Electric Guitar 101
Learn what makes an electric guitar different from an acoustic, its various parts and the different tones for each of its six strings.
By Lana Cooper
Whether it's the thought of Keith Richards ripping through a classic Rolling Stones riff on his favorite Telecaster or of Adam Granduciel weaving wonderful War on Drugs solos on his trademark Jazzmaster, the cultural and emotional influence of the electric guitar transcends generations.
But for everyone that wants to emulate their musical heroes or just wants to jam with their friends, there are few things you need to know when you are just getting started on the electric guitar.
Electric Guitar 101
While an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar share the same basic structure, there are a few key differences that make an electric guitar sound … well … electrified. Below is a walk-through of the anatomy of an electric guitar, as well as the tones produced by each of its six strings.
How Is an Electric Guitar Different from an Acoustic?
While the acoustic guitar has many of the same parts as an electric guitar (such as wooden body, neck, and headstock), the body of the electric guitar has a few key differences.
An acoustic guitar can ring out loud and clear on its own thanks to its soundhole. However, an electric guitar (sometimes known as a "solid-body guitar") does not have a soundhole. Instead, it has magnetic pickups that "pick up" the vibrations of the metal strings. The metal coils inside these pickups transmit the sound signal to an amplifier, producing the powerful signature sound of an electric guitar.
More on the Anatomy of an Electric Guitar
In addition, an electric guitar also has individual bridge saddles where the strings attach at the bridge, as well as a knob that controls volume and another knob that controls tone. These knobs are located on the lower left side on the front of your guitar.
There is also a toggle switch directly above the tone and volume control knobs called the pickup selector. This selector allows you to further alter the tone of your electric guitar by controlling which pickup or pickups are most prominent when you play.
These components all work together to produce a louder, more sustained sound that sets the tone of an electric guitar apart from an acoustic. An electric guitar can also be used with effects pedals to create custom tones, ranging from fuzzy distortion to echoing reverb to full-throttle overdrive.
String Names and Pitches
Regardless of whether you pick up an electric guitar or an acoustic, both use the same exact structure when it comes to strings. The thinner and tighter the string, the higher the pitch.
Both styles of guitar generally have six strings. When played in standard, Open E tuning, each of the strings have the following tones:
● 1st string - (the thinnest string) high E
● 2nd string - B note
● 3rd string - G note
● 4th string - D note
● 5th string - A note
● 6th string - (the thickest string) low E
Need an easy way to remember the order of your strings and their designated notes? Remember the following phrase:
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