Mayos Music
Guitar Lessons and Instrument Repair

Glossary of Guitar Terms

At MayosMusic we offer Private, Semi-Private and Group guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, fretted instrument and auto-harp lessons. Plus, we are a complete luthier service that includes guitar and amplifier repairs/restorations. Through the years we have been asked numerous "Guitar Lesson" and "Guitar Repair" related questions (many repeatedly) by new/current/old and prospective students and customers. Here is our answer to: What are the parts of the guitar? And what do those guitar playing technique terms mean?

Guitar Part Terms

Action - The distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the frets. Relates to the difficulty or ease in playing a specific instrument for a particular style.

Adjustment Wheel - The thumb wheel is located under the bridge and on each side. Used to adjust the bridge height.

Arch-Top Guitar - A curved top guitar, normally with an “f” hole. Can be of carved, pressed, or laminated construction (quality descending in that order).

Back - The large side opposite the top, and the part that rests against your torso.

Barrel (String Post) - The shaft that the string goes through in the headstock of the guitar.

Bottleneck - A tube made of: metal, glass, or other hard material. Most often used on the third or fourth finger of the fretting hand, and produces a sliding sound and pitch on the strings.

Bout - The outwardly curved portions on a guitar. There is usually an upper and a lower bout.

Bridge - The part on a guitar where the strings connect to the body (though sometimes the tailpiece serves this purpose), and/or the part that holds the saddle to the body.

Capo - A mechanical device used around the neck to contact multiple or all strings. Made of cloth, metal, rubber, or plastic, and available in several different style, shapes and sizes.

Cutaway - The portion of the guitar body near the neck joint that has been “cut away” allowing greater access to the frets in higher positions.

End Pin (Tail Pin) - A button / pin at the bottom of a guitar body to which a strap can be attached. Not on all guitars.

Face (Top) - The front of the guitar containing the sound hole or pickups, and the strings and bridge / saddle.

Fingerboard - The front of the neck, containing the frets. Usually made of Maple, Ebony, or Rosewood, etc.

Flat-Top Guitar - An acoustic guitar with a flat faced top, and usually with a round sound hole. Used in Country , Rock, Folk, Pop, and all other styles of music.

Fret - Metal Strip in the fingerboard set in a precise pattern to created the various notes on a guitar or bass.

Fret-Board - See Fingerboard.

Gauge - The gauge of the strings is a measurement indicating the diameter of the string in thousandths of an inch. Guitar gauges range from .008” to .060” and bass gauges range from .040” to .140”.

Guitar Strap - A belt like strap connected to the 2 strap buttons or like on the guitar. Used to hold the guitar while standing and playing to free both hands. Made of: leather, cloth, nylon, vinyl, wood, metal, etc.

Guitar Peg/String Winder - A hand tool or electric crank that goes over the tuning key button and allows for a faster ratio of tuing the guitar. Very useful when changing strings.

Head - Also known as the Peg Head, Head Piece, Head Stock, or Tuning Head. It is the part of the guitar at the top of the neck and above the nut. It usually contains the tuning keys.

Heel - The section of wood at the base of the neck where the neck joins the body.

Machine Heads - Also called tuning gears, tuning machines, keys, tuning keys, patent heads, machines, and tuning pegs. Usually metal tuning gears typically located on the head of the guitar which raises or lowers the pitch of the strings.

Master Volume Control - Adjusts the total volume output of an instrument, or amp.

Neck - The part of the guitar that has the fingerboard.

Nut - Usually a solid piece of material often ivory, bone, metal or plastic, which supports (height), separates (spacing) and anchors the open tuning note of the strings at the head.

Off-Set Saddle Bridge - A bridge where the saddle is not perpendicular to the strings.

Pick - Also known as a plectrum. Made of plastic, nylon, PVC, wood, metal, shell, ivory, bone, felt, or composite material, and used to pick or strum the strings of an instrument. They are available in a wide range of thicknesses.

