Mayos Music
Guitar Lessons and Instrument Repair

Glossary of Guitar and Amplifier Electronics

Here at MayosMusic, in addition to offering great guitar/bass lessons and complete luthier services that includes guitar and amplifier repairs/restorations, we are also a great resource service. Below is a Glossary of Guitar and Amplifier Electronic Terms.

A.C. - An alternating current with a steady changing polarity.

ACOUSTIC PICKUP - A pickup designed for use on acoustic instruments such as a Spanish guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, to create a more natural sound.

ACTIVE CONTROLS - Volume and tone controls which incorporate amplifier circuits so output can be increased or decreased.

AGING PICKUPS - Restructuring the magnetic field of a new pickup so that it resembles the magnetic field of an old one. The process can create a vintage sound.

AIR COIL - A coil of wire with a hollow space in the center. (Normal coils have iron or magnetic load in the center.)

ALCOHOL SPRAY - A term referring to several solvent sprays which are used in pickup winding. The solvent is sprayed on the coil as it is wound, to soften the insulation so it will fuse together. When it dries, it leaves a very solid coil free of microphonics.

ALNICO - A type of magnet material which stands for Aluminum, Nickel, and Cobalt.

ALTERNATING CURRENT - Electrical current which reverses it’s polarity during every cycle. Household current in U.S.A. is 60 cycle AC (alternating current)., which means that the positive and negative poles change place sixty times a second.

AMP (AMPLIFIER) - An electronic circuit which causes a boost in the signal it receives. EX - If a five watt signal is fed into an electronic device and the output is twenty watts, this electronic device can then be termed an amplifier.

ANTENNA - A long wire which is used to detect electromagnetic waves passing through the air.

ANTI-HUM - A humbucking pickup or hum cancelling shielding. See Humbucking or Hum.

ANTI-PHASE - A British term for out-of-phase. See Out-Of-Phase.

AUDIO JACK - A female output that receives a male plug. The standard guitar size jack accepts a one-quarter inch diameter shaft.

BACKGROUND NOISE - Unwanted hissing or humming sound that accompanies a signal.

BALANCED OUTPUTS - Outputs of equal strength.

BANDPASS - A filter that boosts or decreases a selected bandwidth.

BANDWIDTH - A selected width of a wide range of frequencies. EX - If you have a wide frequency range of 10 Hz to 10,000 Hz and you select the portion of 400 Hz to 600 Hz, you then have a bandwidth of 200 Hz.

BAR MAGNET - A magnet of a rectangular shape as opposed to a magnet of cylindrical shape.

BASE PLATE - A plate under a pickup that is sometimes made of magnetically conductive metal. This plate can add output to a pickup by reshaping the lines of magnetic flux, but it can also create an increase of hum.

BELDON - A brand name of one of the most commonly used wires.

BLACK BOX - A symbolic term used to denote an unknown electronic device.

BOBBIN - The form around which the copper wire of a pickup is wound.

BRAIDED SHIELD - Fine wire which is woven into a tube-like structure. This woven tube surrounds and protects any wires that pass through the center of it. Braided shields can be obtained by themselves (empty) or with wires inside.

BRIDGE MOUNTED PICKUP - A pickup that is mounted in a bridge and it is generally in or under the bridge saddle. This mounting can provide great sensitivity to the strings.

CABLING LOSSES - When an electrical signal has to travel a long distance through a cable, the strength of the signal is reduced. Cabling losses are a result of resistance and capacitance losses. High impedance signals can not be sent on cables exceeding 20 feet in length without experiencing serious signal loss.

CANCELLING HUM - A means used to eliminate interference noises that are not part of the signal. The most common method of cancelling hum is to use two pickup coils that are linked out-of-phase. See shielding and ground.

CANNON JACK - A low impedance jack that is comprised of a multitude of connection pins. (also called - XLR Jack)

CARBON PATH - The most common material used for the resistance path inside a pot. It is formed out of compressed carbon.

CAPACITANCE EFFECT - A trapping of high frequencies which occurs when there is a close proximity of two or more current carrying wires.

CAPACITANCE LOSS - The failure of the high frequencies to reach their destination due to capacitance effect.

CAPACITOR - A device that can store an electrical charge.

CAST MAGNET - A magnet that is made from molten metal.

CERAMIC MAGNET - A magnet made from a powdered mixture of fine metal particles suspended in a clay base. The mixture is solidified by baking until it fuses together.

CHOKE - A coil generally with an iron load that is used to regulate frequency response.

COIL - A winding of many turnings of fine wire.

COIL LOAD - In regards to pickups, a coil load is the same as a coil core. See Core

CONDUCTOR - Any material that carries an electrical flow.

CONTACT PICKUP - A pickup that directly senses the vibration from an instrument body.

CORE - The material that is often placed in the center of a pickup’s coil. The most common cores are composed of soft iron or magnets. Cores cause a significant increase in a coil’s output, however, a very large core will reduce its clarity of tone.

CURRENT - An electrical flow.

D.C. - A steady current without a change in polarity, a direct current.

DE-SOLDER - To remove excess solder when forming connections or removing solder when disassembling connections.

