Glossary of Guitar Terms

12-String guitar

This is a guitar with six double sets of strings instead of six single strings. This can be electric, acoustic or electro-acoustic and can be left handed or right handed

1st String

The thinnest and highest sounding string on a guitar. Also called the Top-string, Top-E, E-string or high E-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘E’.

2nd String

The second thinnest and second highest sounding string on a guitar. Also known as the B-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘B’.

3rd String

The third thinnest and third highest sounding string on a guitar. Also known as the G-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘G’.

4th String

The fourth highest sounding (fourth thinnest) string on a guitar. Also known as the D-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘D’.

5th String

The second thickest and second lowest sounding string on a guitar. Also known as the A-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘A’.

6th String

The thickest and lowest sounding string on the guitar. Also known as the Bootm-string, Bottom-E, E-string or low E-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘E’.

A-String

The second thickest and second lowest sounding string on a guitar. Named so because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘A’. Also known as the 5th String.

Acoustic

Referring to sound or hearing. Resonating sound instead of electrical amplification.

Acoustic Guitar

A guitar that resonates sound using a hollow body to instead of electrical amplification. This can be a left handed guitar or a right handed guitar.

Action

The action of a guitar is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. It refers to the force needed to produce a note on an instrument. A lower action makes the guitar easier play but also produces less sustain.

Active Pickups

Active Pickups use electricity to boost the signal being sent to the amplifier. They have a battery located in a cavity on back of the guitar.

Alternate Picking

An alternation between downstrokes and upstrokes.

Amp

Short for amplifier.

Amp Rack

A metal frame that is used to mount amplifiers for use in large stage performances.

Amplification

A term for the various forms of amplifier.

Amplifier

An amplifier increases the strength of the electrical signal coming from the guitars pickups. The stronger the signal, the louder the sound.

Archtop

A guitar that has a curved top body. Usually used to describe an acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar and distinguishes them from flat top guitars.

Ash

A hardwood that is used in the manufacture of solid-bodied guitars.

Axe

A slang word for guitar.

B-String

The second thinnest and second highest sounding string on a guitar. Also known as the B-string because in standard tuning it is tuned to ‘B’.

Banjo Tuners

Tuners that are attached to the back of the headstock.

Barre Chord

A chord that you to hold down more than one string with a single finger. The most common examples of barre chords are ones in which the first finger holds down five or six strings (on the same fret) and the other fingers hold basic chord shapes.

Bass

Short for Bass guitar. Also, sounds of a lower frequency.

Bass Guitar

A guitar that typically has four strings and is tuned an octave lower than the four lowest pitched strings of a guitar (E, A, D, and G).

Bass Note

The lowest note in a chord.

Bend

When the fretting hand finger is used to bend the string up or down (towards either side of the neck). This creates an increase of tension on the string and an increase in pitch.

Bending

Performing a bend or series of bends.

Blues

Music of African/American origin that is often slow and sad. The guitar is a popular instrument for the blues and guitarists used this form of music as a base for early rock and roll. Most forms of rock music including heavy metal can be traced back to blues music.

Blues Curl

A term used by blues guitarists to describe a quarter-tone bend, a bend creating an increase in pitch of half a semitone.

Body

The main section of the guitar which the neck and bridge are attached. In acoustic guitars the hollow body acts as a resonator for the sound. Electric guitars use electronic amplification and therefore have less need for the hollow body, although the body still has an effect on the sound of the instrument.

Bolt-on Neck

A guitar neck that is secured to the body of the guitar by screws (actually not bolts) and a metal plate. Found on solid body right handed and left handed guitars.

Bottleneck

A finger piece that can be slid up and down the guitar strings to create a unique sound. They can be made from a variety of materials – originally from the neck of a bottle.

Braces

Strips of wood found on the inside of an acoustic guitar. They are used to strengthen the body and they also have an effect on the tone of the guitar.

Brazilian Rosewood

A hardwood that is used in the making of guitar bodies, necks and fretboards. It is not used as much now as it is a protected species.

Bridge

  1. A metal or wooden piece on the front of the body that holds the strings in place. Bridges contain one saddle for each string, which hold the strings in place. The position of these saddles can sometimes be altered to adjust the tone of the guitar.
  2. A passage of music that connects two sections of the piece.

Bridge Block

The part of an acoustic guitar bridge which the strings are threaded through.

Bridge Pickup

The pickup which is in front of the bridge.

Bridge Pins

Plastic pegs that are placed into the holes of the bridge to hold the strings in place on flat top acoustic guitars.

Bridgeplate

A flat surface that the components of the bridge are attached to. They are made of metal on electric guitars or wood on acoustic guitars.

Broken Chord

When the notes of a chord are not played at the same time. For example, two notes could be played followed by another two, or it could be in the form of an arpeggio.

c

A symbol that represents the little finger on the picking hand. It is part of the PIMA labelling system.

Cab

Short for cabinet.

Cabinet

The part of an amplifier stack which holds the loudspeakers.

Cable

Insulated wiring that is used to connect guitars to amplifiers, guitars to effects units or amp heads to speaker cabinets.

