Guitar, like any other subject, has its own set of individual terms, equipment, definitions and abbreviations. This glossary will compile the most common terms and definitions you’ll encounter when learning to play the guitar.
A 1/4 Note, or Quarter Note, is a musical note that lasts for one beat in a 4/4 time signature. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of rhythm in Western music.
A 1/8 Note, or Eighth Note, is a musical note that lasts for half a beat in a 4/4 time signature. It’s often used for faster musical passages.
A 1/16 Note, or Sixteenth Note, is a musical note that lasts for a quarter of a beat in a 4/4 time signature. It’s used for very fast musical phrases.
A 3/4-Size Guitar is a smaller version of a full-size guitar, often used by children or as a travel guitar.
7th Chords consist of four notes, extending a basic triad by adding a seventh interval. The primary varieties include Major 7th, Minor 7th, and Dominant 7th chords, each offering a unique tonal quality and role in chord sequences.
An accent is an emphasis placed on a particular note to make it stand out in a musical passage.
An accidental is a musical notation symbol that alters the pitch of a note, making it sharp, flat, or natural.
An Acoustic Guitar is a guitar that uses only an acoustic soundboard to transmit the vibrations of the strings to the air, producing sound. It does not require external amplification.
Action is the height of the strings above the fretboard on a guitar. Lower action is generally easier for fretting and quick finger movements.
Add Chords are triads with an added note that is not the 7th. For example, an add9 chord would include the root, third, fifth, and ninth.
The Aeolian mode is identical to the natural minor scale. It has a sad, melancholic sound and is often used in rock, blues, and metal. The intervals are: root, major 2nd, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, minor 6th, and minor 7th.
Altered and Open Tunings
Altered and Open Tunings are non-standard tunings used for specific tonalities or to facilitate certain playing styles.
Altered Chords are chords where one or more notes have been raised or lowered. These chords are often used in jazz and other genres that require harmonic complexity.
Alternate Picking is a technique where the pick alternates between downstrokes and upstrokes for faster playing.
Alternate Tunings are any tunings other than the standard E-A-D-G-B-E. They are used to achieve different tonalities and facilitate specific playing styles.
An Amplifier is an electronic device that boosts the electrical signal from a guitar, making it audible through speakers.
Arrangement refers to the adaptation or reorganization of a musical composition, often to suit a particular ensemble or style.
An arpeggio is the playing of the notes of a chord in a sequential manner rather than simultaneously.
An Artificial Harmonic is a technique where a note is fretted and a harmonic is created by lightly touching a point on the string and picking it.
Attack refers to the initial part of a sound or note, describing how quickly it reaches its maximum volume.
An Audio Interface is a hardware device that allows for the connection of instruments to a computer for recording and playback.
An Augmented Chord is a chord consisting of a root, a major third, and an augmented fifth. It has a dreamy, unresolved sound and is less commonly used than other chord types.
Auto-Wah is an effects pedal that automatically applies a wah-wah effect based on the input signal’s volume or other characteristics.
Barre Chords are chords that involve using one finger to press down multiple strings on the guitar’s fretboard simultaneously.
The Bass is a stringed instrument similar to a guitar but with a lower pitch range.
Bass refers to the lower frequency range in musical sound, often produced by bass guitars or lower guitar strings.
The Bass Clef is a musical notation symbol used to indicate pitches that are below the middle C on a staff.
A Beat is the basic unit of time in a piece of music, typically associated with a rhythmic pulse.
A Bend is a guitar technique where a string is pushed or pulled across the fretboard, raising its pitch.
BPM stands for Beats Per Minute, a measure of tempo in music.
The Bridge is a component on the body of a stringed instrument where the strings are anchored. It serves to transmit the vibrations of the strings to the soundboard or body of the instrument.
A capo is a device that clamps onto the guitar neck to raise the pitch of the strings.
A Chord is a group of notes played simultaneously, usually consisting of a root, third, and fifth.
A Chord Diagram is a visual representation of a chord, often showing the fretboard and indicating where fingers should be placed.
A Chord Progression is a series of chords played in a sequence, serving as the harmonic foundation of a song.
