Glossary Of Terms For Guitarists

Glossary of Guitarist Terms

A to Z Glossary of Terms For The Guitar Player

If you are a beginner or have just taken up guitar playing, this glossary of musical and guitar terminology will help you get to grips with the technical terms and jargon associated with playing guitars.

In this guitarist's glossary you will find almost all of the terms you will ever likely need to look up, that you may find in books, magazines and tutorial sites online, some definitions also include a tip, hint or example to help you understand what is meant. We hope you will find it helpful, as glossaries are hard work putting together, this one took almost a week to compile!


Abalone -aka Mother of Pearl. Commonly used for guitar inlay work, especially on acoustics

Accelerando - Gradually accelerating the tempo of a apiece of music

Accent - Applying extra emphasis to a note, usually by striking it harder.

Accidental - A musical notation note symbol, for sharps, flats and naturals.

Acoustic Guitar - A non-electified guitar.

Action - The set height of the string distance above the fretboard.

Active Electronics - Like a pre-amplifier for pickups, often self-powered with a cell.

Alder - Species of hardwood commonly used for electric guitar bodies.

Alnico - Metal alloy of Nickel and Aluminum and Cobalt Metal used in pickup magnets

Alternating bass(line) - Playing style where the picking hand alternates between two or more low notes.

Altered Tuning - Changing the tuning of one or more strings from standard EADGBE open tuning.

Alternate picking - Picking in opposite directions on any string, usually down then up.

Amplify - Increase in sound, usually refers to electronics.

Andante - Musical term for a moderately slow tempo, around 70 - 80 beats per minute

Anticipation - arriving at your target note or chord before the beat, usually coming in a half a beat earlier.

Anti-nodes - The places on the strings that dampen the sound when touched. As opposed to a node which produces harmonics.

Apoyando - A technique used by classical guitarists in which a picking hand finger plucks a string and follows straight through to the adjacent string, on which, it rests.

Arch Top - Refers to the body of a guitar that has been carved or shaped.

Arpeggio - Any chord or series of notes, played one note at a time

Arpeggiated chord - A chord sounded by playing across the strings, without strumming, or without too much delay.

Arrangement - Original song or music played in a different fashion.

Articulation - how a note is played, sharply, gently, long, short, slurred, etc.

Artificial Harmonic - Also known as a Pinch harmonic, can be played in various points on the fretboard by very lightly touching the string at certain point then plucking it.

Ash - A type of hardwood that is used in some solid body guitars.

Ashtray - Slang term given to the metal bridge plate cover on vintage Fender Telecasters.

Augmented - A perfect interval (e.g. a perfect fifth) that has been increased by a semitone.

Augmented chord - A chord consisting of the major triad but with a sharpened fifth in place of the natural.

Axe - Slang word for an Electric guitar, mostly used by Heavy Metal fans.


Backline - Musical equipment that facilitates live playing. For example, amplifiers, stands and cables.

Backplate - A plastic or metal plate used under the guita's body to cover machined cavities.

Bakelite - Man-made hard plastic used in some early guitars from the 1930's

Ball-end - The smal metal piece on the end of guitar strings to anchor the string to the bridge.

Bar - A measure of musical time, e.g. 4 beats to the bar.

Bar line - A vertical line which shows the end of a bar of music.

Bar Pickup - Also called a blade. This design uses a single pole-piece for each coil as oppposed using vertical poles under every string.

Barre Chord - Technique of placing the left hand index finger over two to six strings forming an artifical nut.

Bass Guitar - Bass Guitars usually have just 4 very thick strings and are tuned an octave lower than a standard electric.

Bass note - The lowest note in a chord.

Bass-strum - A picking hand technique which involves picking a bass note then strumming the rest of the chord.

Beam - A horizontal line which shows two eighth or sixteenth notes belonging to the beat shown on the bottom of the time signature.

Beat - A measure of musical time, best described as the 'pulse' of a piece of music.

Bend (strings) - Pushing or pulling a string sideways across any fret to raise the pitch of a note by a semitone or up to two whole tones.

Bigsby - The Bigsby was the first successful design of what is now a tremolo arm developed by Paul Bigsby.

Binding - A protective and decorative strip made various materials fitted along the outermost edges of a guitar to hide and protect joints.

Blue Notes - The minor third, diminished fifth and flat seventh notes of any particular key. The musical 'tension' between the these notesĀ and the standard notes of the major scale is what produces the distinctive blues sound.

Body - The main part of a guitar not including the neck. The body may be hollow or solid wood.

Block (or Dot) Markers - Fretboard inlays for indicating note positions.

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.

Bobbin - Part of a pickup around which the copper coil is wrapped.

Bolt-on neck - Method of mechanically attaching the guitar neck to the body without joints or glue.

Bookmatched - Bookmatched refers to the wood coming from the same piece of wood so the grain creates mirror image patterns.