Camber

The amount the surface of the fretboard is curved.

Capo

The term comes from the Italian phrase ‘capo dastro’ meaning ‘head of fingerboard’. It is a device that clamps onto the neck of the guitar and raises the pitch of all the strings. It allows open strings to be used in other keys, allowing sounds that are not normally possible. Capos also lower the action of the strings and shorten the scale length which produces a different sound, similar to that of a shorter stringed instrument.

Capo Notation

In effect a capo creates a new nut, so the fret numbers are altered accordingly. If a capo in put on the second fret it would mean that fret three is now fret one when marked in tab.

Carbon Graphite

A man-made material used in making some modern guitars.

Cedar

An evergreen conifer that is used in making classical guitar necks.

Centre Block

A wooden block found on the inside of semi-acoustic guitars.

Centre Strip

A strip of wood found on the back of acoustic guitars.

Chassis

The part of an amplifier that contains the electronics.

Chicken Picking

A hybrid style of finger picking that is supposed to resemble the cluck and squawk of a chicken. A picking hand finger is used to mute a string whilst the plectrum plucks, therefore creating a percussive ‘cluck’. The squawk is created when a picking hand finger plucks the string and lets it ‘twang’ back against the fretboard.

Chops

A slang term for a guitarists skills.

Chord

Playing more than two notes at a time.

Chord Fragment

A chord that is derived from a larger chord by playing just a few of the strings. For example, a six-string barre chord can be broken down into four three-string chord fragments. Chord fragments are used by jazz guitarists to expand their chord vocabulary.

Chord Progression

A group of chords that are played in order. Usually made with chords that are related to each other via the scales that they are based on.

Chorus

A guitar effect that gives a calm, shimmering sound. The chorus effect is created by combining the regular signal with one that has been delayed and raised in pitch.

Chromatic

Ascending or descending by semitones.

Chromatic Scale

A twelve note scale made up of all the notes from A to G#. The fretboard of a guitar has a chromatic layout with each fret being an increment of one semitone.

Clean

An unaltered and natural quality of sound.

Coil

The wire part of a pickup that is wrapped around the bobbin.

Coil-Split

Removing one coil from a humbucking pickup to bring about a cleaner sound.

Combo Amp

An amp where the amplifier and loudspeaker are in one unit.

Common Tones

The use of the same note in one or more successive chords. This creates a common thread that links a sequence of chords. The common tone can be the highest or lowest note to create a specific effect.

Compressor

A guitar effect that controls the signal level and counteracts any sudden fluctuations, bringing a neater sound.

Concert Guitar

A flat top acoustic guitar with a large body.

Concert Pitch

440Hz. In standard tuning, the 5th or A-string is tuned to concert pitch.

Contoured Body

A body that has smooth curves on the front or back to make it more comfortable to hold.

Controls

Switches and variable resistors found on the body of a guitar which control electrical functions. They usually consist of tone controls, volume controls and pickup selector switches.

Cord

Another term for cable.

Counterpoint

The combination of two melodies to form a single composition. Counterpoints are found more in vocals but can also be useful in the composition of guitar music.

Course

Refers to the alignment of the strings on a guitar. A single course consists of one string that can be played in isolation. A standard guitar has six single courses of strings which can be played individually. A 12-string guitar has six double-courses of strings.

Cross-fret Barre

A barre chord in which the barre covers notes on two different frets. A very difficult technique that is mainly used by jazz guitarists.

Cutaway

An area on the body of the guitar that curves around to avoid the high end of the neck. This leaves easy access to the higher notes of the fretboard.

D-String

The fourth highest sounding (fourth thinnest) string on a guitar. It is named because it is tuned to ‘D’ in standard tuning.

DADGBE

Drop D tuning is where the 6th string (low E-string) is tuned down a tone and the other strings are left in standard tuning.

Damp

Restricted in volume or intensity.

Dampening

Restricting the volume or intensity of musical sound. The term can also be used to refer to muting.

Dead Note

A note that is muted to the point it has no discernible pitch. In guitar music this would be a mute performed with the fretting hand, as palm muted notes still have a distinctive pitch.

Delay

An effect that stops the sound for a set period of time creating an echo-like effect.

Detune

Re-tuning strings to a pitch other than the standard tuning.

Diatonic

  1. Within the notes of a major or minor scale.
  2. Within the same key signature.

Diminished

  1. A perfect or minor interval that has been reduced in pitch by a semitone. For example, a perfect fifth is an interval of 7 semitones, so a diminished fifth is an interval of 6 semitones.
  2. A chord consisting of a major triad with a flattened third and fifth. For example, an A major triad uses the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the A major scale (A C# E), therefore an ‘A diminished’ chord would contain the notes A, C and Eb.

Dirty

Distorted or unnatural sounding.

Distortion

An effect in which gain (an increase in power of a signal) is used to create a dirty and fuzzy sound. There are many forms of distortion, used in various styles of music.

Divebomb

A technique in which the tremolo bar is depressed rapidly to create an effect resembling the dropping of a bomb.

Dobro Guitar

A guitar with a metal resonator inside.

