Beginner's Corner

Know the parts of your guitar!
The HEADSTOCK is where the tuning pegs are.  This is where the brand name of your guitar appears.

The TUNERS are the buttons you turn to tune your guitar, and include the gears and pegs.

The NUT is the small white piece between the headstock and the fingerboard where the strings cross over.

The NECK is what the fingerboard is attached to.  The fingerboard has the frets, and the white dots called fret markers.

The BODY of the guitar, where the sound hole is, is wide at one end – called the lower bout, and narrower at the other end – called the upper bout.

The BRIDGE is the wooden piece attached to the top of the guitar that has holes in it.  The PINS are what hold the strings in the holes in the BRIDGE.

The BRIDGE PINS are the 6 pins that hold the strings in the bridge.

The white piece in the BRIDGE is called the SADDLE, and the strings go over it, just like they go over the NUT at the other end of the guitar.

The PICK GUARD keeps you from scratching the top of your guitar when you strum.  Generally speaking, you should be playing nearest the largest part of the pick guard.

There is an END PIN in the lower end of the body for the guitar strap to attach to.  Most guitars also have a STRAP BUTTON on the HEEL of the neck, near the BODY, where the other end of the guitar strap attaches.


Really, You Need to Know This!

These are some IMPORTANT THINGS to know about taking care of your guitar!

Never leave your guitar in the car, even for 5 minutes, unless you are in visual contact with the car! Musical instruments get stolen all the time because people think that because they put them in the trunk, or hide them with a blanket, that will keep them safe.  Not true. If you are traveling with your instrument and go into a restaurant to eat, take it with you.  Once it is stolen, it is gone forever, and that is a horrible feeling. They are rarely recovered by the police.

Even if you are in visual contact with the car, NEVER leave it in the car in warm weather.  A guitar case, and therefore the guitar inside, can reach 110 degrees in just a few minutes, and that is enough to melt the glue that holds it together. 

If you are playing music outdoors in direct sun, feel the top of your guitar frequently.  If it feels warm to the touch, then you know it is hotter than 100 degrees!  The glue gets soft, and your guitar will warp, crack, and come apart at temperatures as low as 105-110 degrees. Leaving your guitar in a case lying in the sun is not safe either. Most cases are black, and will get very hot to the touch in only 10 minutes, and the temperature inside increases quickly.

Never leave your guitar near a heater, stove, or anything that would make it hot.  Even leaving it indoors in front of a window with sun shining in can damage a guitar in no time at all.

Don’t lean a guitar up against the wall, a sofa, a table, a chair, or anything except a good guitar stand.  Guitars are top heavy, and have a bad habit of falling over.  You can snap a neck or do other serious damage from a fall.

A “soft case”, called a “gig bag”, does not protect a guitar from heavy objects.  Heavy objects like, you know, someone’s rear-end sitting upon it!  Remember, a soft case is just the very minimum protection from bumps and scratches, but can’t help much at all if the guitar is dropped or something heavy lands on the case.

If you want to wipe down your guitar to remove fingerprints, dust, sweat, sticky stuff, etc., use a slightly damp cloth or sponge.  Don’t use things like Windex, Pledge, or oily furniture polish.   You can buy special guitar polishes available at the music store if you want to keep it shiny and dust free.

Change your strings regularly, at least 4 times a year.  Change them more often if you can tell that the guitar is sounding dull, thumpy, has lost its bright, crisp sound, or if it doesn’t tune easily.

Think carefully before handing your guitar to anyone who asks to play it, even friends and family!  I know, it sounds rude, but do it nicely.  Explain that you prefer not to let others play it because it is fragile. If you do let someone play it, make sure that they understand how to play it, how to hold it, how to handle it safely.  It is a delicate and special instrument, and you are responsible for how THEY treat it.

Love your guitar!


How do you use an electronic tuner?

  • If it is the type with a clip, like the one above, clip it on the headstock of your guitar. 
  • If it is the type that uses a built in microphone, sit it right in front of your guitar, as close as possible.
  • If it is the type that uses a pickup on a chord, which may be a clip-on pickup, or a suction cup, you can attach it to the headstock, a tuner button, or perhaps stick it to a flat spot on the top of the guitar.
  • Turn it on by pushing the on/off button.
  • Be sure the tuner shows it is calibrated to "A-440", which is STANDARD PITCH. They typically come set this way, but sometimes can get changed by accident.
  • Play a note on one string and see what the tuner registers. Start with the first, or E string, like in the photo above.
  • If the tuner shows an arrow or bar to the left of the “E”, it means it is “FLAT”.  That means the note is too low in pitch. 
    • If it is FLAT, turn the tuning peg so it RAISES the pitch until it is EXACTLY on the “E”, not above and not below. When the arrows are on either side of the note, equally balanced, as in the picture above, it is at perfect pitch.
  • If the tuner shows an arrow or bar to the right of the “E”, it means it is “SHARP”.  This means the note is too high in pitch.
    • If it is SHARP, turn the tuning peg to LOWER the pitch until it is EXACTLY on the “E”, not above or below, with the arrows balanced on both sides of the note, as in the picture above.
  • If it shows arrows evenly balanced on both sides of the E, like in the photo above, it is in tune.  NOTE:  Some tuners use a little gauge with a needle on it that centers on "Zero"; some just have a center point with the name of the Note, or perhaps little LED lights on either side of the center point.
  • Once this E string is tuned, move to the next string and repeat this process until all are tuned. When you play each string, the tuner automatically shows you the note it is tuned closest to.
  • Here is a trick:  When tuning a string, start by tuning the string DOWN a little bit, below the pitch you are trying to achieve.  That means you LOWER the pitch of the string you are tuning, just a little bit, BELOW, the pitch you are tuning to, and then slowly RAISE the pitch, watching the tuner as you do this, and stop when it says you are right on the note you are tuning to.

    o   It is always easier to tune UP to the correct pitch than DOWN!

Why and when would you want to use a capo?

  • So you can raise or lower the “pitch” or the “key” a song is played in so that it is in a comfortable singing range for you.
  • To make the guitar easier to play, since using a capo lowers the strings a little bit and makes the action easier to play.
  • To change the sound of the guitar; it makes the guitar sound really different, because it raises the pitch, and it sounds higher.
  • So you can play along with a recording that is played in a key that you aren’t familiar with, or don’t know how to play in the “open” position. OR, the person on the recording was using a capo, and you want to match what they are doing.
  • To get a complimentary and different sound when playing with another guitarist. For instance, one guitarist can play "open" with no capo, in the key of C, and the other person can use the capo positioned at the third fret and play in the same key of C, only using the chords as if you were playing in the key of A.  It really sounds much more interesting than if both guitars are playing in the same “position”, without a capo.

    How to put the capo on your guitar:

  • The padded bar should always be fairly close behind the fret you choose to put it at.
  • Tighten gently at first, checking to see if all the strings ring clearly without being muffled or deadened.
  • Do not over-tighten, as this will “stretch” the strings making them out of tune.  
  • Only tighten until all the strings sound clear and do not buzz.
  • Once the capo is on and adjusted, play a chord and listen to be sure the guitar is still in tune. 
  • Sometimes you will need to adjust one or two strings to get it in perfect tune again.

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