DIRECT CURRENT RESISTANCE - (d.c. resistance) The resistance to direct current. A d.c. resistance can be thought of as a dam on a river that can be opened (no resistance) or closed (high resistance).

DIRTY SOUND - Sound which is not clear, usually produced by high induction pickups which distort sound. Some prefer this distortion, it is a matter of taste.

DISTORTION - The result of a pickup sending excess voltage into an amplifier.

DISTORTION PICKUP - A pickup that has such a high output level that it causes an amplifier to distort. A distortion pickup does not produce a distorted output.

DOG EAR - The name given to a specific model of Gibson single coil pickups. They have triangular mounting brackets on either side of the coil assembly.

DOUBLE COIL - A pickup composed of two coils.

DOUBLE POTTING - A term that is used to designate a pickup that has it’s coils solidified by saturation, and has it’s internal assembly encapsulated in resin.

DOUBLE SOUND - A pickup that produces two distinctive sounds. This can be the result of a tapped winding on a single coil pickup or a series-parallel switch on a humbucker.

DUAL COIL - Two coil pickup, usually a humbucker.

DUAL SOUND - A DiMarzio trademarked name for a series/parallel linked humbucker.

DUMMY POLE PIECES - To give the illusion of functional pole pieces.. Inexpensive pickups have painted spots or plastic projection which serve no useful purpose.

EDDY CURRENTS - Secondary magnetic currents that move against the main current of magnetic flow. This reduces magnetic efficiency.

ENCAPSULATION - Encasing a pickup within a solid material such as epoxy resin. Encapsulation helps conteract microphonics and other pickup problems.

FARADAY, MICHAEL - He invented the dynamo and he is associated with the law of induced electromotive force.

FEEDBACK - A device amplifying it’s own signal. The usual noise is a screeching sound which happens when a microphone or pickup picks up it’s output from a speaker and recycles it.

FILTER - A circuit which can cut or boost a particular portion of a signal, like bass or treble.

FLUX PATH - The path of magnetic lines of force. EX - A flux path intersecting the vibrating strings would make a pickup more sensitive to string motion.

FREQUENCY RESPONSE - The volume of all frequencies (notes) made by an electronic device. A flat frequency response has notes all of the same volume.

GAIN - The amount of boost provided by an amplifier circuit

GAUGE - A measurement by a gauss meter of an magnetic force.

GRAIN ORIENTATION - The direction of metallic crystals making up a metal, within that metal.

GROUND - An electrical interconnection. Usually grounds are connected to the negative terminal of a power source.

HERTZ (Hz) - A unit of measuring frequency. One hertz equals one cycle per second.

HIGH PASS FILTER - An active control which regulates only high frequencies.

HIGH STRENGTH MAGNETS - Magnets with a higher than normal attraction strength.

HOT RODDING - Changing/modifying manufactured pickups and circuits to increase power output or create new tones.

HUM - Unwanted low frequency noise.

HUMBUCKING PICKUP - A pickup designed to illuminate/cancel unwanted signals.

IC (integrated circuit) - A very versatile solid state circuit composed of transistors, capacitors, diodes, resistors, etc.

IMPEDANCE - The electrical resistance to the flow of an alternating current.

INDUCE - The creating of a positive or negative current in an inductor(coil). EX - A current is induced in a pick-up’s coil when a steel string is vibrating in the pickup’s magnetic field.

INFINITE OHMS - A complete blockage of current flow, thus no electrical connection.

INSULATION - Material that is used to separate the different components in an electrical circuit to prevent shorting.

INTERFERENCE - In a circuit, it is the unwanted signal.

IRON CORE - A load made of iron.

LACQUERED WIRE - A magnet wire with a lacquered insulation or synthetic plastic coating.

LAMINATED CORE - A core that is made from several pieces of grain orientated magnetically conductive metal. This type of core reduces eddy currents thus improving efficiency to create a cleaner sound.

LAYERING - The stacking of layers of coil windings on top of each other.

LC NETWORKS - An electronic construction that uses an inductor (L) and a capacitor (C) to create a bypass device which is passive not active.

LINES OF FLUX - By sprinkling iron filings on a flux path, the invisible lines of a magnet are made visible.


LOW IMPEDANCE - The circuitry used by most solid state electronics.

LOW PASS FILTER - An active control that increases or decreases the low frequencies.

LUG - A projection for connecting conductors to a pot, jack or similar device. “Hoop” lugs are used for attaching wires, ”Flat Pin” lugs are used on printed circuit boards.

MAGNET - an object having the property of attracting iron or similar metals.

MAGNETIC CONDUCTOR - A material like iron (the most common) that becomes temporarily magnetic when placed in a field of a magnet.

M (MEG) - The abbreviation for megohm, one million ohms.

MID-IMPEDANCE - A term used to describe circuits/components that are between high and low impedance.

MIL. SPEC. - Abbreviation for military specifications that require very high quality electronic components.

MULTI-AXIAL - A shielded wire that has several internal leads.

MONO-OUTPUT - One circuit or channel.

MONOPHONIC - Transmitting or reproducing sound through a single channel.

