There are some must-know guitar terms when you’re learning to play guitar. Keep reading to learn the most essential guitar words with Grosse Pointe, MI. guitar teacher Jerry W…
Not only is it great to work with a professional music teacher, but you can also help enhance your guitar-playing skills on your own by studying and mastering guitar terminology for beginners.
10 Basic Guitar Terms and Definitions
In today’s article, we’re going to dive into what each of these words means in guitar lingo:
- Chord symbol
- Fret diagram
- Tabs (tablature)
- Open chord
- Barre chord
Nothing says amateur like an out-of-tune guitar. Tuning your guitar is how you get the right pitch. We highly recommend you take the time to learn how to tune your guitar quickly and accurately.
With modern technology, you can even have a tuner on your phone, so there’s no excuse for playing out of tune.
A chord is when more than one pitch sounds at a time. A two-note chord is called a diad. Learning guitar chords is relatively simple, and you will feel a great sense of accomplishment once you’ve mastered the basic chords.
3. Chord Symbol
C G7 Am7 Esus
Guitarists know which chords to play in a song by reading the chord symbols. ‘Chord symbols’ is one of the most essential guitar terms by far.
Symbols can be pretty simple or very complex. The chord symbol includes the letter that represents the chord. Other symbols can follow that letter to designate variations. You can learn to play a chord by looking at a fretboard diagram.
4. Fretboard Diagram
You can find fretboard diagrams for almost any chord by searching online for “guitar chords.” The top parallel line represents the nut in a simple fretboard diagram, and the lines below represent the first four frets. The vertical lines represent the guitar’s six strings, and the dots show you where to place your fingers. The “o” represents an open string. Fretboard diagrams can also include fret numbers and barre symbols.
5. Tabs (Tablature)
Tabs, or tablature, indicate where to place your fingers on the guitar. Finger placement is key to playing well, which is why ‘tabs’ is critical guitar terminology. Tabs are a little more complex than fretboard diagrams and can show melodies and more advanced techniques.
In short, the lines represent the strings, and the numbers indicate where to fret the string. Learning to play tabs will open up a whole new world of music.
The most common way to play guitar chords is by strumming. Strumming is when you draw your fingers or pick across the strings so that all or most of the strings sound simultaneously.
The most straightforward strumming pattern is a top-to-bottom movement that strikes the strings on each beat. To be a well-rounded musician, learn to play a variety of strum patterns.
To talk about the act of using a pick or your fingers to play individual notes on the guitar, we use one of the most popular guitar terms, ‘picking.’ It’s called fingerpicking when you do this with your finger.
Use picking to play a melody or individual notes of a chord one after another. This is called an arpeggio. The tab below has a familiar melody followed by a chord arpeggio.
8. Open Chord
An open chord is played using open strings on the guitar. These are the simplest chords to learn and are great for beginners to start with. Here are some of the most common open chords.
9. Barre Chord
You can play a barre chord by laying your index finger over all or some guitar strings. You’ll see a curved line on the barre chords in a fretboard diagram.
Barre chords allow you to play many more types of chords, but they’re much harder to learn and may take some practice before you gain the strength and skill to play them well.
A capo is a simple device that clamps down on the strings to create a permanent barre over the guitar strings. A capo allows you to play open chords in the higher frets. Learning to use a capo will help you play in many more keys without the need to know all of the barre chords. A capo can also make some keys much easier to play.
If you learn these guitar terms and practice the basic techniques, you’ll be able to take on more significant challenges and play more complex music. For more guitar words, check out this longer list.
Need some help mastering the techniques shared in this guitar glossary? Find a guitar teacher in your area.
Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI. He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University. Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years. Learn more about Jerry W. here!
Photo by Gil Eilam