Dominant

The dominant note can be found on any diatonic scale. It lies a perfect fifth above the tonic.

Dot Markers

Fret markers that are in the form of circles or dots. They are the most common fret markers and are usually found on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 15th, 17th, and 19th frets. Two dots are usually found on the 12th fret.

Double-locking Tremolo System

A tremolo system patented by Floyd Rose that involves a flexible floating bridge that responds smoothly to the vibrato bar. It is sometimes called the ‘double-locking’ system because the strings are locked at the bridge and the nut using nut locks. Every time you alter the tension on any of the strings the floating bridge moves and puts the other strings out of tune. This leaves you having to tune your guitar twice before attaching the nut locks, making tuning difficult.

Double-neck Guitar

A guitar with two necks mounted on a large body. The two necks usually consist of a six-string and a 12-string, or a six-string and a bass neck.

Double-stop

A chord of two notes on adjacent strings and similar frets.

Double-stop bend

  1. Using one finger to bend the two notes of a double stop up a quarter of a tone.
  2. Using separate fingers to bend a double stop up a specified number of steps.

Down-bend

Lowering the pitch by depressing the vibrato bar. Extreme down-bends can be referred to as divebombs.

Downpicking

The use of just downstrokes to create a consistent rhythm.

Downstroke

A strum or pluck that moves downward towards the floor.

Dreadnought

A type of acoustic guitar that is larger than normal and produces more volume and bass than an ordinary acoustic. Originally used to describe models of guitar designed by Frank Martin and Harry Hunt.

Drop-C Tuning

Where all strings are tuned down a tone then the 6th string (low E-string) is tuned down another tone, so strings are tuned CGCFAD.

Drop-D Tuning

Where the 6th string (low E-string) is tuned down a tone and the other strings are left in standard tuning.

Dropped Headstock

A long headstock that points down towards the floor.

Dropped Tuning

When the lowest string is tuned a tone lower in relation to the normal intervals between strings. Dropped tunings allow easy playing of power chords on the lower strings and are used mainly in heavy metal music.

E-String

The highest and lowest strings on the guitar. Named so because they are both tuned to E in standard tuning.

Ebonol

A man-made material that fretboards can be made out of.

Ebony

A black hardwood used for fretboards and bridges.

Echo

A single reflection of sound that is heard after the direct sound. Any extra distance the sound has to travel adds to the time delay.

Effects

Devices that use sound processors to achieve a desired sound.

Effects Unit

A device that includes various sound processors to produce effects.

Electric Guitar

A guitar that uses electrical amplification instead of the natural resonance of the instrument. Because there is no need for the resonance of the body, electrical guitars usually have a solid body instead of a hollow body.

Electric Tuner

A device that displays the pitch of a note to allow accurate tuning. Electric tuners are usually battery powered but can also be incorporated into mains-powered effects units.

Electro-acoustic Guitar

An acoustic guitar that has a pickup mounted in the sound hole.

End Block

A piece of wood found inside the tail end of an acoustic guitar that provides structural support and somewhere to attach the end pin.

End Button / End Pin

A round piece of metal located at the tail end of the guitar to which the strap is attached.

Equaliser

A piece of equipment that reduces or enhances sounds that lie within a certain frequency band. The tone control on a guitar or amplifier works on the same principle.

European Spruce

A wood that can be used to make soundboards.

f-Hole

A sound hole that is f-shaped and found on semi-acoustic guitars.

Face

The top or front surface of an acoustic guitar body.

Feedback

A high pitch sound created by the amplification of a guitars own sound. It is the result of putting the guitar to close to the amp.

Fifth Fret Trick

A relative tuning method which involves tuning the low E-string (by ear if necessary) and then using the 5th fret (A) to tune the next string (the A-string). The same process is done for the rest of the strings with exception to the G-string, on which the 4th fret is held to find harmony with the B-string.

Fine Tuners

Tuners found on the bridge of guitars with a locking tremolo system. The tuning is done with the machineheads as usual then the nut locks are put in place. The fine-tuners are then used to make any tiny adjustments to avoid having to remove the nut locks.

Fingerboard

The surface on which the strings of a fretless stringed instrument are pressed against. Although, in a guitar terms it can mean the same as fretboard.

Fingering

Pressing a finger or fingers on the strings at a certain fret in order to sound a note.

Five-way Switch

A pickup selector switch that has five positions and five combinations of pickups that can be used. Found on guitars with three pickups.

Fixed Bridge

A bridge that is static but can move when the vibrato system is used.

Flanger

An effect that creates a consistent wave-like space age whooshing effect, achieved by variable delay and filtering the signal.

Flat

A semitone lower, notated by the symbol b.

Flat Pick

Original term for plectrum.

Flat Picking

Playing with a flat pick or plectrum.

Flat Top

An acoustic guitar where the soundboard is completely flat.

Floating Bridge

A bridge used in the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system which can move depending on the tension of the strings (as opposed to a static bridge). It gives an easy and accurate vibrato system but makes tuning difficult.

Floyd Rose

The man who invented the double locking tremolo system. His name has become that of this type of vibrato system.