Pick Guard - Made of plastic, Shell, Pearloid, or other suitable material which protects the top of the guitar from being damaged by the pick or fingernails. Often decorative, and sometimes contains the pickup.

Pickup - An Electro-mechanical transducer, it is a device that converts the vibrations of the strings into electrical signals. There are several types, such as magnetic (AlNiCo, Ceramic, and Neodymium), piezo-electric, capacitive, and condenser microphone. The tone and volume of their output depends on their construction, placement, and combination with multiple ones.

Pickup Selector Switch - An electronic switch, usually toggle or slide, that is used to select the desired pickup arrangement. Typically 3-way (Telecaster, LP, SG, etc.) or 5-way (Stratocaster) positions, though switches with other options exist (such as a 4-way Tele mod).

Position Markers - Inlaid markers on the fretboard, or side of the neck, often made of mother of pearl, plastic, wood, or other suitable and decorative material. They normally found on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets.

Potentiometer (Pot) - A variable electrical resistance used to adjust the tone, volume, or master volume on an instrument or amp. Usually they are made with a rotational knob, and sometimes as a slider configuration.

Purfling - The inlaid, often ornate decoration around the edges of a guitar’s sides.

Rosette - Decorative wood mosaic design surrounding the round soundhole of an acoustic guitar.

Solid-Body - A guitar made with a body constructed from a solid piece of wood, or sometimes pieces of solid wood (butcher block technique), or as a laminate construction (plywood construction).

Soundhole - A round, oval, or “f” shaped hole, which increases the projection of the sound of the instrument when played.

Tailpiece - The part of a guitar (usually metal) which attaches to the bottom of the lower bout (on the side of the guitar), and holds the strings. Usually found on steel string guitars.

Tone Control - A control pot found on instruments and amps, that allows control over the amount of treble (and sometimes bass) produced from the pickups.

Truss Rod - A metal bar inside the middle of the full length of the neck, which provides additional support, and often made adjustable with a wrench supplied to adjust. Some guitars have composite truss rods in addition to adjustable ones, to further reinforce the neck under tension.

Saddle - A piece of bone, plastic, or ivory which is set inside the bridge and that the strings rest on. Sets the height and transfers the vibrations of the strings to the top. See also Saddle(s).

Vibrato - Mechanical devices of varying designs that allow the strings to fluctuate and vary their pitch (frequency), and controlled by the strumming hand. Sometimes mistakenly called a Tremolo, which is the varying of the volume of a signal, not the frequency as in a Vibrato.

Waist - The part of the body of a guitar that is narrowest, between the upper and lower bouts.

Winding Strings - The metal wire wrapped strings, wrapped around a metal wire, or nylon strands core. They come in round wound, flat wound, half round wound, and ground wound (which are round wound strings ground flat).

Guitar Playing Technique Terms

Appoyando - Picking the string with the fingers straight, so that they come to rest on the next lower string.

Arpeggio - Playing a chord one note at a time. A “Broken” Chord.

Barre - (Bar) A Chord type. The first finger of the fretting hand is placed across all strings, and the rest of the fingers form the chord.

Bottleneck - A blues form usually in open tuning where the slide is used instead of fretting strings.

Brush Stroke - Running the fingers across the stings with an open hand like they are a paint brush.

Capo - To Barre the strings with a finger or a mechanical device.

Chord - A grouping of harmonious musical notes.

Cross-Picking - Also known as flatpicking. To play single strings in a random or systematic order and in a rhythmic pattern. The name comes from skipping over a string (ie 4th string to 2nd string).
Played with a flat pick.

Damp (Mute) - Preventing a string or strings from ringing by lightly touching them with your hand or fingers.

Down Stroke - To strum or pick one or more strings in a downward motion (low string to high string)

Feedback - The increasing volume sound (usually high pitched) created when the sound coming out of the speakers is picked up by the microphone or instrument pickup system, then looped back to the input of an amp, amplified again, over and over quickly, louder and louder in a “vicious cycle”. Usually the undesired result of an instrument or mic placed in the audible direct line of a speaker system or its reflected sound wave in a room. Sometimes it can be achieved on purpose to create a desired effect while playing guitar.

