Glossary of terms


A word used to describe the distance of the strings above the fretboard, as in “high” or “low” action. Guitarists of different styles tend to favour different actions; generally a low action has the advantage of easier fretting allowing for faster playing, whereas a higher action allows the notes to sustain longer. In addition, low action will produce more fret buzz if you strum hard.


Designed the shape of the soundboard, carved or pressed into an arched shape, higher in the center where the bridge is positioned. This term also designed a guitar in which the top is an arched top. This design is originally derived from the violon and cello family instrument.


The playing of the tones of a chord separately, rather than simultaneously.


The quality of a chord having its intervals as the 1st, 3rd and sharp 5th notes of the major scale. 


Inlaid strip that protect and/or decorate the edges of the guitar’s body and/or neck. Different material can be used among mainly wood and plastic but also ivory, bone, pearl shell (abalone or paua shell).

Birdeye maple

Maple figured with tiny, round spots.


A guitar neck that is bolt to the body, as opposed to a neck fastened to the body with a glued joint or strait body through neck also called conductor neck.

Book Matched

This feature relates to the tops and backs of stringed instruments that is often made with two pieces cut from the same piece of wood and joined so they show symmetrical matching of the grain.


The part of the guitar where the strings transmit their vibrations to the soundboard. Made of either wood or metal. Some electric guitars have a tremolo system attached to the bridge which allows for the strings to be temporarily loosened or tightened to change their pitch.


This term relates to the noise created when a vibrating string is striking frets between the fretted note (or the nut) and the saddle.


A device which clamps onto the fretboard acting as the nut. Allows unfriendly keys to be changed to friendly.


A group of scale notes which are played together, the simplest being the triad consisting ot the 1st, 3rd and 5th of the scale.

Classical guitar

A nylon string guitar often use to play classical music, usually featuring a flat fingerboard and a pin less bridge to which the strings are tied on.



Feature of an instrument body that is designed to facilitate access to the higher frets. The body of such an instrument appears to have been “cut away” to provide access to the high notes area on the fingerboard.


The quality of a chord having its intervals as the 1st, flat 3rd and flat 5th of the major scale.


A type of resonator guitar, invented in the 1920’s in which the saddle is mounted in a cast aluminum grid (also called spider), which span an inverted cone of spun aluminum. Originally the terms was used to designed the model made by the “Dobro” company which held the trademark and then became generic and is now use commonly to describe such type of resonator guitar, for example the National guitars, etc..

Double stop

The playing of two notes simultaneously. 


Originally developed by Martin’s guitar, the dreadnought shape relates to the biggest and strongest sounding guitar size.


Playing guitar with the finger tips rather than flat pick. Finger picks can be used, which fit over the ends of the fingers.

Flatwound strings

Steel strings which use flat ribbon winding rather than round wire for the thicker strings. Preferred by jazz guitarists. 


The fretted surface of the neck where the left hand presses the strings, sometimes known as the fingerboard. Usually made of hardwood such as ebony or rosewood, but can also  be made of other material, or even be part of the neck such as the traditional fender maple neck. Occasionally basses are designed with fretless fingerboards, and more rarely guitars. Some instrument feature scalloped fingerboard.


The wire inset on a fretboard. These make it easier to play notes accurately by providing a fixed point where the length of the string can be shortened to the precise length for any given note. This is especially important for playing chords. Electric guitars tend to have between 21 and 24 frets, while acoustic guitars have fewer.


The S-shaped soundholes on an arched top guitar, usually placed in the soundboard just below the waist, on one or both side of the bridge. This feature is as well as the arched top shape, derived from the violin family of instrument.


The creation of a new and higher note by hammering down on an already ringing string on a new fret. Opposite of a pull-off.


The “top” of the guitar, where the tuning pegs are located. There are two classic configurations for the arrangement of tuning pegs on the headstock of a six string guitar: The “3 a side” style is standard on acoustic guitars and many electric guitar designs. The “6 in line” arrangement is almost exclusively the domain of Fender style guitars.


The portion of the neck that fasten to the body.

