One of the toughest parts of learning an instrument is getting acquainted with all the special musical terms surrounding the process! Each instrument has its own set of nomenclature, which can seem daunting and confusing. Below, you will find a glossary of the most common musical terms in the guitar world.
Read on to learn more, or to check a term you heard in class or read in your workbook!
Musical Terms Glossary: Guitar
- Acoustic Guitar: A wooden guitar with steel strings that creates sound itself, and does not require being plugged in to an amplifier.
- Alternate Picking: A technique using a pick where the player alternates between downstrokes and upstrokes
- Amp: Short for amplifier, essentially a speaker with controls made specifically for guitars.
- Barre Chord: A type of guitar chord in which the player “barres”, meaning they use one finger to hold down all of the strings.
- Body: The large part of the guitar where the pickups or soundhole are located.
- Bridge: Located towards to bottom of the body, the bridge holds the strings in place.
- Broken Chord: When a chord is held down by the fretting hand, but each note is plucked solo instead of strummed together.
- Capo: A piece of guitar equipment. It looks like a clamp and is used to change the key of the guitar to a higher one while maintaining the same chord shapes. Often used by singers.
- Chicken Pickin’: A Style of playing famous in country music.
- Classical Guitar: A wooden guitar with nylon strings.
- Effect Pedal: Small metal boxes with knobs on them used to “effect” an electric guitar signal in multiple ways. Examples include delay, distortion and chorus.
- Electric Guitar: A guitar that plugs into an amplifier and does not make much sound when unplugged.
- Fingerpicking: The technique of using ones fingers to pluck the strings individually, rather than strumming with a pick or the thumb.
- Fretboard: The front side of the guitar neck. Frets are designated by thin strips of metal. Each fret creates a different note when the string is held down by a finger.
- Hammer on and Pull off: A technique in which the player switches between two notes while only picking the first. This is called a hammer on if ascending and a pull off if descending.
- Harmonic: Created by placing a finger lightly above the metal fret, creating a bell like tone. This is most easily done on the 12th fret.
- Hybrid Picking: The technique of simultaneously combining the use of a pick and fingerpicking.
- Mute: A technique where the player blocked the strings with their fretting hand and strikes them with their picking, creating a percussive sounds.
- Neck: The long, skinny part of the guitar where the fretboard is located.
- Nut: Located at the top of the neck, the nut guides the strings into their proper placement.
- Open Chord: A type of guitar chord that includes open (unfretted) strings.
- Open String: An unfretted string.
- Open Tunings: A technique in which the guitar strings are tuned to a chord, meaning that when all the open strings are strummed they will play a chord.
- Palm Mute: A technique in which the player rests their palm near the bridge, effectively muting the strings as they are played.
- Patch Cord: The official name for an electric guitar cable. ¼ inch unbalanced mono.
- Pick: Formally known as a plectrum, a pick is a triangle shaped piece of plastic or wood used to strike the guitar strings. It provides a louder and brighter sound than that of the fingers.
- Pick Guard: a piece of plastic located underneath the pickups or sound hole, meant to “guard” the body of the guitar from the pick.
- Pickup: Coiled pieces of metal that “pick-up” the guitar strings and convert the sound into an electric signal.
- Shred: A slang term meaning to play very fast and complex parts.
- Slide: A metal or glass cylinder placed on a finger to slide between notes on the guitar neck.
- Sound Hole: The hole in the middle of the body of an acoustic guitar. This sound hole allows for the strings to resonate and be heard.
- Tuning: The Process of adjusting the guitar strings till they are at the correct pitches.
- Vibrato: A technique where the player quickly moves a fretted note up and down with their finger.
Our Guitar Glossary is always evolving, so if there are any other terms you aren’t sure of ask your teacher! Or feel free to reach out to us to set you up with one of the best guitarists in the city!