Finger Picking
Thumb Plucks - Pick a single string with the thumb of the picking hand in a downward motion (with or without a thumb pick.)

1st Finger Plucks - Index finger of picking hand picks the string with upward motion

2nd Finger Plucks - Middle finger of the picking hand picks the string with upward motion

3rd Finger Plucks - Ring finger of the picking hand picks the string (usually the 1st or E-string) with upward motion

2nd & 3rd Finger Plucks - Middle and ring fingers of the picking hand picks (usually 2nd and 1st string) simultaneously with upward motion

1st, 2nd & 3rd Finger Plucks - Index, middle and ring fingers of the picking hand picks (usually the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings) simultaneously with upward motion.

Fret - To play a designated note or chord on the fingerboard, by pressing the string or strings into the finger board until properly coupled to the fret.

Golpe - Tapping the guitar sound board with the ring finger of the strumming or picking hand.

Hammer-On - Percussively tapping or pressing a string to make the tone of the note, without plucking or strumming. Can be performed with either or both hands, and often combined with a “pull-off”. Often it is performed after strumming a note/chord to shift a note to a higher note.

Harmonic - In guitar terms, it refers to the high pitched note produced on a string when lightly toughing a nodal point (usually the 5th, 7th or 12th frets) while picking the string.

Metallic - A metallic sound produced by plucking or strumming the strings near the bridge.

Movable Chords - Chords that can be moved to any fret on the fingerboard.

Open Strings - Strings played without fretting.

Open Tuning - Also known as chordal tuning. It is a tuning method where the open strings are tuned to a specific chord.

Pick - The act of plucking the string or strings, with a pick (plectrum), or the nails on your hand.

Pizzicato - Damping the strings with the palm or side of the palm near the bridge while picking or strumming.

Pull-Off - The act of pulling the finger off after depressing it on a string, in a way that produces the sound of a lower note (fretted or open). Often preceded by a Hammer-On, and performed rapidly.

Rasqueado - A fast sequential rolling strum beginning with the pinky, and played with the tops of the fingernails.

Rasqueado Tremolo - A series of Rasqueados strummed up and down, fast, creating a pulsing tremolo effect.

Scratch - Strumming, in a scratching motion (up or down)usually with the nail of the index finger of the strumming hand.

Slide Down - To hold a played note or chord and then slide down the fretboard to a lower fret.

Slide up to hold a played note or chord and then slide up the fretboard to a higher fret.

Sweep Down - Strum with the thumb down across the strings (low string to high string)

Sweep Up - strum with the back of the thumb nail across the strings (high string to low string).

Tambour - Striking the strings near the bridge with the side of the thumb gently.

Tirando - Opposite of Appoyando, where after picking the fingers are slightly curved and in mid air, as the string is sounded.

Travis-Picking - The general term for any fingerpicking technique using the thumb and first two fingers of the strumming or picking hand.

Trill - A roll produced by either fast strumming with a pick, or by quickly alternating fingers in finger picking.

Up Stroke - To strum or pick one or more strings in an upward motion (high string to low strings)

Vibrato - The wavering sound produced by rapidly rocking or wiggling the fingers of the fretting hand, or thumping the body of the guitar with the strumming hand, or by using a vibrato arm on a bridge.

Misc. Guitar Terms

Chord Diagram - A chart which shows the formation of chords by showing finger placements on a fret board. Numbers to the side tell which fret to place the chord. An “X” at the top means that string is not played, while an “O” at the top means the string is played but not fretted (called open).

Tablature (Tab) - A type of notation with horizontal lines representing the strings of the instrument, with the first string on top. Numbers over the lines represent the fret to be played on said string. Number all stacked up indicate a Barr or Chord to be played, while individual numbers indicate notes to be played individually.

Instructor's Hot Tip:
Good Luck on remembering all these guitar terms.

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