Chorus is both a section of a song and an audio effect. As an effect, it thickens and widens the sound by slightly detuning and delaying the signal.
Chromatic refers to a musical scale that includes all twelve pitches in an octave.
Circle of Fifths
The Circle of Fifths is a visual representation of the relationships among the 12 tones of the chromatic scale.
A Classical Guitar is a type of acoustic guitar with nylon strings, commonly used in classical and flamenco music. It has a wider neck and flatter fretboard compared to other types of guitars.
Closed Voicing is a way of playing chords where the notes are close together, usually within an octave.
A Compressor is an effects pedal that evens out the dynamic range of an audio signal.
Consonance is the harmonic or melodic combination of tones that produces a sense of resolution and stability.
Counterpoint is the art of combining different melodic lines in a musical composition.
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, a software used for recording, editing, and producing audio files.
Delay is an effect that records an input signal and then plays it back after a period of time, creating an echo-like sound.
Diatonic refers to a seven-note scale that includes five whole steps and two half steps.
A Diminished Chord is composed of the root, minor third, and diminished fifth intervals. It has a tense, unstable sound and is often used as a passing chord.
Dissonance is a harmonic or melodic combination of tones that produces a sense of tension and instability.
Distortion is an effect that saturates the guitar signal, creating a fuller, grittier sound.
The Dorian mode is a minor scale with a natural 6th instead of a flat 6th. It is often used in jazz and blues and has a jazzy, bluesy feel. The intervals are: root, major 2nd, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and minor 7th.
A Downstroke is a strumming or picking motion moving towards the floor.
Drop-D Tuning is a guitar tuning where the sixth string is tuned down from E to D, facilitating easier power chords and heavier riffs.
Dynamics refer to the variations in loudness and intensity in a musical performance.
Ear Training is the practice of learning to recognize pitches, intervals, and chords by ear.
Economy Picking is a technique that combines alternate picking and sweep picking for more efficient playing.
An Effects Pedal is an electronic device that alters the sound of the guitar in various ways.
An Electric Guitar is a type of guitar that uses pickups to convert string vibrations into electrical signals for amplification.
Enharmonic notes are notes that sound the same but are written differently, such as C# and Db.
Envelope Filter Pedal
An Envelope Filter Pedal is an effects pedal that filters frequencies based on the dynamics of the input signal.
EQ stands for Equalization, the process of adjusting the balance of frequency components in an audio signal.
Extended Chords are chords that extend beyond the octave, incorporating 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths. These chords add complexity and are often used in jazz and progressive rock.
Fanned Frets are frets that are angled with respect to the centerline of the neck, allowing for better intonation and comfort.
Filter Pedals are effects pedals that remove certain frequencies from the audio signal, altering the tone.
Fingerstyle is a technique where the strings are plucked using individual fingers rather than a pick.
Finger Picks are small devices worn on the fingers to facilitate plucking strings.
A Flanger Pedal is an effects pedal that creates a swirling or swooshing sound by mixing the guitar signal with a slightly delayed version of itself.
Flat is a musical notation symbol that lowers the pitch of a note by a half step.
Frets are metal strips embedded along the fretboard of a stringed instrument like a guitar, bass, or banjo. They divide the neck of the instrument into segments, representing different musical notes. When a string is pressed down against a fret, it shortens the vibrating length of the string, raising its pitch. Frets serve as a guide for musicians to accurately find and produce specific notes.
A Fuzz Pedal is an effects pedal that heavily distorts the guitar signal, creating a buzzy, fuzzy tone.
A Ghost-Note is a note played very softly, almost inaudible, often used for rhythmic effect.
A Gig is a live performance, usually for an audience, where musicians play sets of songs.
A Grace Note is a note that is played quickly before the main note, often used for embellishment.
A Guitar Cable is an electrical cable used to connect a guitar to an amplifier or audio interface.
Guitar TAB, or tablature, is a form of musical notation that shows where to place fingers on the fretboard rather than indicating pitches.
Guitar Pro is a software used for creating, editing, and playing guitar tablature.
