Guitar Vocabulary

  Guitar Anatomy

Body- The main structural piece of a guitar, usually made of wood and hollow on an acoustic guitar. It contains the bridge, pickups, volume and tone controls, tremolo bar, and the sound hole of an acoustic guitar.

Headstock- the end piece connected to the neck that contains the tuning pegs and the ends of the strings

Neck- the long, narrow board that connects the headstock to the body where the fingers are placed to fret the guitar

Fretboard- another name for the front face of the neck that contains the frets

Fret (bar)- a metal ridge on the fretboard that the string vibrates against when the fingers are placed behind it

Strings- usually metal (sometimes nylon) strings that are plucked or strummed to produce sound. Guitars usually have six strings of variable thickness, with thicker strings producing lower sounds.

Tuning pegs- metal pegs that hold the end of the string to the headstock and are turned to create or reduce tension in the string in order to tune it

Nut- the ridge at the head end of the fretboard that the strings pass over to get to the tuning pegs

Bridge- a strip of wood, plastic or metal that holds the strings in place above the body of the guitar

Bridge pins- round-headed pins that hold the strings in place in the body of the guitar
Saddle- plastic or ivory bar that holds the strings in place above the bridge

Pickguard- a piece of plastic on the body underneath the strings to protect the guitar from being scratched by the pick

Pickups- electronic devices that detect the vibration of the strings and send the information to an amplifier, located on the body underneath the strings

Tone/volume knobs
- on an electric guitar, the knobs that control the volume and tone located on the body

Guitar Accessories

Pick- a small piece of hard material (usually plastic) held between the fingers and used to pick or strum the strings

Capo- a device that clamps down the strings when placed across the fretboard so that all the strings will be continuously fretted

Slide- a piece of metal or glass usually worn around a finger that is used to fret strings and slide up or down, producing a unique glissando sound

Musical Terms and Techniques

Note- a sound with a distinct pitch, usually produced by a single vibrating string on a guitar

Chord- many notes played at the same time, produced by a particular combination of fretted strings

Root note- the note that a chord is "centered" around or built upon, usually the lowest bass note in a chord

Hammer-on- quickly tapping a finger down to fret a string while the string is currently vibrating to a lower note.

Pull-off- pulling off the fretting finger while the string is still vibrating to the fretted note

Harmonic- a note produced at particular places on a string when the entire string is not vibrating but a fraction of the string is vibrating. Places where the string is lightly touched and separated into ratios of 1/4 – 3/4 (5th fret), 1/3 – 2/3 (7th fret), and 1/2 – 1/2 (12th fret) will produce harmonic notes that sound like a ringing bell while the string does not sound out the regular note produced when fully fretted at that position.