Bottleneck - In the early days of blues, players used the top part of a glass bottle placed on their pinkie fingers to make string slides. The style 'Bottleneck guitar' stuck for a long while, but is now usually referred to as the 'Slide' guitar, ad purpose made slide are now made from, glass, metal and other materials.

Bout - The thinnest part or waist of an acoustic guitar body is divided into the upper bout and lower bout.

BPM - Beats per minute, or musical tempo. Defines the "click speed" of the metronome. Most music has a tempo of 60-220 bpm

Brace - Braces are wooden struts glued inside hollowbody guitars to provide strength.

Breve - Music notation symbol that represents two bars or measures in 4/4 time

Bridge - The bridge is located on the body of the guitar and transfers sound from the strings to the body of the guitar. This can be held in place by screws or string tension.

Bridge Pin - Certain guitar models are fitted with Bridge Pins. These help hold strings in place.

Broken Chord - Is when all the notes from a chord are not played at the same time, but say two followed by two more.

Bullet - Truss-rod adjustor nut on the headstock of some Fender guitars.

Bumping - A technique where the index finger holds a note or part of a chord whilst the tip of the finger mutes the adjacent lower string.


CAGED System - A system of identifying patterns of notes on the fretboard using a repeating sequence of chords i.e. C, A, G, E and D majors.

CAP - Short for capacitor, an electronic component that stores an electrical charge.

Capo - A device that attaches to the neck of a guitar by various methods and replaces the guitar's nut, allowing open strings to be played in other keys.

Used to raise the key of a song while maintaining the same chord shapes, it also has the effect of shortening the strings thus lowering the action.

Celluloid - An early commercial plastic material used on many vintage guitars. Deteriorates with age like film.

Cellulose - Nitro-cellulose. A substance used as a finish on guitars.

Center Block - A block of solid wood running right through the body of a semi-acoustic guitar body.

Checking - Used to describe cracking and crazing found in lacquer finished (vintage) guitars.

Chicken picking - A combination of pick and fingers using the picking hand.

Chicken Scratching - Technique where the strings are strummed with the pick, while being damped at the same time with the fretting hand.

Chops - Slang term for a guitarists riffing and playing skills.

Chord Fragment - A chord that is derived from a larger chord by playing just a few of the strings.

Chord - Three or more (usually harmonious) notes played simultaneously.

Chord chart - A diagram which shows chord fingerings or progressions.

Chord progression - A sequence of chords repeated in order.

Chorus - Commonly the section of a song lyric that is repeated. In jazz improvisation, "playing a chorus" isimprovising over a chord progression.

Chromatic Notes - Notes taken from outside of any paticular major scale,

Chromatic Scale - The 12 note music scale used in all Western music

Circle Of Fifths - A standard music diagram showing the relationship of keys and a useful tool for guitarists and songwriters.

Classical Guitar - a guitar with nylon strings, usually slightly smaller than an acoustic guitar.

Clean (Sound) - The natural sound of an electric guitar with zero distortion and no other added effects.

Closed voicing - The term "voicing" refers to the vertical arrangement of the notes of a given chord. "Closed voicing" places the notes as close together as possible

Coils - Copper wire wrapped around a non-conductive substrate, used in e.g. guitar pickups

Coil Tap - Mechanical switch used to change (switch out) double coil pickups so they sound like single coils.

Combo Amp - Generic term for an all-in-one amplifier/speaker combination.

Common Time - Denotes the popular 4/4 time signature, the symbol sometimes used in sheet music is a capital 'C'

Common Tones - The use of the same note in one or more chords in a progression. These create a common sound that links the sequence.

Compensation - The halfway point of any string, thus the octave is fret 12, in theory. However fretting (pushing down on the string) increases the string tension and therefore causes a very small increase in pitch. To counter this effect the distance from the nut to the bridge saddle is increased slightly thus making the string longer. This extra distance is called the compensation.

Compression - Digital circuitry in a pedal or console processes sound signals and makes the sound tighter while adding sustain.

Concert Pitch - 440Hz. A guitars A string is, or should be, tuned to concert pitch. (which is the A above middle C on a piano).

Counterpoint - The combination of two melodies joined to form a single composition.

Count in - A count at the start of a piece of music to show when to start and how fast to play (usually the top number on the time signature).

Cross-Fret Barre - A finger barring technique used in jazz, that holds down strings on two different frets at the same time.

Crossover - Usually crossover network, is a set of circuitry that separates sound signals according to their frequencies and sends them to different areas of the device, for example, a speaker may have 3 elements, woofer, midrange and tweeter, the crossover network directs the frequency range to the cone that can best handle it.

Crosspicking - Playing techniques where a player uses a run of single notes, often played across three or four strings.

Crotchet - Music notation symbol of one quarter note.

Cutaway - A concave area of the a guitar body that permits easier access to the 24th fret area


DADGAD Tuning - Acronym for a popular alternate tuning.

Dead note - A muted note played with no noticeable pitch.

Delay - A guitar effect that stops the sound for a set period of milliseconds which creates an echo-like effect.

