40+ Guitar Terms You Need to Know

Amidst your guitar journey, you will encounter some “foreign” guitar terms.

Worry not for this article will teach you definitions of essential terminology relating to the guitar and music.

guitar terms

Guitar Types

Acoustic Guitar – a type of guitar in which the sound produced is from string vibrations amplified through the hollow body. 

Read our article about the best acoustic guitar!

Acoustic-Electric Guitar – technically an acoustic guitar with built-in pickups and microphone. It has a thinner sound compared to an acoustic (when unplugged) which is why it is more preferable for live performances. It is also referred to as Electro-Acoustic Guitar.

Guitar Sizes

3/4 guitar – a smaller size guitar with shorter strings and smaller fret spaces. Ideal for people with smaller hands and kids in order to reach the strings easily. It is also suitable for traveling for easy packing. Generally, they both sound fair but 3/4 guitar has a lower volume compared to a regular guitar.

Concert – One of the shapes of the guitar. A slightly smaller guitar, usually 13-1/2″ at the lower bout. Due to its small size, it has a smaller voice but bright sound and an emphasis on mid-range. This is perfect for people traveling or people with small hands since it is less bulky.

Dreadnought – the most common shape of guitars; because of the shape, it has a bolder, richer and louder tone.

Parts of a Guitar

guitar terms - action

Action – the space between the strings and the frets and fretboard. It affects the necessary pressure for pressing the strings. The smaller the action is, the lower the pressure that is needed.

Body – part of a guitar which has the bridge, cutaway, pickguard, soundhole for acoustics, and pickups, pickup selector switch, volume or tone knobs, and an output jack for the electrics.

Bridge – part of the guitar body in which its pins hold the strings in place. It is one of the anchor points that make up the length of the strings.

Cutaway- It’s part of the body (the upper right bout of a right-handed guitar) that is “removed” so that you could reach higher frets. The only disadvantage for the acoustic guitars is that it takes away some of its tone and resonance compared to the full-sized body.

Guitar Parts Terminology​


Learn more about Guitar Anatomy.

Fret – the spaces between fretbars in the fretboard. This is where you will press the string(s) in order to produce a note.

Fretboard – the most important part of the guitar which has the fret bars and frets wherein you will press the strings to create music, also known as a fingerboard.

Headstock – part of the guitar which consists of tuner pegs and nuts, sometimes simply referred to as a head.

Neck – a wooden part of the guitar which connects the headstock and the body consisting of the fingerboard.

Nut – a part of the headstock that is also one of the anchor points which makes up the length of the strings.

Pickups – part of an electric guitar which converts vibrations into electrical signals that can be amplified to a louder musical sound.

Strings – The major element that creates the sound through vibration.

Accessories

Amplifier – an electronic device often used by most electric musical instruments such as electric guitarelectric bass, synthesizers, etc. for the purpose of converting the hardly audible signal into a stronger one to feed to a loudspeaker.

guitar terms - capo
Capo clipped in the second fret.

Capo – a mechanical clamp that attaches to the neck of the guitar in order to raise the key and shorten the action

Learn how to create your own capo in this article.

metronome
The old version of a metronome.

Metronome – a device that helps musicians with their timings. It produces a “click” sound at a constant interval which depends on how you set it, usually based on beats per minute (BPM). Nowadays, there are a lot of videos or even applications for this kind of device. 

Pick – a guitar accessory which is used for picking the strings. Mostly used for fast-paced genres such as rock, metal, etc. Plectrum is another word for a guitar pick.

String Winder – a device used to turn the tuner pegs. In my opinion, it is pointless considering that you can turn the pegs with your bare hands.

Tuner – a device or application used to help you tune the guitar.

Guitar Music Terms

Alternate Picking – picking a string continuously with up and down motion.

Bending – a guitar technique in which it raises the pitch of a note by pushing or pulling the string across the fret while firmly holding the note. This technique creates the vibrato effect.

Fingerstyle – a technique in guitar playing the uses the fingertips or thumb picks to pluck the strings, also referred to as fingerpicking. This technique is also one of the most difficult technique to learn but with it, that you can play both the harmony and melody of a song.

Hammer-on – a technique in guitar playing that means tapping the string with your fretting hand instead of picking it.

Palm Mute – a technique which uses the strumming hand’s palm to mute the strings so that its vibration/note will be shorter.

PIMA – abbreviation of picking hand finger names.

  • Pulgar(Thumb) – used to pick 4th, 5th, and 6th strings.
  • Indice (Index finger) – used to pick the 3rd string.
  • Medio (Middle finger) – used to pluck the 2nd string.
  • Anular (Ring finger) – used to pluck the first string.

Plucking – a guitar technique in which you pick or pluck strings using a plectrum or your fingers (PIMA).

Pull-off – opposite of the hammer-on, it is a technique in which you pull the string using your fretting hand rather than picking the string.

Slide – a technique in guitar playing in which you use a finger to slide down or up the string(s). It may also mean the accessory used for sliding.

Strumming – the most widely used technique in stringed instruments wherein you brush the strings upward or downward with your fingers or a plectrum to produce sound.

Tremolo Picking – same as alternate picking but played on a higher speed.

Tuning – an act of which you tune an instrument with or without the help of a tuner. In guitar, it can be done by turning the pegs on the headstock to tighten or loosen the string.

Vibrato – using the bending technique, you can create a pulsating change of pitch which will add an expression to the music.

Basic Music Theory

Arpeggio – a chord that’s broken into a sequence of notes, played in a descending or ascending fashion. An arpeggio may also be played from different octaves.

guitar tabs - arpeggio sample g7 and d7
Example of Arpeggios using G7 and D7 chords with a Standard notation and a Tablature.

Chord –  a set of notes (three or more) played simultaneously to create harmony. Learn the essential chords in this article.

  • Barre Chord – a type of chord for guitar or any string instrument that uses one finger to press multiple strings across a single fret. 
  • Power Chord – widely used in the rock genre, it is a type of chord which includes the root note and the 5th.
barre and power chords (Bm and A5)
Bm barre chord and A5 power chord

Interval – the distance between two notes.

Intonation – the accuracy of the pitch, whether the notes played are in tune or not.

Lead Guitar – refers to the guitar player who plays the melody part of the song.

Octave – The span from the first and eighth note. In guitar, it would be the 12 frets since a fret represents a semitone.

guitar terms - octave
An example of an octave with the 6th string of the guitar.

Pentatonic Scale – contains five notes which produce a more open and less linear sound. This may be in minor or major scale.

Rhythm Guitar – refers to the guitar player that plays the harmony of the song; opposite of the lead guitar.

Tablature – a musical notation that uses numbers and strings instead of notes and staff. Mostly used for stringed instruments such as guitar, ukulele, bass, etc.

tablature sample
Example of a tablature

Transpose – changing the key of a song or just a part of it in order to play it easier or so that it’ll be easier for another musician.

Voicing – a certain order and spacing of notes in a particular chord which results in distinct variations of the overall sound.

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