Floyd Rose Tremolo/ Vibrato System

A type of tremolo system patented by Floyd Rose that involves a flexible floating bridge that responds smoothly to the vibrato bar. It is also known as the ‘double-locking’ system because the strings are locked at the bridge and the nut, using locking nuts. Every time you alter the tension on any of the strings the floating bridge moves and puts the other strings out of tune. This leaves you having to tune your guitar twice before attaching the locking nuts, making it difficult to tune.

Footswitch

A foot pedal that you step on to activate electrical devices/settings. They are used mainly with amps and effects units to let you to operate them while standing up.

Fret

The space on the fretboard between each fret bar. They are numbered from the nut upward, starting on fret one. The open strings are referred to as being fret 0.

Fret Bars

Strips of metal found along the fingerboard. The space immediately behind the fret bar is used for fretting (not directly over the bar). Fret bars are placed at set intervals to divide the string into pitches. The frets get closer together as you go up the fretboard; this is because every time you halve the length you raise the pitch by an octave. Fret 12 divides the string in half (raising the pitch by an octave) and fret 24 divides the string into a quarter (raising the pitch by another octave).

Fret Hand

The hand that applies pressure to the fretboard – left hand for right handed players, and right hand for left handed players.

Fret Markers

Are inlays in the fretboard / fingerboard, usually found at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 21st frets. They are usually dots, but can be any symbol, and provide an easy way of tracking down the fret you are looking for.

Fret Numbers

The numbers assigned to each of the frets to allow them to be denoted in tablature. They are numbered from the nut upward, starting on fret one. The open strings are referred to as being fret 0.

Fretboard

The long thin strip of dark hardwood (e.g. rosewood or ebony) on the surface of the neck which the fret bars are placed on to.

Fretless

Fingerboards that have no frets to mark off separate pitches, giving a fingerboard / fretboard with a continuous scale of pitches. Usually only bass guitars are fretless.

Fretting

Applying pressure on the strings at a certain fret in order to sound a note.

Full Bend

Where the string is bent until the pitch is one tone higher (equal to two frets higher).

Fuzz

Very dirty sound.

G-String

The third thinnest and third highest sounding string on a guitar. Named because it is tuned to ‘G’ in standard tuning.

Gain

The amount of increase in power a signal is exposed to. It determines the amount of distortion and sustain.

Gauge

This refers to the thickness of guitar strings. It can alter sustain, tone and flexibility. Light gauges are easier for bending while heavier gauges are better for volume and sustain. Light gauges are: 0.010 to 0.047.  Medium-light are: 0.011 to 0.052. Medium are: 0.012 to 0.056 Heavy are: 0.013 to 0.062.

Ghost Bend

A bend that is made before the string is plucked and usually released to create a drop in pitch.

Ghost Note

A note that has been muted to the point it cannot be heard. In guitar music this would be a mute performed with the fretting hand, as palm muted notes still have a distinctive pitch.

Gig Bag

A case or bag designed to hold a guitar or bass for transportation. Gig bags can be padded and fitted with shoulder straps depending on the quality.

Guitar

The word guitar is derived from the Spanish word guitarra. It is a stringed instrument that usually has 6 strings (although they can have 4, 7, 8 and 12 strings) and can be plucked or strummed. Guitars can be acoustic, semi-acoustic or electric, and can be right or left handed.

Halfstep

The difference in pitch between two adjacent frets and is equal to the difference in pitch between two adjacent notes on the chromatic scale.

Halfstep Bend

A bend that increases pitch by a semitone.

Hammer-on

Playing a note by “hammering” or “hitting” down on the fret with the fretting hand or finger. The opposite of a pull-off.  Picking is not always needed for this, however, a hammer-on that is not picked may be referred to as a tap.

Hand Crossing

Where the picking hand frets or taps notes that are lower down the neck than the fretting hand, causing the picking hand to cross over the fretting hand.

Harmonic

A note of purer tone. An harmonic can be produced at certain fractional points along the length of a string (the halfway point, for example). There are natural harmonics that are produced by plucking open strings and artificial harmonics that involve holding or touching the string over a fret.

Harmonic Interval

The distance in pitch between two notes that are being played simultaneously.

Harmonic Minor Scale

Identical to the natural minor scale except for a sharpened 7th degree.

Harmonise

  1. To add harmony to music.
  2. To form music or chords from a specific scale.

Harmony

  1. The playing of two or more notes at the same time.
  2. The relationship between notes of a chord and chords in a progression with reference to the structure of a piece of music.

Hawaiian Guitar

A guitar played horizontally with a steel bar is used as a slide. Named so because it was invented and popularised by the Hawaiians.

Head

Short for headstock or amp head.

Head Block

A block of wood found inside acoustic guitars where the neck meets the body, providing a place to attach the heel of the neck.

Headstock

The section of the guitar attached to the top of the neck, which holds the machineheads.

Headstock Overlay

A thin piece of wood or plastic that covers the surface of the headstock and may contain decoration.

Heel

The section of the neck that joins onto the body.

