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Guitarist's Tech Workshop

Lesson 1 of 18

Basic Components of the Electric Guitar

Kurt Bloch, Ben Verellen

Guitarist's Tech Workshop

Kurt Bloch, Ben Verellen

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Lesson Info

1. Basic Components of the Electric Guitar

Lesson Info

Basic Components of the Electric Guitar

Good way to start is showing everybody the basic components of the guitar which if you're here you probably already know this stuff but here is a guitar and you know, makes a sound pleasing one um what we call the head stock the tuning pegs the you know, the body controls pickups and one of the some of the things that were going toe be focusing on for setting up your guitar and making it work good is the nut here which is where the basically where the string starts for the functional part of the strength the bridge which is where the string length ends um it's a tail piece and the next finger bored with the threats or the free ts as we're want to call them in the restaurant division um and those are the main parts of the guitar that air goingto be involved with how your guitar plays and you know, if it plays in tune up and down the neck and the different notes and and what gives it its field as far as what they call the action or whatnot of how the guitar works the nut, the bridge and ...

the relief in the guitar neck um and those were the parts that would mainly focus on for uh you know, keeping keeping your guitar working good and, um I'm playing right the neck of the guitar clearly everybody knows what a guitar pick is but it is a piece of wood generally with another piece of wood glued to the top of it with the frets which you know clearly as you go up the fingerboard with your fingers make make the make the notes play to differentiate it from a violin or something that doesn't have threats that you have to put your finger right where it needs to these kind of help you select your note much easier than an instrument that doesn't have them and underneath this finger board is a piece of metal or two pieces of metal different guitars work different ways but when you have steel strings on a long piece of wood like that the strings create tension and we'll pull this way you know because there definitely under tension here and you have six of them it tends to pull the neck this way so the function of what's called the trust rod in a guitar is their tio counter act the pull of all those those strings and when guitars first came out I don't think they had thought of that yet it's ultimately on a lot of old guitars the next giant you know because they had to support all this thing and then at some point somebody figured out all we could counteract that with with either uh I think they call it a double expanding press rod or just a piece of metal that pushes up against the back of the neck you know just anything to make it stiffer and you know it is adjustable to so that you can for different gauge strings heavier strings will pull mohr against it so you need to counter act that mohr and different playing styles will get that to that you need to counteract that pull in different ways there are you know basically two kinds of two ways to mount the guitar neck to the guitar this is what's called a setback or glued in and then there's also many guitars or have the net bolted on you'll see like four bolts back here in a metal plate cooking the looking the neck onto the guitar and they both have their good points and bad points as as pretty much does everything on a guitar there's good points and bad points tio pretty much everything it's basically a a sort of a balancing act really to keep a guitar playing good in and everything it's not not really like a computer of electric keyboard or anything like that it in some ways it's it's I suppose kind of a feeble instrument in that even the best guitars you know you know just because the neck is is made out of wood which most people prefer a wooden instrument rather than you know some newer things that people have come out with to counter act the problems inherent in an instrument like this but you know if you've been something down like that it's bound to not be perfect and the idea that the idea is to make it as close as you can and perfect as you can through basically you're forty five minutes said or you're our set or ninety minutes or whatever that you're playing that you're playing music the body of the guitar is where much of your action half there's a solid body guitar generally is made out of mahogany like this or maple or I guess alder or ash are other common woods to make guitars out of they all have a slightly different residence in a different different ultimate tone but you know basically it all does the same thing you could make the guitar body out of anything plastic or metal or somebody made a cement guitar body once I think to see how that would work but clearly that didn't catch on in the car making business and they can you know make him out of multiple pieces would glued together a lot of people like a solid single piece of wood for the for the instrument but you know the amount of trees that are this big probably less now than they were fifty years ago so many are made out of glue together strips of wood you can um expose uh les paul guitar is a piece of mahogany back here with maple on the top this one has two pieces and you can see if you can see this but you know in the in the cut away you can see where it is actually another piece of wood glued onto the top um so that can give you the tone of a thick piece of mahogany which would tend to have tend to traditionally have a little bit of a darker tone along with the piece of maple on the top which will tend to balance it out and give you a little bit of a brighter tone off actually, just the would it does transfer into the pickups and the sound of the guitar ultimately to some extent or another depending on many other circumstances there are solid body guitar is there are hollow guitars that were, um derived from an acoustic guitar which clearly there were acoustic guitars before their electric guitars for for hundreds of years um and then there's also what is called a semi hollow body guitar which looks to be a hollow guitar but actually has wood down the center of it. So it's has some of the benefits off both things gives you a little bit of acoustic it's our properties with a little bit of solid nous of a of a solid body guitar and then there's um in a variety of shapes of guitars from you know something like this which is sort of built along the lines of a traditional like a arch top, the early electric guitars that came out starting maybe in the late thirties were like a bigger version of this but totally hollow so this is like a uh maybe an echo of what guitars were like