A Half Step is the smallest interval in Western music, equivalent to moving up or down one fret on a guitar.
A Hammer-On is a technique where a note is played by sharply bringing a fretting-hand finger down on the fretboard, creating a new pitch without picking the string again.
Harmonics are overtones produced by lightly touching a string at certain points, creating bell-like tones.
Harmony refers to the simultaneous combination of different musical notes to produce chords.
A Harmonizer Pedal is an effects pedal that adds harmonies to the original guitar signal based on the chosen key and interval.
The Headstock is the upper part of a guitar neck, where the tuning pegs are mounted. It serves both a functional and aesthetic purpose.
A Humbucker is a type of electric guitar pickup that uses two coils to “buck the hum,” or cancel out the electromagnetic interference and noise picked up by single-coil pickups.
An Interval is the distance between two musical notes, measured in terms of half steps or whole steps.
Intonation refers to the accuracy of pitch in playing or singing. In guitars, it’s the adjustment that ensures the instrument plays in tune up and down the neck.
An Inversion is a chord where the root is not the lowest note, often used to create smoother transitions between chords.
Inverted Chords are chords where the root is not the lowest note. Inversions can create smoother transitions between chords and add harmonic interest.
The Ionian mode is identical to the major scale and is characterized by its bright, happy sound. It consists of the intervals: root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and major 7th.
A Jam is an informal musical session where musicians improvise and play together.
The Key of a song is the tonal center or the set of musical notes used in a particular piece.
A Key Signature is a set of sharp or flat symbols placed at the beginning of a musical staff, indicating the key of the piece.
Lead Guitar refers to the guitar part that plays melodies, solos, and fills, as opposed to the rhythm guitar.
Legato is a playing style where notes are connected smoothly, without any noticeable break.
A Lick is a short musical phrase, often used in solos and improvisations.
The Locrian mode is a minor scale with a flat 2nd and a flat 5th. It has a dissonant, unstable sound and is rarely used in Western music. The intervals are: root, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, diminished 5th, minor 6th, and minor 7th.
A Looper Pedal is an effects pedal that allows a player to record a musical passage and then play it back in a loop.
The Lydian mode is a major scale with a raised 4th. It has a dreamy, ethereal quality and is often used in progressive rock. The intervals are: root, major 2nd, major 3rd, augmented 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and major 7th.
Major refers to a type of scale or chord characterized by a specific pattern of intervals, often producing a happy or bright sound. The Major sound is based on the intervals: root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and major 7th.
A Major Chord consists of the root, major third, and perfect fifth intervals. It has a bright, happy sound and is often used to convey uplifting emotions. Essentially, it is built from the Major Scale.
The Major Scale shares the same structure as the Ionian Mode and is known for its uplifting, cheerful tonality. It is built from the following intervals: root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and major 7th.
Melody is a sequence of musical notes that are perceived as a single, cohesive entity.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a protocol for communicating musical information between digital devices.
Minor refers to a type of scale or chord characterized by a specific pattern of intervals, often producing a sad or dark sound.
A Minor Chord is made up of the root, minor third, and perfect fifth intervals. It has a darker, more somber tone compared to major chords.
The Minor Scale is identical to the Dorian Scale. It is characterized by its darker, more somber tone compared to the major scale. It is constructed using intervals: root, major 2nd, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, minor 6th, and minor 7th.
The Mixolydian mode is a major scale with a flat 7th. It has a bluesy, rock feel and is commonly used in blues and rock music. The intervals are: root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and minor 7th.
Modes are scales derived from the diatonic major and minor scales, each with its own distinct tonal characteristics.
Modulation is the process of changing from one key to another within a piece of music.
Natural is a musical notation symbol that cancels a previous sharp or flat, returning the note to its original pitch.
A Natural Harmonic is a bell-like sound achieved by lightly touching a string at certain points and plucking it.
Noise Gate Pedal
A Noise Gate Pedal is an effects pedal that mutes the signal when it falls below a certain threshold, reducing unwanted noise.
A Note is a musical symbol representing the pitch and duration of a sound.