Diatonic - Notes contained in a major or minor scale of the same key

Digital Modelling - Digital circuitry used to try and re-create the sound of old-time valve amplifiers..

Diminished - A perfect or minor interval reduced by a semitone.

Diminished Chord - Any major chord with flattened third and fifth notes

Dirty (sound) - Another way to describe distortion.

Distortion - An effect caused by turning up gain of an amplifier much higher than normal causing the signal to distort, essential when playing Rock and Heavy metal guitar.

Divebomb - Whammy bar technique resembling the dropping sound pitch of a divebomber

Dobro guitar - Brand for a metal guitar with a resonator

Dog Ear - Common name for a P-90 style pickup with mounting ears. A genuine P-90 is a single coil electric guitar pickup produced by Gibson since 1946.

Dominant - The dominant lies a perfect fifth above the tonic in a diatonic scale.

Doop - A whammy bar technique. Where the bar is depressed after the string is struck.

Dotted Note - In music notation a dot is added to a note to increase its length.

Double Bar Line - Two vertical lines in music notation, which show the end of a section or piece of music.

Double stop - two notes played together simultaneously.

Double Course - A pair of strings aligned musically to one another enabling both to be sounded at the same time without discord.

Double Flat - Lowered in pitch by two semitones. (one tone)

Double Sharp - Raised in pitch by two semitones. (one tone)

Double-stop Bend - The use of one finger to bend two notes up a quarter tone or more.

Double Tracking - A recording term. The musical piece is recorded on two separate tracks, when replayed simultaneously any differences in timing or tone combine to make a 'thicker' sound.

Double Whole Note - A note that lasts for two measured bars of music

Dreadnought - The largest and naturally loudest acoustic guitar size.

Dropped C Tuning - All strings are tuned down a whole tone, then the low E is tuned down a further tone, giving CGCFAD.

Dropped-D tuning - Very common alternative tuning for heavy rock. The Low E string is lowered by a whole tone to produce a low D. This allows the Low E to be fretted normally

Dynamics - Changes in volume or tempo of music during playing.


Ebonol - Synthetic material that fretboards may be made out of.

Ebony - Dark, exotic hardwood used for fretboards and bridges.

Echo - A reflection of sound heard after the direct sound. An echo is a distinct reflection of sound and should not be confused with reverberation.

Economy Picking - A picking style that combines sweep picking and alternate picking.

Economic Picking - Pick technique using downstrokes on the three low strings and upstrokes on the three highest.

Eighth beat - A beat half as long in musical time as a quarter beat.

Eighth Note - a note of a half a beat’s duration.

Electric guitar - A guitar which can be plugged into an electric amplifier.

Electro Acoustic - A standard-bodied acoustic guitar usually with a piezo electric pickup so the sound can be amplified by electrical means.

End block - The end block is usually glued to the top, back, and sides at the bottom end of acoustics.

Equaliser - A digital circuit that can alter sound characteristics in certain frequency bands.


Fill - A short musical phrase that fills a space in the music, usually played differently each time, unlike a riff.

Feedback - Feedback is created by an amplified sound signal re-entering its amplification system where it will continue to do so in a continuos loop, unless stopped.

F Hole - Sound hole cut into instruments, commonly hollow-bodied electrics (not acoustics)

Fifth - The fifth note of a scale.The interval between the first and fifth note of a diatonic scale. This interval can be perfect (7 semitones), diminished (6 semitones) or augmented (8 semitones).

Fingerboard - See Fretboard

Finger picks - Plastic or metal picks that fingerstyle guitarists use on the ends of their fingers and thumb.

Fingerstyle - Playing with the fingers with or without fingerpicks as opposed to playing with a plectrum.

Finish - The fine protective coating covering the guitar, usually paint or lacquer.

Five-way Switch - A pickup selector switch that has five positions and thus five pickup configurations.

Fixed Bridge - A bridge that stays static but moves when the tremelo arm is used.

Flame Top - Refers to Maple wood (usu.) with striking grain pattern resembling flames of a fire.

Flanger - A guitar effects pedal.

Flat - Lower in musical pitch.

Flatpick - Also called a Plectrum. A shaped piece of flat plastic material (usually) for striking the strings.

Flat Top - Refers to an acoustic guitar with a straight, (flat) rather than an arched top.

Flatwound strings - Flatwound steel strings use a flat wire winding rather than round wire. Popular in jazz.

Floating Bridge - The Floyd Rose system uses a floating bridge so it is able to move with the strings.

Floyd Rose Bridge - Common name for an electric guitar tremolo system patented by Floyd Rose that uses a floating bridge with locking plates for the strings at both the bridge end and the top nut. It is specially designed for Rock music where players make a lot of use of the whammy bar. The system makes using the whammy bar much smoother in use and because of the locking plates prevent the strings going out of tune so easily after lots of ferocious bending techniques..

Four/four time (4/4) - Very common time signature of four quarter beats per bar of music.

Fretboard - also called a fingerboard, generally made from Rosewood or Maple, this is where you play the notes!