in the thirties and forties a bit smaller and totally solid and then as people played guitar and reinvented them and worked on things they figured out what we can we don't need all this wood there we could make it so it cut aways and easier to play pirate notes and certainly there's uh lots of insane body styles we'll get to this little guy later but get up the shape and details of the guitars can be just about anything you anything you care for um the head stock the guitar is one of the one of the places where your tuning stability and adjustment was going to be right right here there's you know, different kinds of tuning pegs but they all basically do the same thing. It's just a a post on the gear that turns and takes up tension or releases tension on the string in order to you have give you different uh adjustment for your notes and it also most guitar is not all that most of them have an adjustment here under this little this little led there which we'll get to in a little bit for how tio adjust the relief in the neck the back, the bow or the counter act for the string tension really quick, kurt, I think we got a question here. Baker a quick little backtrack there too, like wood type and and shape um, I know for me I found a really quick and obvious difference in would types and body shapes and acoustic guitars. Um, but I've noticed that there's been kind of a debate with what I've seen anyway with would types and body shapes for electric guitars saying a lot of the sound just naturally kind of comes from the pickups have you noticed a lot? A lot of difference is more subtle in an electric guitar when you have different would types or what not, you know it's clearly more subtle because the vibration of the wooden an acoustic guitar is the on ly sound it makes right and, you know, you can play a guitar, you know, not plugged in, and you can play all kinds of different guitars and get, you know, widely different sounds out of different kind of body woods, different shapes and things like that where as really the pickup is on ly sensing this little part of the string vibration here, so there probably will continue to be a lot of debate over you know where the sound is coming from you know, have you ever had the opportunity to like a bee pretty much identical guitars with different types of wood or like, like, same type of pickups and like a slightly thicker body or one made of mahogany or maple or something? I mean that's kind of nit picking there, but right now that wooden houston I've never done that, but that would be that would be a very interesting thing to do get a exact same pickup, yeah, an exact same I mean also, you know, the bridge and the tail piece of a guitar is hugely responsible for the, you know, the vibration and how things actually work so kind of sound transference throughout help set exactly sound transfer to the wood and then if the pickups mounted on the pick guard mounted on the body with springs or screwed right into the heart of there's, so many variables in, you know, guitar design and, you know, some people say, you know what? It doesn't matter what your guitars build out of it could be built out of, you know, maple or mahogany or bass? Would anything? It doesn't, it doesn't matter and then there's people will say, oh, you're select tone wood is the most important thing of anything, and somewhere between those two pillars is probably, you know, where your where, where you're where your sound is and now playing guitar through an amp that's cranked up with a with a lot of distortion on it is going to lessen the effect of the wood type because it's you know you're getting into the amt being part of your musical signal chain you know they're get if you're just playing electric guitar not plugged in it you know the kind of wood is going to have all kinds of effect on it sure then when you start when you put the pick up on it in you know guitar pick ups going to have a huge effect on how everything sounds as well as the amp and that's you know without any effects or anything he pedals or anything between that but definitely it's everything makes a difference but to what you know to what effect everything works together everything works against each other a balancing act like he said it za great way to describe it you know there's people that you know have a guitar and they hold us qatar doesn't sound very good and they get it set up properly and it could sound great or you know it still doesn't sound like what they want you can change pickups you could change hard where you know even what thes pieces air made out of if they're steel of the brass if there you know what kind of metal they are can have a huge effect on everything too I think it's actually perfect transition that's what we're talking about next rent the is the bridge which you think this bridge pieces it will look different from different models and different different sort of things but the overall effect is the same now the uh you would think that it would be easy to make this all you have to do is stop the string from vibrating you know and that's originally you know they put a piece of wood there with I think the original guitar bridges were just a slanted piece of wood and we'll get into this in a little bit later too but it's thiss needs to be addressed in guitar design because in a you know, if you didn't actually have to push on the strings then you would probably be ableto go with just a every string you know you notice that these air not set all the same the act of pushing down the string to fred a note wherever wherever it may be will stretch the string a little bit you know, maybe just a tiny bit, but it will actually stretch the string which will raise the pitch a little bit above whatever note your friend is so to counter act that or to balance that out they have these the most bridges that air adjustable these little things called bridge saddles and each string has won because each drink depending on the actual wire core diameter will the pitch will raise at a different amount depending on you know where the when you win when you press it so the bigger strings will tend to go shark a little bit sharper than the smaller strings. So these things are generally adjusted a slight bit back from where normally the string would end, which is the same distance from here to the middle of the guitar that same distance here would come out to be about there, but because it will stretch just this tiny bit there set back a little bit and that's what's called internation and that's, you know kind of misunderstood thing for a lot of people but something that will talk about and figure out how to you get that adjusted so that it will work as best it can in the balancing act we know as the electric guitar this is his kimpson bridge it's called the two nomadic bridge and I think