January 21, 2022

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Guitars Glossary

  This is a scaled down version of our main Guitars / Music Theory Glossary

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Acoustic Guitars  A type of guitar that does not use an amplifier but rather “sound holes” to resonate sound from the strings.  Acoustic guitars can use steel or nylon strings.

Action   Action refers to how “high or low” the guitar strings are “above” the fret board (the actual height of the strings above the fret board).  The lower the action, the easier it is to press down on the strings (easier to play) – the higher the action, the harder it is to press down on the strings (harder to play).   

Archtop   Also referred to as “Carved” top.  Is simply a guitar body that has an arched (carved) top, and usually has sound holes (called “F” holes).  Known for their “looks” and their distinctive sound.   

Arpeggio   A chord that is played one note at a time (instead of strumming the chord, the notes are played as single notes).  The Arpeggio is frequently used in advanced lead playing (rock, metal, jazz, etc). 

Bends (bending)   Pushing or Pulling up or down on a string to raise the pitch of a note by a half step / full step (or more).  Bending is an essential guitar skill used in lead playing (used in all types of music).    

Barre Chord   Barre chords are best known from the function of the 1st finger of the “fret” hand (the 1st finger works as a “bar” across the fret board, pressing down on all six strings at once).  The action of the 1st finger replicates the “capo” (so open chords can move up and down on the fret board).

Capo  The CAPO is a simple mechanical device that fits (clamps) over a fret and neck area of the guitar to help make it easier to play songs in different “keys” (without having to change to more difficult chord fingerings).  Newer types of Capo’s snap on to the guitars neck very easily.  

Chords   A combination of two or more notes sounded simultaneously (played at the same time).  There are regular and barre chords (major, minor, diminished, augmented, minor 7th, minor 9th, to name a few).

Chord Progression   A group of chords played in sequence (in a defined order).  Ex:  G / / / C / / / G / / / D / / / C / / / G / / /  (is a chord progression in the Key of G) 

Down Stroke / Down Pick  Refers to the pick hand strumming or picking from top to bottom (downward). 

Effects Pedals   Effects Pedals alter the sound of a guitar. Flangers, digital delays, tremolo, chorus, and distortion pedals are among the most popular.  There are also effects pedals that “model” other instruments.  Example: There are effects pedals that model acoustic guitar sounds, you just step on the pedal and your electric guitars can sound like an acoustic guitar.



Electric Guitar  Refers to a guitar that is be “electrically” amplified (requires the use of an amplifier to be heard). The sound is produced by the vibration of the strings through pick ups, then amplified by a guitars amplifier.  Most electric guitars usually have a solid body.  

Flat  Lowers a note or chord one half-step in pitch (on the guitar, lowering one fret equals a half-step).  

Fret  A strip of metal (vertical metal bars) that are placed on the neck (fretboard).  The term usually refers to the space between two of the metal bars (or the nut and the first metal bar for the 1st fret) on the fret board that indicates locations of notes on the guitar.

Hammer-On  Occurs when you pick the first note, and then sound the second note by striking it with your finger (hammer down on the second note – sounding the second note from the hammering action). 

Harmony  Two or more notes sounded together (in unison).

Lead Guitar  Lead guitar playing is basically playing single notes over the top of a rhythm guitar part (playing lead takes a lot of practice to master).  The “Lead Part” of a song is called the “solo” (which is made up of melodies, sequences, bends, tapping, and so on).

Major Chord  A major chord consists of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a major scale.  

Octave  Two notes with the same name, but at a different location on the fretboard.   

Open Tunings  There are many different “Open Tunings” used by guitarists, and can be described as the result of changing the tuning of one or more strings from the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning.  

Pentatonic Scale  A scale that consists of five notes per octave – a very popular rock scale. 

Pick  A pick is basically any object (plastic, metal, fingers, etc) that is used to strike the strings to cause sound.  Regular plastic picks are called “flat picks” and sometimes referred to as a “plectrum.”   

Picking  Striking or Plucking to produce sounds on guitars (using picks, fingers, etc).  