Frets - The soft alloy strips along the fretboard. Available in several widths.

Fretless - A fretboard with no frets. A guitar with no frets, commonly a Bass.

Fret Marker - Any inlay on a fretboard to help with fret location.

Fret Tapping - Here the picking hand is brought up the neck (usually while still holding the pick) and the fingers are used to hammer-on the strings very rapidly indeed. This technique heavy metal is used extensively check out Eddie Van Halen, playing 'Eruption'

Frequency - Is the SI measurement of sound wave osclilations. Always measured in units of Hertz (Hz). (cycles per second).

Full Bend - A technique where the string is bent until it is a whole tone higher in pitch from the struck note.

Fuzz - Guitar effect that gives a 'dirty' sound.


Gain - Determines the amount of distortion and sustain for a sound signal. Gain controls are found on amps.

Gargle - A whammy bar effect, caused by flicking the bar once a note has been played.

Gauge - (wire gauge) Refers to the thickness of guitar strings.

Gig - A playing appointment for a band or artist.

Gig Bag - A case designed to hold an instrument for transportation.

Ghost note - A note played very quietly

Glissando Slide - Usually just called a slide. see slide.

Grace note - An ornamental note usually played quickly before a main note.

Guitar Strings - May be made from Stainless Steel, nickel or Phosphor bronze.

Guitar tablature - Commonly called TAB. A system of reading and writing guitar music on a per string/per fret basis.


Half Beat - A musical beat twice as long as a quarter beat.

Half Note - a note of two musical beats in length

Halfstep Bend - A bend that increases pitch by a semitone.

Half Rest - Musical rest of two beats in length.

Half Step - The shortest Chromatic interval, equal to a semitone.

Hammer-on - A note sounded by bringing a finger of the fretting hand down sharply on a string.

Hang Tag - Small labels or cards traditionally placed on new guitars at the point of sale. Hang tags for vintage models are rare and collectable.

Hard Tail - Term used to describe an electric guitar without a vibrato system. e.g. Fender Telecaster.

Hardware - General term for any fitting on a guitar not made of wood.

Harmonize - To play two or more notes together in perfect musical 'fit' or harmony.

Harmonic - A note of purer tone with a chime-like sound

Harmonics (tones) - There are certain frets and locations along all strings where harmonics can be sounded by very lightly touching the string then playing the note.

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

Harmonise - To form music or chords from a specific scale.

Harmony - Two or more notes sounding simultaneously.

Headstock - The top end of the guitar above the neck that houses the machine heads.

Heel - Section of the neck where the neck curves or is tapered to join the body.

Hexatonic scale - A scale with six notes per octave.

Hollow Body - An electric guitar with a thin and hollowed-out body, popular in Country styles and Jazz

Hum - Unwanted electrical interference (noise) audible through a speaker, hum can be drawn into a circuit by many electrical devices, such as light dimmer switches, radio signals, motors, etc

Humbucker Pickup - 2 single coil pickups, specially wound to eliminate electronic hum single-coils are apt to generate.

Hybrid picking - A plectrum or pick is used in together with the fingers.


Interval - The distance between any two musical notes.

Intonation - The ability of an instrument to correctly play (without rattle or buzz) and hold (sustain) the note played.

Inlay - Decorative material that is cut and embedded into the body, neck or headstock of a guitar.

In Tune - A note is in-tune when it matches the pitch of another note, i.e. it does not sound discordant.

Inversion (chord) - A chord with its lowest note that is not the root or key note.

Improvisation -Is the skill of 'inventing' music usually played over backing. i.e. Soloing



Jackplate - Mounting plate for guitar lead output jack


Kerfing - Found on the inside of acoustic guitars, used to cover the seams.

Key - The tonal center or 'home' note of a song.

Key Signature -Musical notation to show the umber of flats or sharps contained in a piece of music. Except the key of C which has none.


Laminated -Refers to the the bodies of acoustics guitar being made from plywood rather than solid wood.

Lead guitar -Generally a band's guitar soloist and melody player, as opposed to a rhythm guitarist.

Leading Tone -The seventh note of the major scale, a semitone below the tonic.

Legato -In music, an Italian word meaning 'tied together'. e.g. repeated hammer-ons or pull-offs fot the guitar..

Let Ring -Musical instruction that tells you to let the notes or chords continue to vibrate without damping.

Lick -A sequence of notes forming a repeatable musical phrase.

Locking Nut -Special plates that lock the strings in place at the nut to prevent them going out of tune.

Locking Vibrato System -Tremelo system for electric guitars invented by Floyd Rose that locks strings into place at both ends to prevent them going out of tune while playing, especially when bending strings.

Logo -The manufactures brand name or trademark that is usually on the headstock.

Luthier -A very skilled guitar builder and repair expert.


Machine heads -These are the turnscrews on the headstock that tighten the strings into tune.