Hollow body

A type of electric guitar with a thin body with an air cavity similar to an acoustic. The back of the body is usually carved inside and create a mix between a solid body and an acoustic body construction.


The art of inventing music on the fly. This is achieved by knowing the structure of music, hearing it and inventing according to the rules. Some would say that there is no such thing as improvisation, because it usually refers to everything you have learn and got in your mind, then it’s only about your ability to use your knowledge and feeling and express yourself in a non absolute planed way.


The “distance” between any two notes, usually measured relative to the major scale, as in “thirds” or “fourths”, meaning the distance from the tonic to the third or fourth note of the major scale.

Lap steel

A solid body electric steel guitar commonly played on the lap.


The electromagnetic device used to pick up the sounds of guitar strings and convert them to an electric signal. The most common pickups (magnetic) are found on electric guitars but a different form of pickup (piezoelectric) is used in semi-acoustic guitars. Ordinarily magnetic pickups are passive, but there are also active pickup designs. Passive pickups come in single coil and humbucker varieties. Usually electric guitars are designed with 2 or 3 pickups, and have various controls for pickup selection and tone and volume adjustment.

Pitch pipe

Old fashion device used for tuning guitars. Works by tuning to the notes created by blowing into its six tubes. 


Official word for a guitar pick. They are used to pluck or strum the strings as an alternative to the fingers. They are very popular for use with electric and steel string acoustic guitars, slightly less commonly used with bass, but rarely used with nylon string acoustic guitars.


The creation of a new note by pulling your finger off an already ringing note to a lower fretted or open note. Opposite of a hammer-on. 


Sometimes referred to as ‘root note’ — Another word for Tonic, or the first note of a scale. 


The decorative inlay around a circular or oval soundhole. It can be as simple as a circle around the soundhole or a complex design made of different materials such as wood and pearl, etc… Classical guitars usually have complex wood marquetry rosettes, while steel string guitars tend toward more simple patterns. But it’s always of course a question of taste and can also become a brand recognition feature.


A series of intervals, usually spanning an octave. Scales are more often viewed as a series of notes (generated by the intervals). 


A tube which fits on the finger and is used to slide along the strings to pitch notes  als the technique of sliding notes or chord shapes up the fretboard.

Sound Board

The front surface of acoustic guitars. This is where the sound from the strings is amplified via the bridge. The type and quality of the wood used for the sound board is very important to the quality of the sound of the guitar. They are generally made of Spruce or Cedar and can be either relatively flat (classical and acoustic guitars) or arched (jazz guitars).


The thin lengths of steel or nylon which are held tightly across the length of the guitar and vibrate when plucked to create sound. Strings are tightened by adjusting the tuning pegs so that they vibrate at a certain frequency for the desired note. Strings are made in various thicknesses, with strings intended for lower notes being thicker so that they are not too loose even though they are required to be tuned to lower notes.

Tab – Tablature

A pictorial system of notation for guitar music, showing six strings and fret positions. It demonstrates how to fret the strings more clearly than does traditional music notation, however does not indicate note length effectively. It is commonly used in conjunction with classical staff notation.

Thumb pick

A plastic pick which fits around the thumb and projects a blade out to act as a pick.


The first note of a scale, the main note of a chord, the note the chord is named after. Also known as “the root”.


The simplest, smallest chord there is, consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale. 

Truss rod

A type of neck reinforcement consisting of an adjustable steel rod embedded in the neck beneath the fingerboard. The truss rod can be tightened to counteract the tension of the strings. In some case, this action can be conducted in both directions. The access to the adjusting nut is usually through the soundhole (for an acoustic guitar) or a slight cavity in the head just above the nut.


An electronic device used to tune guitars. Guitars need to be tuned frequently, as they tend to go flat over time because of gradual loosening due to the strain of being held in tension and being plucked. Additionally it is common for particular pieces of music to require an alternate tuning to the standard EADGBE tuning, ranging from basic alternate tunings such as dropping the low E string down to a D, to more radical tunings.


This term relates to the major braces in a steel string guitar top which cross to form a letter “x”


This term relates to a fret in the position where the nut is typically located. There is usually a nut behind the zero fret that determines string spacing, but the zero fret sets the string height.