Heel Block

A block of wood found inside acoustic guitars where the neck meets the body, providing a place to attach the heel of the neck.

Hum

Unwanted electrical noise produced by an amplifier.

Humbucker / Humbucker Pickup

A type of pickup consisting of two electromagnetic coils of opposite polarity. It is specially designed to reduce interference from other electronics that can cause a hum.

i

The symbol that represents the index finger on the picking hand in the PIMA labelling system.

Improvisation

A method of creating music on the spot, it is popular with jazz and blues guitarists and is a great way of exercising your creativity.

Inlays

Pictorial designs (usually dots) that are found on the fretboard and used as fret markers. Inlays can be made of materials like abalone or “mother of pearl” that are embedded in the surface of the wood.

Input

The direction toward the source of power and away from source of the current (towards the amplifier and away from the guitar). Any socket labelled ‘input’ should be connected via a cable to a socket labelled ‘output’.

Interval

The difference in pitch between two notes.

Intonation

The ability of a guitar to be in tune with itself. The 12th fret and the harmonic at the 12th fret should yield the same note. If the guitar is not in tune with itself then the intonation is said to be out.

Inversions

Variations of chords that contain the same notes but in different orders of pitch e.g. a 3 note chord has a root position and two inversions.

Inverted chord

To invert a chord raise the bass note an octave.

Jackplate

The metal plate the output jack of a guitar is mounted on.

Key Signature

The group of notes a piece of music uses. It consists of a scale based around a particular note.

Laminated

This refers to the top and back of an acoustic guitar being made of thin plies of wood that are glued together, as opposed to solid wood guitars.

Lap Steel Guitar

A guitar played horizontally using a steel bar as a slide. It is commonly called the Hawaiian Guitar as it was invented and popularised by the Hawaiians.

Lead

  1. Short for electric lead guitar, the guitar that plays the main part of a song and solos.
  2. The insulated wiring used to connect guitars to amplifiers, guitars to effects units or amp heads to speaker cabinets.

Left Handed Guitar

A guitar played by a left handed guitarist, strumming and plucking with the left hand and playing the notes and chords on the fretboard with the right hand.

Left Handed Guitarist

A person that plays guitar left handed – strumming and plucking with the left hand and playing the notes and chords on the fretboard with the right hand.

Left Hand Tapping

A hammer-on with the fretting hand without the string being plucked.

Lick

A sequence of notes forming a repeatable or distinguished sound that you can build guitar solos from.

Locking nut

Found on guitars with a locking tremolo system. It consists of a strip of metal that holds the tension of the strings via small metal plates that can be screwed into place.

Locking Tremolo / Vibrato System

A tremolo system patented by Floyd Rose that involves a flexible floating bridge that responds smoothly to the vibrato bar. Sometimes called the ‘double-locking’ system because the strings are locked at the bridge and the nut using locking nuts.

Loudspeaker

An electro-acoustic transducer that converts an electrical audio signal into amplified sound. Used with an amplifier either in separate units (amplifier stack) or in one unit (combo amp).

m

Symbol used to represent the middle finger on the picking hand as part of the PIMA labelling system.

Machineheads

The metal attachments on the headstock which are turned to adjust the tension in the strings, for attaching and retuning strings.

Major Scale

A diatonic scale consisting of 7 notes. In western music, all chords are named according to how the notes would fit into the major scale. Scale theory also uses the major scale as a template.

Melodic Interval

The distance in pitch between two notes played successively.

Melodic Minor Scale

The same as the major scale except for the flattened 3rd degree.

Metronome

A device that produces a constant pulse to keep track of rhythm. Most electronic metronomes can accent the first beat of each bar, enabling you to stay within a set time signature.

Mic

Short for microphone.

Microphone

A device that converts sound waves into electrical signals. Dynamic microphones are used for recording directly in front of the source of sound (immediately in front of an amp to record electric guitars). Ambient microphones are used to record sound over a wider area, like an entire room and are used to record acoustic guitars.

Microtonal Bend

A bend creating an increase in pitch of half a semitone.

Miked Up

Connected with a microphone for recording or performing.

Moustache Bridge

A type of bridge that is found on acoustic guitars and named because it resembles a handlebar moustache.

Moveable Chord

Any chord shape that uses no open strings such as barre chords. These chords can be played in various positions of the fretboard producing the same chord but in a different key.

Mute

To cut sound. Often refers to a fret hand mute but can be used to indicate a palm mute.

Muted Strum

Using the fretting hand to touch the strings to mute them when you strum, creating a more percussive sound.

Muting

Dampening the strings. Usually refers to fret hand muting but can also be used to describe palm muting.

Natural Harmonic

Harmonics that occur at certain parts of the string called nodes. A note of a purer tone can be produced by touching these nodes whilst the string is being plucked.

Neck

The wooden extension from the main body of the guitar with the fret board on the frontand the headstock and the end.

Neck Block

A block of wood inside an acoustic guitar where the neck meets the body, providing a structurally sound place to attach the heel.

Neck Pickup

A pickup located next to the neck.

Neck Profile

The size and design of the neck.