they came out with these, you know, in the mid fifties and it's not changed very much since then. The travel of the saddles is a little wider since then there's popular fender bridges or like a stratocaster which is part of the tremolo arm which is a similar idea, although the adjustment is from behind and it goes back and forth like that ah telecaster bridge which is originally just a screw that was cut off and threaded so that it can be slid back and forth and says, you're bigsby bridge, which is not actually bridge, but but a tail piece with by broad oe thing, I don't think we have one here, but bigsby is is a kind of a wonder unto itself. Um, guitar pick ups, obviously a much talked about part of your part of your electric guitar, the's things here they are, the electoral magnetic sensors that pick up the string vibration and transfer it to the output jack there's um, you know, traditionally too wide varieties of pickups, a single coil or a double coil guitar pick up. Originally they came out. It was just a basically a magnet, with some wire wrapped around it, and when the string vibrates over that it generates a small electric current, which is sent to the amplifier, but it also tends to pick up interference and, uh, most notably, buzz and hum from other elektronik things in the in the areas. So in the late fifties, gibson came out with what they call home bucking pick up, which is two coils, one of them that senses the string vibration, and one of them doesn't sense anything at all other doesn't does not, since the string vibration it just since is the same amount of buzz and the other things that air in the in the room where you're playing in that second pickup is combined with the other pick up out of phase so it picks up everything that you don't want and that signal is removed from the main remain pickup so in a in a crazy way it tends to get rid of most of the buzz and stuff like that um there's different places to put the pick up traditionally on this kind of a guitar you have ah pick up near the bridge and a pick up near the neck and we can actually show you the difference in the sound between those things with everything up the pick up near the neck gives you if you imagine the string vibrating it will vibrate the most in the middle and so closer to the middle will give you base here tony oh two different two different sorts of sounds um some guitars have a third pick up in the middle which gives you a middle sort of sound which some people like and then there's some guitars that just have one pick up and originally they would put the pick up near the neck because the kind of music that people were listening to when they were making that kind of guitar was you know, more rich sort of jazz sort of tone so you see a lot of hollow body guitars from the forties and fifties that just have one pick up near the neck and then when rock n roll music got to be popular they've people wanted more trouble out of everything because everything was kind of based out on dh rich and warm and people wanted some snarly and twangy and so the bridge pickup got to be twenty one because it is closer to the end of the string and has mohr high frequency content in it and just clearly the choice for for twang and so there's no lots of guitars just have the one pick up and that's you know what a lot of people just use that people will love turn this one off is that meat meat, meat, meat meat with which is also fine then um you have your controls you know, standard set up for a car like this is volume for this picket going for that pickup tone control which just turns to trouble down for this and that, um that's kind of classic this pickup switch both pickups on and down is it's just that thing there? Um the uh the physics of the string vibration of the guitar is something that is very interesting you probably seen some youtube videos of, you know, like slow motion of, you know, string vibrating but it is kind of interesting that me of the string link open one one a one while they're the string vibrates just like a rubber band er as anything would its middle point is near where you get the harmonic which will be this piece vibrating in that piece vibrating and and then there's a third of the way through in a quarter of the way through different different harmonics which you know just kind of helps understand how you know way of tuning guitars before people really had elektronik tuners people would do their guitars with the harmonics which is, you know, good in a way clearly not the lot the best way in the trenches to make your guitar being tune um I think we really talked about the classic body styles um but some of the hollow body guitars we can see our air fully hollow, which are, you know, the s one seventy five was, um, you know, that's very traditional guitar like a like a an acoustic guitar with elektronik pickup in it and then you know, the more rock n roll versions that would be a be a gradual epa phone casino or an epa phone dot um they're all thinner or thicker versions of traditional electric guitars which, you know, whatever came out probably came out in the late thirties and those air derived from that and then some of the later fifties they started adding wood down the middle of the the the fully acoustic electric guitars in order to keep them from feeding back quite a ce much or something tio give it a little bit mohr sustained and a little bit more little bit more twang as you know, like yes, one seventy five or any of your fully hollow body guitar is they're not really gonna have too much twang, you know, but so that gives you a little bit more of that sort of sound. And then the fully solid body guitars we've we've touched upon those two that's what will mainly be talking about the types of pickups? There's we talked about the single coil in the home bucking pickups and then there's there's within those two under those two umbrellas theirs you know, a lot of different level different theories lets it, if it kinds of wire different magnets, different combinations of coils and combinations of everything you know to try to give everybody the ultimate the ultimate pick up clearly they there's not one pick up that everyone thinks is the best. So, you know, some people want the more wire you put on a pick up, the louder the output of it is going to be the stronger the magnets, the louder the output is going to be, but then, you know, then output is not the on ly concern. You want a sound that matches your amp and sound that's pleasing to you. So lots of lots of different pickups for lots different pickups for lots of different people. And then also the output jack it's, either here or here, on some guitars or somewhere that's. People called the input jack when it's really it's the output jack. The input, I guess, is you on this on this particular it's? True it.

