from this highly prized wood.
  • The backs and sides are held together will wood lining that you can see by looking through the soundhole.
  • The main body of the guitar is divided into 3 distinct areas. The Upper Bout, the Waist and the Lower Bout. The Upper Bout is the initial curved area as you proceed down from the guitar neck. As the guitar narrows in the middle - that is know as the Waist. The largest protrusion of the body is termed the Lower Bout - this is where most of the sound is produced.
  • Guitar Top of Soundboard:
  • The top is questionably the most important element if the production of sound from the element. Soundboard's are most often made from conifer trees and not hardwood. They rely on tight, straight grain and very light weight to product the best sound.
  • Most of the internal bracing in placed on the inside surface of the soundboard and the configuration of this bracing governs the tonal "flavor" of the guitar. Other things that play a role in soundboard sound production are:
  • Type of wood: Most often choices are Spanish Cedar, Canadian Cedar, German Spruce and Redwood.
  • Thickness of the Soundboard.
  • The method in which the soundboard is attached to the sides.
  • Sound hole:
  • The Soundhole is the large hole in the Soundboard, directly beneath the fretboard. It is usually about 84 mm in diameter and has another luthier signature running radically around the circumference call the Rosette.
  • The Rosette is made up from very small blocks of wood, usually 1 mm x 1mm or smaller, into a complex mosaic decoration. Again different luthier's have their own special design for each of their guitar lines.
  • The Soundhole in where most of the guitar's sound is projected. It also allows access to the interior of the guitar for inspection and repairs.
  • Bridge:
  • The Bridge is the lower counterpart to the nut, in that it supports the strings on the body of the guitar and acts as the attachment point for the strings.
  • The bridge is almost always made of Brazilian Rosewood and contains little ornamentation. It usually consists of a center section which support the Saddle and Tie Block and the to outer components which all called the wings.
  • The Bridge is the primary component used in transferring the vibrations from the strings to the Soundboard, which in turn allows the entire instrument to project the sound.
  • Saddle:
  • The Saddle is the thin (usually 3/32" ) piece of bone or ivory that rests in a channel of the bridge. The strings rest directly on the saddle.
  • Tieblock:
  • Located towards the rear of the bridge, the Tieblock is used to tie the nylon strings to the bridge. Since the strings do not have a ball end, they must be threaded through holes in the tieblock and be looped and twisted in order to hold without any slippage.
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