Guitar Terms: Guitar Parts, Techniques, & Slang for Beginners
Learning guitar isn’t just about memorizing chords and notes, you also have to learn some new vocabulary! Let’s look at the various lingo for parts of the guitar, accessories, slang, and more.
For a quick, easy breakdown of these guitar terms, make sure you check out the infographic at the bottom of this article. Looking for something specific? Jump to the different sections of this article here:
Before you can play, you need to learn the lay of the land! Get familiar with your guitar with this intro to the parts and functions.
The long wooden stem that connects the headstock of the guitar to the body. This is where the fretboard lies.
Strips of metal found on the fretboard or fingerboard (located on the neck). Each fretbar represents a note.
The space between each fretbar. This is where you will finger each note.
Attached to the neck, this is where the frets lie, and where you will finger each note.
Tuning Pegs (Machineheads)
Located on the headstock. Twisting the tuning pegs increases or decreases the tension of the string, that changes the pitch accordingly.
Metal or nylon strips of wire that produce sound through vibrations.
Electro-magnetic strips on the body of an electric guitar. Pickups create a magnetic field which alters the vibrations and the tone of the guitar.
- Single Coil – A pickup with only one coil around the magnet.
- Humbucker – A pickup with two coils of opposite polarity around the magnet, which reduces hum.
A lever on the front of the guitar that switches which pickup is activated.
A metal or wooden part on the front of the body that holds the strings in place.
The main part of the guitar where you can find the pickups, toggle switches, bridge, and dials.
- Solid – Electric guitars are solid bodied because there is no need for acoustic amplification.
- Hollow – Acoustic guitars are hollow bodied and have a sound hole to amplify the sound.
- Semi-Hollow – Some electric guitars feature a semi-hollow body that produces sound electronically, but also features a sound hole. The sound hole is usually much thinner and smaller than a true acoustic guitar
Attached to the neck, where the tuner pegs are located.
On most acoustic guitars, there are pins on the bridge that hold the strings in place. Learn more about guitar parts here.
Now let’s get into some guitar terms that describe moves and techniques you will use to play guitar.
Playing a note by slamming hard on the fret with your finger. Opposite of a pull-off.
Playing a note without picking.
Place two fingers on the same string, but different frets. Release the higher note so the lower note rings out.
A guitar move where you play a note, and then move that note up or down on the fretboard.
Hold the note firmly as you move.
To play a barre chord, you need to hold down more than one note with only one finger.
You will normally use your index finger to bar several strings on the same fret.
Pushing your finger forward or backward, while holding it down firmly on the string and fretboard, to increase the pitch.
Place the palm of your strumming hand over the strings near the bridge, and pick a note. This will decrease the sustain of the note substantially.
Using your finger or a pick to sound notes on a guitar. Learn how to hold and use a pick here.
The distance between the string and the fretboard.
Typically, you would like there to be minimal distance.
The ability of the guitar to stay in tune with itself.
For example, the 12th fret should be an exact octave from the open string.
Running your finger or pick along more than one note.
Usually played in rhythm to create chords.
Tune your guitar to EADGBE (from the thickest string to the thinnest).
Related: How to Tune a Guitar
Drop D Tuning
DADGBE: Much like standard tuning, but the lowest E is dropped to a D.
Drop D tuning is one of several alternate guitar tunings you can use to play different styles and sounds. Learn more about alternate guitar tunings here.
Any string on the guitar played without pressing down on a fret.
A series of five notes found in the major or minor scale. This has become the standard scale used in rock and blues music.
A chord that consists of the root, 5th, and octave.
For example, CGC or EBE. This is a common chord in rock music.
A step is equal to a tone or note.
- Half Step – Moving up or down one fret.
- Whole Step – Moving up or down two frets.
Altering up and down strokes while playing individual notes.
This is the correct way to pick a scale.
Here are some fun things you may want to look into to help you play better and keep your guitar in good condition.
This can be attached to the guitar or plugged in (electric). It reads the frequency of each note and indicates if it’s in tune.
Typically it will tune to standard tuning (EADGBE).
Related: What’s the Best Guitar Tuner?
A mechanical clamp that attaches to the neck of the guitar.
To use a capo, place it on any fret to change the key and lower the action.
A plastic, triangular-shaped tool you can use to pluck the guitar strings
A piece of material (usually leather or cloth) that holds the guitar around your body.
Material that holds the strap in place.
Tremolo Bar / Whammy Bar
A removable metal bar attached to the bridge on an electric guitar.
The tremolo/whammy bar changes the pitch of the strings while playing.
A tool to remove and replace the strings.
It attaches to the tuning pegs and increases or decreases the tension (at a rate much faster than our fingers).
Here are the terms all aspiring rockstars should know!
Another name for a guitar. This term became popular in the ’80s.
Another name for a measure.
Short for Tablature, a form of notation used for guitarists.
Related: How to Read Guitar Tabs Like a Pro
Beats Per Minute (refers to the tempo).
Another term for fret hand muting, which is used more for percussive purposes.
Playing lead is the opposite of playing rhythm guitar. It refers to playing the melody.
Lick / Riff
A series of notes that create a distinguished sound. Also known as a hook.
Use this infographic to memorize the above guitar terminology. To learn more advanced terms and concepts, it’s best to work with a private guitar teacher or take guitar classes like the ones offered here at TakeLessons Live. Best of luck on your guitar learning journey!