Major Scale -A major scale begins on any note and uses the sequence of tones and semitones: TTSTTTS

Major 2nd - 2 semitone interval

Major 3rd -4 semitone interval

Major 6th -9 semitone interval

Major Chord -The combination of the first, third and fifth notes of a scale played together.

Measure -In music notation, a distinct measurement of beats also called a bar.

Melodic minor Scale -Same as the major scale except for a flattened 3rd note.

Melody -A succession of musical notes played one after another.

Metronome -Traditionally a mechanical device used to count out the tempo of music by a rhythmic clicking, now metronomes can be electronic.

Mic -Abbreviated form of microphone.

Microphone - Electronic device that converts sound waves into electrical signals.

Microtonal Bend -A small string bend of nominally half a semitone.

Minim -A symbol in written music that represents one half note (half a bar in 4/4 time).

Minor 2nd -1 semitone interval

Minor 3rd -3 semitone interval

Minor 6th -8 semitone interval

Minor 7th -10 semitone interval

Min-e-Tune -A brand of robotic tuner that attaches to the headstock and tuners of a guitar.

Minor Chord -A chord using the 1st, Flattened 3rd and 5th notes of any major scale played together.

Modal - Based upon modes and scale relationship

Mode -A new scale built from any given scale but starting on a differerent note than the key note.

Mode -The major scale contains 7 modes, each mode beginning on a different note, thus producing a different 'feeling' while playing in the same key. There are seven modes named: Aeolian, Dorian, Ionian, Locrian. Lydian, Mixolydian, and Phrygian. Two of which are the Major and minor scales.

Modulation -To change keys within a piece of music, very common in Jazz playing.

Mother of Pearl -Also called Nacre. Naturally organic but may also be man-made. It comes from sea molluscs as an inner shell layer. It is strong, resilient, and iridescent.

Moustache bridge -A so-shaped bridge found on acoustic guitars.

Moveable Chord -Any chord shape that uses no open strings. and can be played in various positions. e.g. a Barre chord.

Music Notation -Music reading system for sheet music.

Muting -Dampening the strings with any part of either hand.


Natural -A note that is neither a sharp or a flat.

Naturalise (a note) -Reverse the effect of a sharp or flat.

Natural Harmonic -Harmonics that occur at locations on a string, see nodes.

Neck -The long bit sticking out the body of an instrument!

Neck Block -The neck block is located inside of the body at the base of the neck. It is a reinforecement for mounting the neck to the body.

Neck Pickup -Refers to the pickup closest to the neck.

Neck Plate -A metal plate used in the Fender style bolt on designs. it is screwed to the neck and the body fastening the neck to the guitar body.

Neck Profile -Refers to the the shape of the neck in cross-section. e.g. 'C' shaped

Neck Reset -A neck reset is performed restore the correct angle between the fretboard and the bridge which thus corrects the 'action'.

Node -A point on a guitar string that, when touched lightly, and the string played will produce a harmonic.

Noise Gate -An electronic sound processor that removes certain parts of an audio signal below a certain level, often used to reduce unwanted string noise.

Non-locking tremolo -A guitar vibrato system where the strings are anchored to a static bridge by ball-ends.

Notation -General term but most often taken to mean the symbols used in written sheet music.

Note -A note is defined by it's frequency of oscillation, always Measured in units of Hertz.

Nut -A thin, slotted string guide made from plastic, bone or metal at the top of the neck.

Nylon string guitar -An acoustic which usually has three nylon strings, and three wound metal.


Octave -By definition An octave is any two musical tones with frequency ratios of either 2-to-1 or 1-to-2

Octave pedal -An effect pedal that combines the note being played with a note an octave higher.

Open (string) -Any note on any string played unfretted

Open chords -Simple chords that usually contain open or unfretted notes/strings.

Open String Chord -A chord that consists of open strings and may or may not include fretted notes.

Open Tuning -A guitar tuned so that when all open strings are strummed together it will sound a chord, determined by the tuning.

Open voicing -A type of chord construction in which the notes are broadly separated.

Ottava -Musical notation symbol, 8va that tells you to play everything an octave higher than what is written.

Out of Tune -If it sounds horrible, its generally the opposite of 'in tune'

Overbend -To bend a string more than a full bend.

Overdrive -Overdriving an amplifier is achieved by turning up the gain control by various degrees, until the output distorts to the desired sound.


p -A symbol used in the pima system to represent when to play a note with the thumb of the picking hand.

P-90 -Vintage Gibson single coil pickup.

PA system -Short for Public Address system, used for broadcasting to an audiencewith microphones.

PAF -Early model of the Gibson humbucker pickup invented by Seth Lover in 1955.

Palm muting -Deading the sound of the notes (damping) using the palm of the hand close to the bridge end.

Passing Tone -A chromatic note which is outside the scale but used quickly in passing for added interest..

Passive (pickups) -A passive pickup is a magnetic type which sends the signal (vibration) from the string, through the wood, into the pickup then to amp which creates the most dynamic, organic sound.

Pedal tones -Notes that are constantly repeated in a certain pattern.