Neck Through Body

A style of neck that extends all the way through and right to the end of the body of the guitar. This type of neck is used to mount the pickups and bridge and does not have a heel, making it easier to reach the higher frets. This design is found on basses more than guitars and more on the expensive ranges.

Neck Through

Short for neck through body.

Node

A point on a guitar string that, when touched lightly, will produce a harmonic.

Noise

Short for string noise. This is any unwanted sounds from the guitar. These can be caused when the fretting hand or picking hand rubs against the strings when you play. String noise may not be noticed when playing acoustically but amplifiers magnify the problem. Noise gates and muting can help reduce this.

Noise Gate

A sound processor that removes any components of an audio signal that are below a certain amplitude. Noise gates can be found on effects units and are used to reduce string noise.

Noise Reduction

Any process, like a Noise Gate, that removes or reduces unwanted noise from an audio signal. Used in the recording of guitar music to reduce string noise.

Non-locking Tremolo

A vibrato system where the strings are anchored to the bridge by ball-ends. Non-locking tremolo systems have static bridges.

Nut

Separates the fretboard from the headstock and keeps the strings in their correct position.

Nut Locks

The screws and metal plates that are used on a locking nut.

Octave

An interval of 12 semitones.

Octave Pedal

A foot operated guitar effect that adds a note an octave higher to the note you are playing.

Open String

A string played without being fretted.

Open String Chord

A chord consisting of open strings which may or may not include fretted notes.

Over-bend

A bend that is wider than a full bend.

Overdrive

Is achieved by a gain setting that is deliberately too high, producing a signal overload which enhances or creates distortion. Overdrive can be produced by greatly increasing volume, even in a clean channel.

p

Symbol used to represent the thumb on the picking hand and part of the PIMA labelling system.

PA System

An amplifier that is used by vocalists and instruments that are miked up.

Palm Muting

This involves resting the picking hand on the strings, near the bridge, to cut off any resonance and creates a percussive sound.

Passive Pickups

Pickups that convert direct sound into an electrical signal without the signal being enhanced.

Pedal

Used to activate guitar effects via a foot operated switch. Pedals can have built in effects or be linked to a separate effects unit.

Pedal Steel Guitar

A guitar played horizontally with a steel bar is used as a slide. It is commonly called the Hawaiian Guitar because it was invented and popularised by the Hawaiians.

Peghead

The section of the guitar attached to the top of the neck which holds the machineheads.

Pentatonic Scale

A scale of five notes per octave which can be minor or major. The minor pentatonic scale is the most widely used scale used by rock guitarists and defines the typical sound of a rock guitar solo.

Phaser

A guitar effect that produces a series of peaks and troughs in the frequency spectrum. The position of the peaks and troughs of the waveform creates a sweeping effect.

Pick

  1. Small, thin object used for plucking or strumming the strings.
  2. The sounding of a guitar string with a plectrum or finger.

Pick Guard

A plastic or metal flat cover attached to the body of the guitar just below the pickups that protects the guitars finish from scratches.

Pick Slide

Scratching along the strings with the side of the pick. Usually the lower three strings, scraped up or down making a screeching sound.

Picked

An individual string sounded with a plectrum or finger.

Picking

The sounding of a guitar string with a plectrum or finger.

Picking Hand

The hand that holds the plectrum or plucks the strings with fingers. Usually the dominant hand is used as the picking hand although many left handed people choose to play right handed guitars.

Pickup Selector Switch

Controls which pickup, or combination of pickups, are turned on.

Pickups

Electromagnets located on the front of the body of the guitar under the strings. They produce a magnetic field that is disturbed by vibrations in the air (caused by the strings) which in turn alters the signal that is sent through a cable to the amp. The amp then receives the signal and amplifies it. There are two types of pickup: single coil pickups and humbucker pickups.

PIMA Labelling

Instructions on tablature that indicate which picking hand fingers should be used. It uses the symbols p, i, m, a and c to direct a specific finger picking pattern. p = thumb, i = index finger, m = middle finger, a = annular finger, and c = little finger.

Pinch Harmonic

This is achieved by hitting the string with the pick and thumb tip in the same motion and produces a note up to two octaves higher.

Pitch

The frequency of a note (how high or low it sounds). The A directly above middle C is 440 Hz and is called concert pitch.

Pitchshifter

A sound processor which digitally increases or decreases signal pitch without affecting other factors.

Playability

The level of skill and effort needed to play a particular guitar, or how easy it is to play.

Plectrum

A small, thin object used for plucking or strumming the strings.

Pluck

Playing a guitar string with a plectrum or finger.

Powerchord

Contains only the root and the fifth notes, and so is neither major or minor. It is used for an aggressive or cold sound mainly in rock music.

Pre-amp

Short for pre-amplifier.

Pre-amplifier

Circuits that increase low-level input signals before they reach the power amp.

Pull-off

A way of sounding a note without plucking. The opposite of a hammer-on.

Radius

The depth of the curve on the surface of the fretboard. The shallower the curve the flatter the fretboard feels.