Class Description

Performing a proper setup for your guitar can seem like a dark art requiring a copper chalice filled with incense. Reading a schematic of a tube amplifier can seem like you’re staring at ancient Sanskrit. Guitar and tube amp masters Kurt Bloch and Ben Verellen are here to help.

In this two-part workshop, Kurt and Ben will show you exactly how to get the best sound out of your gear.

In part-one Kurt will teach the basics of setting up your guitar – you’ll learn about:

  • Truss rod adjustment
  • Bridge and nut adjustment
  • String gauge and playing style
  • Guitar maintenance and upkeep
  • Guitar electronics and pickups

Part-two is your primer on tube amplifiers. Kurt and Ben will explain how they work and show you how to keep them sounding great. You’ll learn:

  • Tube biasing
  • Block diagrams and understanding schematics
  • Basic amplifier maintenance
  • Capacitor, resistor, and transformer replacement
  • Speaker repair and power-matching

Kurt Bloch is not only Gibson Guitar’s in-house guitar guru, he’s a legend in the Seattle music scene. He plays in The Fastbacks and Young Fresh Fellows and has a producer credits for his work with The Presidents of the United States of America and Tokyo Dragons. Ben Verellen started Verellen Amplifiers in 2000 and now has a full-time staff churning out hand made custom tube amplifiers for some of the most respected artists in rock and metal. He also fronts Helms Alee, a rock band based in Seattle.

Don’t get caught with crappy tone and blown out speaker – let these two masters show how to take care of your gear and get the best possible sound.


Patrick Marc

This is a fantastic course. I was forever looking up Youtube videos on how to set up all of my guitars for different things, and opinion varies wildly on-line, so it's really great to have these videos detailing the entire process in clear and easy terms. The information on the amplifiers is intensely interesting too. Fantastic!

Alan Williams

Excellent course. Slow start with the guitar set up but Kurt knows his stuff so worth watching it to the end before deciding you don't like it. I came across valves (tubes) at the age of 12 (I'm 66 now) and it was a great refrresher for me. Ben really knows his stuff but he can put it into layman terms that are easy to understand. I definitely recommend this course.

Andrew Synowiec

I bought this course for the amplifier section and skipped straight there. It's fantastic. Right at the perfect level for me, a newbie DIY-er with a few pedals, a kit amp and an Electronics 101 course under my belt. Well done! I'll update my review if I have time to watch the guitar section.