NEGATIVE - One of two (positive and negative) electronic poles that electrical current flows through. Negative poles are usually used as a ground connection.

NORTH POLE - One of two magnetic poles, the other is south.

OHM - the measuring unit of electrical resistance.

OHMMETER - A metered machine for measuring OHMS.

OUT-OF-PHASE - The linking of two signals so they work in opposite directions. I e - when one is positive and one is negative.

OUTPUT IMPEDANCE - Impedance at the output terminals of a guitar as sensed by the device it feeds into.

OUTPUT JACK - The place on an instrument where a cord or cable connects to link to the instrument or an amplifier.

P.A.F. - Abbreviation for “patent applied for” . It is also the earliest Gibson humbucking pickup model.

PARALLEL - An electric circuit that has all the positive points joined together and all the negative points joined together. See series.

PHASE - the relationship of positive and negative wave forms.

PICKUP - A devise that picks up the sound of a stringed instrument and then turns it into an electrical signal.

PIEZO - Electric current produced by applying stress to certain crystals.

POLARITY - The relationship of positive and negative magnetic poles or electric currents to each other.

POLE PIECES - Objects that can control the magnetic flux of a magnet’s pole or focus flux of a magnet’s pole.

POSITIVE - One of the two electric poles (opposite of negative).

POT - Abbreviation for potentiometer, a device that can produce a variable degree of electrical resistance. It can be used as a gate to control the flow of current.

PREAMPLIFIER - Used before a large power amp to help boost the signal.

Q - Q is the efficiency of a coil.

RARE EARTH MAGNETS - Magnets made from rare earth elements such as samarium.

RESISTANCE - Something that obstructs the free flow of electrical current.

RESONANCE - The tendency of a mechanical or electrical device to oscillate to a particular frequency.

ROTARY SWITCH - A switch that turns in a circular motion and is used to provide very complex switching networks.

SAWTOOTH WAVE - A sawtooth shaped wave that builds steadily to a peak and then drops sharply or vice-versa.

SCATTERWOUND - A coil that is wound with a “crisscross” pattern. This winding produces many air gaps and reduces the capacitance effect of the windings. The opposite of scatterwound is layering.

SERIES - Electrical linking of negative and positive poles.

SHIELDED WIRE - A wire with a conductive shield surrounding one or more insulated inner leads.

SHIELDING - A conductive surface that is grounded, that helps eliminate interference noise and hum.

SIGNAL GENERATOR - A machine used to create selected frequencies, which are used to test the frequency response of pickups and other devices.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE-RATIO - Rate of desired signal voltage to unwanted noise and hum voltage. It is expressed in decibels. A high signal-to-noise-ratio is very desirable.

SINGLE COIL - A non humbucking pickup.

SLUGS - A term given to individual cylindrical metal pieces in a pickup.

SOAP BAR - Same as a Dog Ear.

SOLDER - A soft tin and lead material that melts at low temperature and is used to make electrical connections.

SOLID STATE - Electronic devices that are composed of solid materials as opposed to hollow vacuum tubes.

SOUTH POLE - The second magnetic orientation, opposite of north pole.

SPLIT PICKUP - A dual coil pickup that has a splitter switch to ground one coil and thus produces a single coil sound.

SYNCHRON-WOUND - The process of winding two coils at exactly the same time, thus creating more balanced coils.

TAPER - The rate of resistance change of a pot.

TAPPED COIL - A coil which when wound part way, has a tapping wire attached and then is wound to completion. A tapped pickup has two hot leads of different DC resistance and one ground lead.

TENSION - The tautness of wire wrapped on a bobbin.

TONE CONTROL - Control circuits used to vary the balance of bass and treble.

TONE FILTER - An electronic network that is used to control the tone (passive or active) of a signal.

TRANSDUCER - A device that converts one form of energy to another, e.g., string vibration (kinetic energy) into electrical energy ( a pickup’s output).

TUBE AMP - An amplifier that uses vacuum tubes.

TURN - The amount of wire it takes to wrap wire once around a pickup’s bobbin.

VARITONE - A Gibson invention which consists of several capacitors and a choke. i.e. it functions as a replacement for the signal tone control capacitor.

VIBRATION SENSOR - A transducer that is used to detect vibrations and convert them into an electric output.

VINTAGE SOUND - See Old Sound.

VOLUME CONTROL - A device to control the output level, usually with a pot.

VOM - An abbreviation for Volt Ohm Meter, which is used for measuring volts, ohms and amperes.

WAX SATURATION - Used to permeate air gaps in a pickup.

WINDING MACHINE - A machine that winds magnetic wire around coil bobbins.

WIRE FOR COILS - Copper magnet wire is used for making pickup coils.

X - An algebraic term in a formula that stands for any unspecified figure.

Y - An algebraic term which can be used like X if an X is already in the formula.

Z - The symbol representing impedance.

ZERO OHMS -No resistance to the flow of current.

Experience since 1968
Providing Guitar Lessons and Guitar/Amp Repairs in Southern California, South Bay Cities and Greater Los Angeles Area,
Located in Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 and Torrance, CA 90503

(310) 955 - 0246