Pedal Steel guitar -A guitar played horizontally, on which, a steel bar is used as a slide. Also called the Hawaiian Guitar

Peghead -Alternative name for the headstock.

Pentatonic scale -A five-tone scale heavily used in Rock and Heavy metal music.

Perfect Eighth -12 semitone interval

Perfect Fifth -7 semitone interval

Perfect Fourth -5 semitone interval

Perfect Unison -Two notes of the same pitch played simultaneously.

Phaser -A special effect (pedal) that uses sound delay filtering.

Pick Rake -A technique where the pick is firmly dragged across the strings.

Pick Scrape -Heavy metal techniques where the edge of the pick is drawn along any wound string.

Pickguard -Also known as the Scratchplate. Most guitars use plastic pickguards because of its durability, but they can be made from virtually any suitable material suck as metal or even tortoiseshell.

Picking -General term for playing the strings with a plectrum, pick or fingers.

Pickups -One or more electromagnetic coils located under the strings and let into the body that act as a pre-amp for the signal (string vibration) before it reaches the amplifier.

Pickup Selector (switch) -This multi-position switch found on electric guitars dictates which pickup(s) is/are turned on.

Pima - The letters p,i,m,a, is a system used to indicate which fingers to play notes with. Derived from the Spanish.

Pinch - A picking technique where two notes are played simultaneously with the thumb and a finger.

Pinch harmonics -The thumb ligthly catches a string after it is picked, creating a high-pitched sound in any position, generally requires heavy distortion settings. Also known as artificial harmonics.

Pitch -The sound frequency generated by a vibrating string, measured in Hertz

Pitchshifter -Refers to an electronic circuit that alters the pitch of a sound (high or low) without affecting anything else in the signal.

Playability -Somewhat defines the quality of a good, the best guitars are the easiest to play.

Plectrum -Common alternative name for a flatpick.

Pot -No you cannot smoke it :-) it is an abbreviation of an electronic Potentiometer which are pre-made devices used to vary electrical resistance (Ohms) and control both volume and tone.

Power Chords -Sometimes referred to as '5' chords, and very important in Rock and Heavy metal because of their powerful sound. Power chords are not true chords as they do not contain a third, only the root note and the fifth.

Pre-bend -Any note is bent to the correct pitch before being struck with the pick, and then released under control to get a distinctive high-low sounding note.

Pre CBS -Refers to Fender guitars manufactured before1965 when they were bought by CBS.

Pull off -The opposite to a hammer-on and often played together. Created by plucking a note with a finger then pulling parallel to the fret to sound a lower note on the same string.

Purfling -Strips of binding used on acoustic guitars mostly for decorative purposes.


Quantized Bend -Bending to sound more than one note but only picking a string once.

Quarter beat -A musical time interval, twice as long as an eighth beat.

Quarter Note -a note of one beat’s duration. More on quarter notes in Standard Notation.

Quarter Rest -a rest of one beat’s duration. More on quarter note rests in Standard Notation.

Quarter-tone bend -A microtonal bend, creating an increase in pitch of half a semitone.

Quaver -Music notation symbol used to represent an eighth note, which is an eighth of a bar in 4/4 time.

Quilted -Describes a certain pattern in wood usually Maple


Rake -A technique where the pick is firmly dragged across the strings.

Relative Pitch -The comparison of one pitch to another. 'Relative pitch' also refers to tuning a string so that it matches the pitch of another string.

Relative Tuning -Where one string on a guitar is used to tune all the others by comparison.

Relief -The slight curve in an instrument's neck that allows the strings to move without touching the frets.

Refin -To refinish a guitar, i.e. the original finish is removed and then a new finish applied.

Refret -Is to replace all the frets on an instrument, because of excessive wear which can affect intonation.

Repeat sign -Two dots placed before a double line indicating the passage should be repeated again.

Re-picked bends -Picking after the bend has been sounded, usually tabbed as RP.

Resolve -To resolve is to create a musically pleasing end to a progression, so the last note or chord does not create tension.

Rest -A musical term meaning to stop playing.

Reverb -Short for reverberation. An Amplifier control that simulates echo. The Shadows used a lot of reverb.

Reverse Bend - A string is bent before being struck and the bend is then released to create a drop in pitch.

Rhythm guitar -Rhythmic strumming of chord backup for a lead player, vocalist or group.

Rhythm notation -A system of reading and writing music which indicates how the rhythm should be played.

Rhythm Slash -A system of notating rhythm guitar parts by writing the name of the chord instead of using a staves, it is much faster and uses less space.

Riff -A repeated set of notes that can form the anchor of a song, especially in Rock music.

Ring -Usually let ring, whereby a string is left undamped after the note is struck as allowed to 'ring out'.

Rolling -A technique where one finger rolls from one string to another on the same fret, used in sweep picking to play consecutive notes without the notes bleeding into each other.

Root -Also the Tonic. The first note of a scale. A chord is named by it's root note, even if the root is not actually played.

Rosette -A decorative pattern around the sound hole of any instrument.


