Soundboard Think of this as the guitar’s speaker cone – the soundboard responds to the vibration of the strings and air movement. In general, the thinner the wood, the more responsive the soundboard is with these vibrations. But it needs to be thick enough to be strong.
Backandsides These play a key part in your acoustic’s tone. Laminate guitars are made from multiple thin layers of wood bonded together with adhesive, while solid wood parts are made from a single ply. Laminate construction enhances strength, but doesn’t transfer the resonance as well as solid construction.
Nut These can be made from various materials but all need to be hard enough to stop the strings wearing them through. The material choice has an influence on the tone.
Trussrod Just like an electric guitar, the trussrod’s job on an acoustic is to counteract the tension of the strings on the neck – adjustment is made from either the headstock end or through the soundhole. The golden rule is to adjust with caution, and make small-increment turns.
Neck The most common woods used for neck construction are mahogany and, more recently, Spanish cedar. The neck’s properties have an impact on tone because when you play, as much energy as possible needs to travel to the bridge to get those soundboard vibrations cooking. A very thin neck may be easier to play but your notes won’t sustain as strongly compared to a thicker neck. It’s a matter of compromise.
Fingerboard The radius of a typical acoustic fingerboard usually measures between 15 and 18 inches – significantly flatter than most electrics. Most acoustic ’boards are made from rosewood or ebony: the latter wood is denser and tends to sound brighter.
Frets The frets on an acoustic guitar tend to be thinner than those on an electric guitar, because acoustic playing technique usually involves far fewer string bends.
Bridge saddle Like the nut, these tend to be made from plastic, bone or synthetic ivory (see the opposite page for more on the differences between them) and have an impact on the string vibrations and therefore sound of the guitar.