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How are electric guitars made?

An electric guitar is made of wood that is painted and lacquered. It includes strings and electronic components and is usually a solid pieces of wood.
Joey Palumbo
Vermont Public

How are electric guitars made? How are guitar strings made? And how, exactly, do guitars work? We’re answering questions about electric guitars with local luthier (guitarmaker) Lea in Burlington, Vermont. Creston gave us a tour of his studio–including his custom glitter room, to help us understand what goes into making an electric guitar.

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  • Guitars have a long neck and a wider body. The strings go from the top of the neck all the way down toward the bottom of the instrument’s body. 
  • When making an electric guitar, the first step is to create the shape. Creston uses templates to help make the exact shape he wants. A template is kind of like a stencil. Creston tapes it to the piece of wood, and cuts around it so the wood matches the shape of the template. Then the wood is sanded, painted and finished with lacquer, and buffed to a smooth polished shine. The body and the neck are put together, and then Creston has to add electronic components like pickups, neck plates, fretboards and strings.
  • Guitar strings generate sound by vibration. 
  • In acoustic guitars, the body of the guitar is hollow. The sound of the strings is amplified in the hollow area and comes out through the hole under the strings. In an electric guitar, the body is solid and the sound is amplified with electricity through an external amplifier. 
  • Strings are made with wires. Thin strings have a single piece of wire, and bigger strings have another piece of wire coiled tightly around the length of the strong. 
  • Bigger strings make lower notes, smaller strings make higher notes. 
  • A guitar player can make different notes and sounds by plucking or strumming the strings with one hand, and moving their other hand up and down the neck of the guitar to change the note the string makes.
  • People who make stringed instruments like guitars are called luthiers!
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
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