Rake

Where the pick is firmly dragged across the strings. Can be done to provide emphasis on the highest note and can sometimes contain muted strings. Similar to arpeggiated chords.

Relative Tuning

Where one string on a guitar is used to tune all the others by comparison. The fifth fret trick is a common method of relative tuning.

Reverb

Short for reverberation.

Reverberation

A constant wave of overlapping echoes producing an ambient effect. Reverb can occur naturally by the reflection of sound off solid objects or can be simulated by analogue or digital means.

Rhythm

The section of music that acts as an underlying structure, usually achieved by strumming chord progressions to support the lead guitar parts.

Rhythm Guitarist

A guitarist that plays the rhythm and underlying body of a song while the lead guitarist plays the melodies and solos.

Riff

A sequence of notes, most common in rock and pop music.

Right Hand Tapping

Where the fretting hand holds frets while the picking hand hammers on to frets higher up the fretboard. It is commonly used to achieve fast legato style playing.

Root

The note from which a scale or chord is based. The first note of a scale or chord.

Rosette

A decorative inlay that surrounds the sound hole of an acoustic guitar

Saddle

Part of the bridge that has a groove to hold the strings in place.

Saddle Slot

The small slit in each saddle that the strings rest in.

SC

Short for single coil.

Scale

A sequence of notes that lie within an octave.

Scale Length

The total length of an open string. Used to determine the fret positions.

Scoop and Doop

Vibrato bar techniques. Scoop is when you depress the vibrato bar before plucking and release, and doop is when you depress the vibrato bar after plucking.

Scratchplate

A plastic or metal flat cover that protects the guitars finish from scratches and attached to the body of the guitar just below the pickups.

Semi-acoustic Guitar

An electric guitar with a slightly larger, hollow body which has an F-hole instead of a sound hole. Or an acoustic guitar with a pickup built in so it can be amplified directly.

Set Neck

Short for set-in neck.

Set-in Neck

Where the neck of the guitar is attached to a slot in the body with an adhesive.

Shape

A pattern of notes on the fretboard that can be moved up and down into various keys. This could include chord shapes and scale shapes.

Sharp

A note a semitone higher. Indicated by the symbol #.

Signal

An electrical current sent from the pickups to an output, representing changes in the surrounding air pressure.

Signal Chain

A sequence of signals from pickups through effects units, preamplifiers, amplifiers and all the other devices that may carry a signal from the guitar to the final output.

Signal Level

The amplitude of a signal that dictates how loud the sound will be.

Single Coil Pickup

A pickup consisting of one coil wrapped around a magnet.

Slap

Hitting a string with the thumb. The strike is made by a flick of the wrist and forms the basis of slap bass but can be done on an electric guitar.

Slide

Sliding involves playing a note and then moving the finger to a different fret, keeping the finger pressed firmly against the fretboard as you move.

Slide Guitar

A guitar that uses a slide to produce a note. They are mainly used in blues and country music.

Solid Body

A guitar body that does not use hollow cavities to resonate sound and has a solid body and pickups to produce the sound.

Solid Bodied

Refers to guitars that have a solid body.

Solid-state Amp

An amp with no valves, using transistors instead.

Solo

When the guitar plays the leading part whilst the other instruments are used as backing.

Sound Hole

The hole in an acoustic guitar that allows sound to resonate within the hollow body.

Sound Hole Pickup

A pickup found inside the sound hole of an elctro-acoustic guitar.

Sound Processor

A device that takes digital representations of sound and manipulates them to produce a desired effect. Guitar effects like delay, chorus and flanger make use of sound processors.

Soundboard

The front surface of an acoustic guitar body.

Staccato

Cutting a note short to give a percussive effect.

Stack

Short for amplifier stack.

Standard Tuning

When the open strings of the guitar are tuned to E, A, D, G, B and E from the lowest sounding string to the highest.

Static Bridge

A bridge that does not move.

Stave

Five horizontal lines on which music notation is displayed, informing you of the rhythm and note pitches. Divided by vertical bar lines.

Steel Guitar

A guitar played horizontally with a steel bar used as a slide. Commonly called the Hawaiian Guitar because it was invented and popularised by the Hawaiians.

Stomp Box

A pedal that has its own built in effect that can be turned on and off by stomping on the switch.

Strap

A strip of fabric or leather that is attached to the body of the guitar and worn around your shoulder allowing you to play standing up without having to support the weight of the guitar with your hands.

Strap Button

Another term for strap pin.

Strap Pin

A round piece of metal located on the body of the guitar to which the strap is attached.

String Guage

Another term for gauge.

String Posts

The part of the machinehead which the strings are wrapped around.

String Retainers

Small metal saddles, found on the headstock, that keep the strings lined up with the string-posts.

Strings

Wire or nylon on a guitar producing notes via vibration.

Strum

The striking of more than one string in the same motion.

Strumming

Playing a series of strums.

Sunburst

A design found on the body of guitars that consists of a light colour in the centre of the body, radiating out in thin lines to a darker colour around the outer edges of the body.

Suspended Chord

Based on the major triad, but with the third replaced with the major second or perfect fourth, known as suspended second and suspended fourth chords.