The Nut is a small, typically rectangular piece made of bone, metal, or synthetic materials, located at the top of the fretboard. It elevates the strings above the frets and helps maintain proper string spacing.
An Octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency.
An Octave Pedal is an effects pedal that produces notes one or more octaves above or below the original pitch.
An Open Chord is a chord that includes open strings, often played in the first few frets of the guitar.
Open Tunings are tunings where the open strings form a specific chord, facilitating slide guitar and fingerstyle techniques.
Open Voicing is a way of playing chords where the notes are spread out over a larger range, often spanning more than an octave.
An Overdrive Pedal is an effects pedal that simulates the sound of an overdriven amplifier, producing a warm, natural form of distortion.
Palm Muting is a technique where the palm of the picking hand is placed on the strings near the bridge, creating a muted or “chuggy” sound.
A Passing Tone is a non-chord tone used to connect two chord tones, often used in solos and melodies.
The Pentatonic Scale is a five-note scale often used in blues, rock, and other popular music styles.
Perfect Pitch is the ability to identify or produce a musical note without any reference pitch.
A Phaser Pedal is an effects pedal that creates a sweeping sound by shifting the phase of the input signal.
The Phrygian mode is a minor scale with a flat 2nd. It has an exotic, Spanish or Middle Eastern flavor. The intervals are: root, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, minor 6th, and minor 7th.
P.I.M.A. refers to the fingers used in classical guitar technique: p (thumb), i (index), m (middle), and a (ring).
Pick or Plectrum
A Pick or Plectrum is a small, flat piece of material used to strum or pick the strings of a guitar.
Picking refers to the technique of plucking individual strings to produce notes.
Pickups are electromagnetic devices placed under the strings of electric guitars and basses. They convert the vibrations of the strings into an electrical signal, which can then be amplified.
Pinch Harmonics are artificial harmonics created by lightly touching a string with the thumb or finger while picking.
Pitch is the perceived frequency of a sound, determining its musical note.
Pitch Shifter Pedal
A Pitch Shifter Pedal is an effects pedal that changes the pitch of the incoming signal to produce harmonies or other pitch-related effects.
Power Chords are simplified chords that consist of the root and the fifth, often used in rock and metal music for their strong, impactful sound.
A Pull-Off is a technique where a note is played by plucking a string and then pulling a finger off the fretboard, creating a new pitch.
A Quarter Note is a musical note that lasts for one beat in a 4/4 time signature.
Relative Pitch is the ability to identify the interval between two notes based on a given reference pitch.
A Rest is a musical symbol indicating a period of silence.
Reverb is an effect that simulates the sound of a space, adding depth and dimension to the audio signal.
Rhythm is the arrangement of sounds in time, including beat, tempo, and meter.
Rhythm Guitar refers to the guitar part that provides the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of a song.
A Riff is a repeated musical phrase, often serving as the main theme in rock and blues songs.
The Root is the note upon which a chord or scale is built.
A Scale is a series of musical notes arranged in ascending or descending order.
Scale Length is the distance between the nut and the bridge on a guitar, affecting the tension and pitch of the strings.
A Setup is the process of adjusting various elements of a guitar for optimal playability, including action, intonation, and truss rod tension.
Seventh Chords are four-note chords that add a seventh interval to a triad. The most common types are Major 7th, Minor 7th, and Dominant 7th chords. Each has its own distinct sound and function within a chord progression.
Sharp is a musical notation symbol that raises the pitch of a note by a half step.
Sheet Music is a written or printed form of musical notation.
Shuffle is a rhythmic pattern that gives a swinging feel to the music, often used in blues and jazz.
Single Coil (Pickup)
A Single Coil Pickup is a type of electric guitar pickup that uses a single electromagnetic coil. It’s known for its bright and clear tone but is more susceptible to electrical noise and interference compared to humbuckers.
A Slide is a tube made of glass, metal, or ceramic used in slide guitar playing.
Slide is a technique where a note is changed to another by sliding a finger along the string without re-picking.
Slash Chords are chords with a different bass note than the root, indicated by a slash. For example, C/G would be a C major chord with a G in the bass.