Saddle -The saddle is located near the base of the guitar, embedded in the bridge.Scale Length -Length of a string from the nut to the bridge saddle or double the distance from the nut to the 12th fret.

Scale -A series of musical intervals, generally thought of as a pattern of notes.

Scale Length -Length of the vibrating string from nut to saddle or twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret.

Scalloped Fretboard -Refers to a fretboard that has been machined to create a concave shape between the frets.

Scoop -A whammy bar technique. Where the bar is depressed before the string is hit, and then released after striking.

Setup -The adjustment of a guitars action.

Set Neck -A set neck is a neck that is glued into the body and uses no bolts for attachment. This is normally associated with electric guitars.

Sharp -Higher in pitch.

Shuffle -A rhythm where each main beat is divided into three shorter beats.

Single Coil Pickup -As found on Fender guitars as opposed to the Gibson-type twin coil humbuckers.

Six String -A guitar that has six strings.

Sixteenth Note -Played note of one quarter beat i.e. quite fast

Slapback -A term to describe a singular echo.

Slash Chord -A chord such as one notated as A/E. This means an A chord with an E bass note.

Slide -Usually a metal or glass tube placed over the third finger that is drawn lightly across the strings producing a whining effect. Check out Dwayne Allman.

Slide -A fretting technique, carried out by sliding a finger along a string to the next fretted note to be played.

Slur -To slide the finger(s) over several notes smoothly without stopping, often used in combination with legato.

Smear -A very small bend of an unspecified amount that raises the pitch of a note by less than a semitone.

Soap Bar -Nickname for a Gibson P-90 style pickup that has no mounting ears.

Solid Body -Refers to electric guitars where the body is machined from a solid piece of timber. Cheaper guitars use several pieces glued together to form the body.

Solid State Amp -Any amplifier that uses 'solid state' transistors as opposed to valves.

Solo -When a lead guitar is involved the term solo changes to mean the lead player improvising in a way that stands out, over the backing of his group, rather than on his own.

Soundboard - The main frontal area of acoustic guitars.

Sound hole -The hole in body of an acoustic, which produces the sound.

Sound Processor -Generic term for any electronic device that can be used to alter sound.

Split Coil -A double coil pickup wound with multiple coils that are smaller than a standard 2 coil pickup.

Staccato -Is obtained on the guitar by using strictly alterntate picking. Musical term for cutting a note short to give a more erratic, percussive effect.

Stack -Meaning a stack of amplifiers.

Standard Tuning -A six string guitar tuned to E A D G B E (low to high)

Static Bridge -An immovable bridge with no vibrato system.

Stave -The 5 horizontal lines on sheet music where the notes are displayed. Also called a Staff.

Steel string guitar -An acoustic has all steel strings (usually four wound and two plain).

Steel guitar. A guitar played horizontally, usually standing up, on which, a steel rod is used as a slide. Also called the Hawaiian Guitar.

Stem -The vertical line in music notation which appears above or below a note or rhythm.

Stomp box -A special effects pedal that can be turned on and off by treading on the switch while playing.

Stop Tailpiece -Has slots in it to hold string balls in place. Usually used with a Tune-o-matic bridge.

Straight Eighths -Term for playing eighth notes evenly as half a beat each.

Strap Lock -A device for stopping a shoulder strap from slipping off the fasterner that attaches it to a guitar.

Strings - Different string weights give different sounds or frequencies.

String Noise -Such unwanted, accidental noise from either hand catching the strings can become very apparent at large amplification. Good string muting and damping techniques are essential for electric instruments.

String retainers -Small metal fittings on the headstock that keep the strings lined up with the string-posts on some models.

String winder -A device with a crank that fits over the tuning keys for rapid winding or unwinding.

Strumming -The picking hand strikes two or more strings in some rhythmical, most often in a down-up fashion.

Sunburst -Popular light/dark guitar body color notably for Gibson's Les Paul range

Sus -In chord notation a short way of writing 'suspended'.

Sus4 Chord -A chord built on the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of the major scale. A suspended chord creates musical 'tension'

Sustain -The length of time a struck note or notes will continue to ring out without restriking. Generally, the better quality the guitar the longer the sustain. Long sustain is very desirable for guitarists.

Sweep Picking -The pick is swept across the strings either up or down, so each string sounds clearly. Most often this technique is used with arpeggios.

Swing -A music rhythm in which the down beat is heard slightly longer than the up beat.

Swing Eighths -Term for playing eighth notes eighth notes as the first and last notes of a set of musical triplets.

Syncopate -To modify a rhythm by emphasising the off-beat


12/8 Time - Time signature of twelve eighth beats to a measure or bar.

Tacet -In music notation, the end point of a specified instrument in the music.

Tailpiece -On instruments without bridge pins the strings are commonly anchored to a tailpiece. Usually mounter to the end block, it pulls the strings down towards the top after passing over the bridge.

TAB (Tablature) -A system of writing music for fretted instruments whereby a number or letter appears on lines representing the strings, indicating the fret to be played.

