Guitar Glossary

I will add more definitions to this guitar glossary as I come across them. If you have any suggestions please use the contact me form at the bottom of the page.

Acoustic Guitar: A non-electrified guitar. These could be either a flat top guitar, a classical guitar, or an arch-top. Arch-top guitars are popular with jazz guitarists.

Acoustic Electric Guitar: An acoustic guitar which is also electrified, and can be plugged into an amplifier.

Action: Refers to the playability caused by the height of the strings above the frets, the closer to the frets that the strings are the better the action.

Alternating Bass: A finger picking technique where the thumb plays a steady bass line while alternating between two or three strings.

Arpeggio: A series of individual notes played one at a time in a repetitive pattern. An example would be playing the notes in a chord one at a time repetitively up and down.

Bar: A section of music notation which is sized according to the time signature. For example a bar in four/four time would contain four beats.

Bar Line: The vertical line in musical notation that marks the beginning or end of a bar.

Barre Chord: A chord which is played with a finger,(usually the first finger) pressing down on most or all of the strings across the same fret.

Bass: The low pitches in music. Also a short name for a bass guitar.

Bass string: One of the three lowest or fattest strings on a six string guitar. They are: (starting with the fattest string) E, A, D.

Bass Strum Style: A type of fingerstyle playing in which the bass string plays a note with the thumb and the treble strings are strummed with a finger.

Body: The large section of a guitar, to which the neck is attached.

Bout: The two wide areas of the guitar's body. The smaller one is the upper bout, and the wider one is the lower bout.

Capo: An object that attaches across the neck of a guitar to hold down the strings across a selected fret so that chords and notes can be played in a different key without transposing the music. They are sometimes called cheaters, but don't let that keep you away from using one!

Chord: A group of notes played simultaneously.

Chord Chart: A chart that shows you where to place your fingers to form chords.

Chord Progression: A group of chords played in a repeating pattern.

Chromatic scale: A scale that uses all the notes including the half tones(sharps and flats).

Double Bar Line: Two vertical lines at the front or back of a measure of music which signify the beginning or end of a section or a section that is to be repeated.

Down Stroke: Plucking the strings in a downward motion, as opposed to plucking the strings in an upward motion(upstroke).

Eighth Note: A time value of a note, signifying a note which lasts half as long as a quarter note, or twice as long as a sixteenth note.

Electric Guitar: A guitar that is usually played plugged into an amplifier with the purpose of playing the music louder.

Fingerboard: The piece of wood attached to the front of the neck which runs beneath the strings, into which the frets are attached. Also called fretboard.

Finger Picking: Using the individual fingers to pluck or strum the strings as opposed to using a flat pick.

Fingerstyle: The type of guitar playing that uses finger picking.

Four/Four Time: This signifies four beats per measure with the quarter note receiving one count.

Fret: These are the metal strips running across the neck which the strings get pressed against to create the notes. The frets work by shortening the vibrating string length, thereby raising the pitch of the note. A shorter string vibrates quicker than a long one.

Fretboard: The piece of wood attached to the front of the neck which runs beneath the strings, into which the frets are attached. Also called fingerboard.

Guitar Glossary: You're reading one right now.Also called a guitar dictionary

Guitar Tablature: A specialized form of writing guitar music, using strings and fret numbers instead of standard music notation. There is information available about reading tablature in the "Guitar Tablature" section.

Half Note: A music note which receives two full counts in one beat. It is represented in notation by a hollow note with a stem.

Harmony: Two or more notes played or sung simultaneously.

Headstock: The wider section of the neck above the nut where the strings are attached to the machine heads(tuners).Also called peg head.

Machine Heads: The tuners that get turned to change the pitch of the strings. Also called tuning pegs.

Melody: The main part of a piece of music, the part that is usually remembered.

Neck: The long section of a guitar which the strings run along.

Nut: The piece of bone or plastic that separates the neck from the headstock. The strings rest on it.

Nylon Strings: Strings made of nylon (also cat gut) instead of steel. Nylon strings are found on classical and flamenco guitars. They are easier to press down.

Open: A string that is played without being pressed onto a fret.

Pick: An object that is used to strike the strings, which is flat or formed to fit onto fingers(finger picks) or your thumb(thumb pick). They are also called plectrum.

Plectrum: Pick.

Quarter Note: A note that gets one full count. In notation it is a solid ball with a straight stem.

Rhythm: The repetitive beat in the music. Also the music of the back up guitar as opposed to the lead guitar.

Sharp: Higher in pitch.

Shuffle: Rhythm wherein each main beat is divided into three beats(triplets).

Soundboard: The top (front face) of the acoustic guitar body.

Sound hole: The hole or holes in the soundboard of acoustic guitars.

Steel String Guitar: An acoustic guitar which has steel strings as opposed to nylon strings.

Stem: The straight vertical line which goes up or down and is attached to some music notes.

Strap: Something that is used to hold the guitar while you are playing standing up.

Strum: Playing a chord with an up or down motion.

Tempo: Speed of music, measured in beats per minute.

Three/Four Time: A time measurement meaning three beats per measure, with a quarter note getting the beat.

Tie: A curved line connecting two or more notes in a piece of music notation. If the notes are the same it means they are played as one with the time value being the total of the notes. If the notes are not the same pitch it means that the notes are not played individually, rather they are slurred.

Time Signature: The numbers at the beginning of a piece of music, that resemble fractions, which tell you how many beats per measure(top number), and which note gets the full beat(bottom number).

Truss Rod: A reinforcing rod inside the neck of the guitar, which is adjustable. It helps to keep the action good.

Upstroke: To strum or pick from the bottom of the strings upward.

Waist: The narrow part of the guitar body between the upper and lower bouts.

Whole Note: A note in music notation which gets a four count. It looks like a hollow oval without a stem.

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