Pickups  A device (electromagnet) located under the strings on an electric guitar that converts the acoustic sound (string vibration) into an electrical signal so the signal can be processed through an amplifier.

Position Markers  The small dots on the neck of guitars that help a guitar player locate frets (fret locations) while playing the guitar (located on the top side of the neck area).

Power Chord  Typically used in rock music – a chord consisting of the first (root), fifth and eighth degree (octave) of a scale (does not contain a third).   

Pull-Off  A pull-off is explained in most TAB books as – picking of the first note, and pulling off (pull on the string) to sound a second note on the same string (without picking the second note). 

Rhythm Guitar  The Rhythm Guitar part of a song is the strumming of the chords. The Rhythm Guitar part is very important for backing a lead guitar player, singer, or ensemble. 

Root (Root Note)  The “root” is the first note of a scale and can indicate the “key.”  Chords can be named for their root note, but the root note does not necessarily have to be played.   

Scale  Basically a scaled is a series of notes in an ascending or descending order. 

Sharp  Raises a note or chord one half-step in pitch (on guitars, raising a note one fret equals a half-step).   

Sound  Can be described as any “sound” made by a noise or a tone. 

Sound Hole  Can be described as any “intentional” opening in the body of acoustic guitars that allows sound to escape and project (otherwise the sound of the acoustic guitar would be muffled).  

Standard Tuning  The standard tuning for guitars is E-A-D-G-B-E (low string to high string).

Strings  Guitar strings come in different types and sizes.  There are steel, nylon, coated strings, etc.  Any guitarist or bass player must use a string that sounds good, and feels good to them.  A typical set of rock guitar strings come in .09 (which are lighter, and feel faster), and .10 (which are a little heavier, but have better tone).  Steel strings produce tones that are considered brighter than other types.          

String Winder  A small device that assists with the removal and installation of guitar strings.  These devices have a handle and a fixture that fits over the tuning keys.  

Strumming  Strumming can be achieved by using a pick, or using fingers.  The act of striking (brushing across) two or more strings simultaneously using up or down strokes (or a combination of up and down strokes).    

Sustain  Is the length of time (the duration) that a guitar or bass string vibrates.  The longer a note can be heard, the longer the sustain.   

Sweep Picking  This is a picking technique where the pick is swept across the strings in a downward or upward motion (a gliding motion, without picking). Mainly used with arpeggios.

Tablature (TAB)  An easier way of reading and writing music.  Most guitar music books these days are written in TAB – all guitarists and bass players should be familiar with reading tablature.  One difference between Reading music and Tablature is that with Reading music you are actually reading notes, and with Tablature you are reading numbers that indicate frets (notes) on the guitar or bass.  

Tapping  Is the use of a pick hand finger (or fingers) to fret notes on the fretboard. Most guitarists use the middle finger (so the pick can still be held), but some use other fingers as well. 

Time Signature  The fraction looking symbol (or sign) at the beginning of a piece of music (right after the clef sign) that indicates how many beats in per measure (top number), and how long each beat will last  (bottom number).  See Four/Four, Three/Four Time.

Tremolo  A technique that uses a very rapid down-up movement of the pick.  Also a term used for whammy bar, tremolo arm, and vibrato.    

Triad  Basically a “three note” chord.  

Tuning  Tuning is simply adjusting the tuning keys on each guitar or bass string until the string “vibrates” at the correct frequency (to accurately reach the correct notes).   

Tuner  An electronic device used for tuning guitars or bass guitars.  Usually battery powered.  

Tuning Key (tuning knob, tuning peg, machine head)  The tuning key (knob, peg) is located on the headstock of guitars, and used to tighten or loosen a string for the purpose of tuning.  

Up Stroke / Up Pick  Refers to the pick hand strumming or picking from bottom to top (upward). 

Vibrato  Bending the string up and down (slowly or very rapidly).    

Whammy Bar (Tremolo Bar)  Also called a “Tremolo” bar – a mechanical arm that attaches to the bridge of guitars that alters the pitch of the strings (notes or chords) that are played.


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