Sustain

The length of time that a note sounds for after it is plucked. String gauge, action, effects and the natural resonance of a guitars body can all have an effect on sustain.

Sweep Picking

Picking single notes with the fluid motion of a strum whilst sounding like a single-note line. This is achieved by using a series of down- or upstrokes to pick single notes on consecutive strings.

Sweeping

The act of sweep picking.

Sweet Spot

A term used to describe the optimal position of something. In guitar music it could mean the perfect spot to execute a pinch harmonic, position a saddle or position your finger when fretting a note.

Syncopation

Using accents on some of the weaker beats to create a more diverse rhythm.

Tablature

A system of written music for stringed instruments. Found under the musical stave. It consists of six horizontal lines that represent the strings of a guitar. Numbers are written on the lines to indicate which fret to hold.

Tail Block

Another term for end block.

Tap

A hammer-on that is done without plucking the string. It can be done with the picking hand or the fretting hand

Tapped Harmonic

Sounded by holding a fret, without plucking, then tapping a specified fret with the picking hand.

Tapping

Hammer-ons that are done without plucking the strings. Can be done with the picking hand or the fretting.

Tempo

The duration of time between each beat, determining the speed of music.

Tetrachords

A combination of four notes separated by one halfstep and two whole steps. A number of tetrachords can be put together to assemble scales.

Thru-neck

Short for neck through body.

Timing

The ability to synchronise rhythm with other instruments.

Toggle Switch

Another term for pickup selector switch.

Tone

The level of equalisation set by a tone control on a guitar or amplifier.

Tone Control

A knob on the body of a guitar that sets the level of equalisation for a pickup or combination of pickups. Usually each pickup will have its own tone control.

Touched Harmonic

Where you touch the string lightly over a specified fret bar after a note has been sounded. Sometimes called an artificial harmonic.

Travis Picking

Where quarter notes are plucked with a plectrum and fingers pluck the other strings. Used in country music.

Tremolo

A wavering effect of a note by moving the fretting figure. Can also be achieved with a tremolo bar or guitar effects.

Tremolo Arm / Tremolo Bar

The removable metal bar that can be attached to the bridge. The bar is depressed to cause a drop in pitch and raised to cause a jump up in pitch, and can also be used for vibrato.

Tremolo Picking

Where a note is picked as rapidly as possible for a set duration of time. A tremolo picked note is notated as normal but with three diagonal lines below the number on the tab.

Tremolo System

Another term for vibrato system.

Triad

A chord consisting of three notes. When used in conjunction with a scale it refers to the first, third and fifth notes of the scale.

Trill

A rapid slur between two notes.

Truss Rod

A thin steel rod that runs down the centre of the guitar neck and opposes the stress put on the neck from the string tension.

Truss Rod Cover

Thin plate that covers the entrance to the truss rod and usually located just above the nut.

Tube

Short for electron vacuum tube.

Tube Amp

Another term for valve amp.

Tune

To correctly adjust the pitch of an open string.

Tuner Pegs

Another term for string posts.

Tuners

Another term for machinehead.

Two-hand Tapping

Using both hands to hammer-on/tap the frets.

Upstroke

Moving the plectrum towards the ceiling as you pluck or strum.

Valve

Another term for electron vacuum tube.

Valve Amp

An amp that uses circuitry in conjunction with electron vacuum tubes, instead of transistors.

Veneer

A very thin slice of wood used to cover a surface to create the impression of solid wood.

Vibrato

A wavering sound produced by shivering a fretted note up and down rapidly.

Vibrato Bar

Another name for the Tremolo Bar.

Vibrato Bar Bend

Where a note is sounded then the vibrato bar is raised/lowered to bend the note to the desired pitch.

Vibrato Springs

Springs attached to the bridge that act against the pull of the Vibrato bar. Usually located in a cavity in the back of the guitar.

Vibrato System

The method in which a vibrato bar is attached to the guitar, either by the locking tremolo system and the more common fixed bridge system.

Vintage

A guitar that was made between the mid 1940’s and the 1970’s may be considered vintage. Vintage guitars may have hand built, single piece bodies and may include woods that are not often used today.

Voicings

Alternative formations of a specific chord e.g. the open C major chord and the C major barre chord contain the same notes but in a different voicing.

Volume Control

A knob found on the body of the guitar that controls the signal level being sent to the amplifier. Some guitars have a separate volume control for each pickup.

Volume Swell

Where the guitars volume control is used to create a fade-in effect while playing a note or riff. A common technique involves having the pinkie of the picking hand wrapped around the volume control to allow the rest of the hand free to pluck the strings.

Wah

An effect that alters the tone of the sound. Wah is used via a pedal to allow sudden or fluctuating changes in tone. It gets its name from the sound that can be made by wobbling the pedal back and forth.

Wah Pedal

A pedal that is used to apply wah.

Wah-Wah

Another term for wah.

Waist

The middle part of a guitar body that curves inward.

Whammy Bar

Another term for a Tremolo Bar.

Whammy Bar Bend

Another term for vibrato bar bend.

 

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