Tapped Harmonic -Sounded by fretting a note without striking it, then tapping the specified fret to sound the harmonic.

Tempo -The speed of a piece of music is played at, see also beats per minute (BPM).

Thinline -Originally coined by Gibson. Thinline is used to describe hollow-body electric guitars from several makers.

Three/four time -A time signature of three quarter beats in one bar of music.

Three quarter beat -A beat which is one and a half times as long as a half beat.

Three-Quarter guitar -Smaller than a standard guitar with shorter strings and less space between frets.

Through Neck -A neck design where neck that runs right through the center of the body. See the Les Paul Log

Thumb pick -Plastic or metal (banjo) pick that fits over the thumb, usually used with fingerpicks.

Thumbwheel -A small wheel used on bridges to raise and lower the height of all strings at once.

Tie -In music notation, a curved line which shows two notes of the same pitch joined together and played as one with the time value of both notes.

Timing -The ability to synchronise rhythm and phrasing with other instruments.

Time signature -A musical notation symbol at the start of all sheet music, which indicates how many beats in each bar (top number) and how long each beat lasts (bottom number). e.g. 4/4 time.

Toggle switch -The pickup selector switch.

Tone -The combination of pitch, volume, sustain and sound character produced by any instrument or sound equipment.

Tone Control -These controls on the guitar body adjust the tone for one or more pickups.

Touch Harmonic -A technique where the string is touched after a note has been at a specific fret that gives harmonics. Also called called an artificial harmonic.

Transcribe -To copy a song note for note off of a recording of it.

Travis Picking -Another name for hybrid picking.

Tonic -Also called the 'Root'. Tonic refers to the first note of a scale, the 'home' or named note of a chord.

Transpose -To change the key of a piece of music into a different key.

Trapeze Tailpiece -A strong piece of Gibson-designed hardware that anchors the strings at the bridge end.

Travel Guitar -Usually a guitar constructed with a folding neck design, making it less bulky.

Tremelo -A technique played with an extremely rapid down-up movement of the pick.

Tremolo Arm -A removable metal arm attached to the bridge to operate the tremolo system.

Tremolo Picking -A technique where a note is picked as rapidly as possible for a set duration of time.

Triad -A chord containing 3 notes.

Trill -Very rapid alternate picking between two notes.

Triple stop -Three notes played together simultaneously.

Triplet -A group of three notes played where two would normally be played.

Truss rod -A steel bar implanted into the neck of a guitar used to adjust the amount bend and latrality in the neck.

Truss Rod Cover -A decorative cover that hides access to the truss rod adjuster nut.

Tube (Amp) - A term used to describe electric amplifiers that use old-style glass valves (vacuum tubes) instead of solid-state transistors as the primary amplifcation method. The tone from valve amp cannot be matched by digital circuits.

Tune-o-matic Bridge (TOM) -Fully adjustable fixed bridge design (no tremolo), invented by Gibson.

Tuner -An electronic tuning device that plugs into a guitar jack and will indicate when any string is tuned to the correct pitch.

Tuning -Adjusting the tuning keys until a particular string vibrates at the correct frequency, and sounds the proper note(s).

Tuning Key -The knob on the end of a machine head. Tuning Machines -Another name for machine heads, that are used for tensioning the strings into tune.

Turnaround -A chord progression at the end of a verse or measure, that leads naturally into the second verse, turnarounds are used a lot in Blues.

Twelve Bar Blues -Very popular blues progression, using for example A,D and E chords for one verse or 12 measures (bars).


Unison Bend -The striking of two strings together bending one to match the pitch of the other, creating unison.

Up stroke -Picking hand strum starting from the bottom (thinnest) strings and moving upwards


Veneer -Very thin sheets of an expensive wood (usually) glued onto a cheaper substrate

Verse -The lyrics of a song not including the chorus.

Vibrato -Raising and lowering the pitch of a note very slightly and usually very quickly to produce a 'wobbling' effect.

Vibrato System -The method in which a vibrato bar is attached to the guitar.

Vintage -There are no precise dates to define vintage, so it can be any instrument made before the days of mass production and foreign imports, but usually anything before the early to mid seventies may be considered vintage.

Violining -Another term for volume swell.

Voicing -The arrangement of the notes of a chord, or placement of the melody within a harmony.

Volume Control -A knob found on the body of the guitar that controls the signal level being sent to the amplifier.

Volume Swell -A technique where the guitar's volume control is used to create fading effects while playing.

Volute -A piece of wood installed just behind the headstock to reinforce the neck joint


Wah Pedal -A pedal that is used to apply a wah-wah effect, popular in the 60's

Waist -The narrowest area of a guitar body.

Whammy Bar -Modern name for the tremolo arm

Whole beat -A beat which lasts for a whole bar measure in music.

Whole Note -a note of four beats duration.

Whole Note Rest -a rest of four beats duration.

Whole Step -A full tone, whole tone or just tone. (2 semitones).