A Solo is a section in a song where a single instrument, in this case your guitar, takes the lead role, showcasing technical skill or emotional expression. This is where your scales will come in.
Staccato is a playing style where notes are played in a detached manner, often short and abrupt.
A Staff is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces used in musical notation.
Standard Notation is the traditional method of writing music using staffs, clefs, and notes.
Standard Tuning refers to the most commonly used guitar tuning, which is E-A-D-G-B-E from the lowest to the highest string.
A Stompbox is a type of effects pedal that is activated by stomping on it with your foot.
A String Winder is a tool used to speed up the process of changing guitar strings.
Strumming is the act of playing a guitar by brushing the strings with a downward or upward motion.
Suspended Chords, often notated as sus2 or sus4, replace the third of a chord with either a second or a fourth. These chords create a sense of tension that usually resolves to a major or minor chord.
Sustain refers to the length of time a note or chord rings out before decaying to silence.
Sweep Picking is a guitar technique where a single pick stroke is used to play multiple strings in succession.
Tablature, or Tab, is a form of musical notation that shows where to place fingers on the fretboard rather than indicating pitches.
Tapping is a technique where both the fretting and picking hands are used to tap notes on the fretboard.
Tempo is the speed at which a piece of music is played, usually measured in beats per minute (BPM).
A Time Signature is a musical notation indicating the number of beats in each measure and the type of note that gets one beat.
Tone refers to the quality of sound produced by a musical instrument.
The Tonic is the first note of a scale, serving as the tonal center of a piece of music.
To Transpose means to change the key of a piece of music by shifting all the notes by a certain interval.
Transcription is the act of writing down a piece of music, either in standard notation or tablature, usually by listening to it.
Treble refers to the higher frequency range in musical sound, often produced by higher guitar strings or treble controls on an amplifier.
The Treble Clef is a musical notation symbol used to indicate pitches that are above middle C on a staff.
Tremolo is both a musical term and an effect. As a term, it refers to the rapid repetition of a single note. As an effect, it modulates the volume of the signal.
A Tremolo Bar, or whammy bar, is a lever attached to the bridge of a guitar, used to change the pitch of the strings.
Tremolo Picking is a technique where a single note is picked rapidly, creating a trembling or shivering effect.
A Triad is a chord consisting of three notes: the root, the third, and the fifth.
A Triplet is a group of three notes played in the time usually taken by two.
A Truss Rod is a metal rod inside the neck of a guitar or bass. It’s used to adjust the curvature of the neck, affecting the instrument’s action and playability.
A Tube is a vacuum tube used in some amplifiers to produce a warm, natural form of distortion.
A Tuner is a device, usually a knob on the headstock, used to adjust the pitch of each string on a guitar.
An Upstroke is a strumming or picking motion moving away from the floor.
A Uni-Vibe Pedal is an effects pedal that simulates the sound of a rotating speaker, often used to produce psychedelic effects.
A Valve is another term for a vacuum tube, commonly used in British English.
Vibrato is a technique where the pitch of a note is oscillated by fluctuating the tension of the string.
Voicing refers to the arrangement of notes in a chord, affecting its sound and character.
A Volume Pedal is an effects pedal that controls the overall output level of the guitar.
Volume Swells are a technique where the volume knob is rolled up and down while a note or chord is ringing, creating a violin-like effect.
A Wah Pedal is an effects pedal that alters the tone and frequencies of the guitar signal, creating a “wah-wah” sound.
A Whammy Bar is another term for a Tremolo Bar, used to change the pitch of the strings.
A Whammy Pedal is an effects pedal that alters the pitch of the guitar signal, often used for dive bombs and other pitch-shifting effects.
A Whole Note is a musical note that lasts for four beats in a 4/4 time signature.
A Whole Step is an interval of two half steps, equivalent to moving up or down two frets on a guitar.
X (in Guitar TAB)
An “X” in Guitar TAB indicates a muted strum or a percussive hit on the strings.
A Y-Splitter is a cable or device that splits an audio signal into two separate outputs.