A guitar can be considered a work of art, with every single aspect of its design being carefully crafted and designed to aid the overall performance and tone of the music. Guitars have a long and established history, and through the hundreds of years, possibly thousands of years, that they have been developed from earlier instruments and models, the modern guitar now has every single aspect of its design honed to help the expression and tone of the music be as perfectly optimised as possible.
Today, this is helped by an increased understanding of, availability of and availability of materials which help to improve the overall quality of sound, and modern materials or manufacturing techniques help to create an accuracy and quality of sound which can be considered unrivalled. Two of the significant aspects of the design of the guitar which can be overlooked as far as their importance is concerned are the nut and the fret board.
The nut in particular may well be ignored altogether by the beginner, and many people unfamiliar with guitars would not know where to look to find the nut of a guitar. The nut is positioned at the joint section where the headstock of the guitar of the part at the top where all the strings end and can be tuned, and the fret board, which is the long neck of the guitar that the strings run down towards the body.
The purpose of the nut is to guide the strings individually from the headstock onto the fret board, making sure that they are placed consistently far apart, and held firmly in place. Effectively a nut is a small, hard strip with a number of fine grooves cut into it into which each of the guitar strings is placed, and these strings are then held firmly in place by the nut so that they run smoothly from the headstock all the way down the fret board to the body of the guitar. Any movement or sloppiness of the nut would result in the strings either not being the correct distance apart, or moving around. Even a very slight movement or slackness in the string affects the pitch and quality of sound enormously, and a loose or flexible string will generate a dull, poorly resonating sound which affects the overall tone and colour of the music terribly.
Because of the importance of this nut therefore, a lot of investigation into suitable materials and manufacturing techniques has taken place, and today it is possible to find them created using a very wide range of materials. Guitars with nuts made from bone are possible, as well as plastic, although these tend to be the cheaper models. Brass nuts are very popular because of the fact that the brass can be very rigid, and helps to hold the strings extremely firmly without any cutting or wearing away of the material. Cheaper and very effective materials that are used widely today are graphite and stainless steel, with both materials having the twin advantages of being very cost effective, and very cheap, both as a substance and to manufacture.
The other aspect of a guitar which can easily be overlooked as far as its importance is concerned is the fret board itself, which is also called the fingerboard. On acoustic guitars and classic guitars the fret board or fingerboard is flat, but on electric guitars it is more usual to find it slightly curved. By pinching a string of the guitar with a finger against the fret board, effectively the length of the string, or at least the part of the string which is allowed to vibrate, is shortened, and this in turn affects the frequency of the vibration. It is the frequency of vibration which creates the individual note, and so it is important that the fret board is comfortable hold, is clearly marked for accuracy, and is made of a material which does not allow too much slippage of the string when pressed, so that a firm grip or pinch is produced, ensuring the string does not buzz, and the note is accurate.