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Guitar Glossary | Guitar Terminology


Learn About Guitar Terms and Definitions - Guitar 101



Guitar Glossary | Guitar Terminology

Page Update 3/7/2016


Some of the terminology and definitions used to explain guitars and their parts can be a little difficult to understand.   Below we will attempt to explain some of the guitar terms commonly used today. Some refer to this as guitar anatomy or guitar 101 as well.

  • Action - Height of the strings from the fret board to the string itself.
  • Alnico - Alloy used in the magnets of your pickups.  Consists of Cobalt, Nickel, and Aluminum
  • Amplify - Increasing the volume of an instrument. 
  • Active Electronics - Usually involved with active pickups.  Many times a battery is used going directly to the pickup to boost the sound of the pickup.
  • Arch Top (Carved Top) - Refers to the body of a guitar that has been carved or shaped for either the tone or looks of the guitar
  • Blocked Trem - When a wood block is used in the tremelo body cavity to keep the tremelo or whammy bar system from floating.  The tremelo will sit on the block and possibly stay in tune much better. 
  • Bridge - The bridge is located on the body of the guitar and transfers sound from the strings to the body of the guitar.  This can be held in place by screws or string tension.
  • Body - Usually where the bridge and tailpiece are located.   Pickups are wired within the body of your instrument.  The main part of the guitar.
  • Bolt on neck - Attaching the guitar neck to the body of the guitar with bolts.  The screws or bolts are attached with a neck plate in the back of your guitar.
  • Coils - Wire is wrapped around a nonconductive material
  • Coil Tap / Coil Split - Switch used to break up a hum bucker into single coil sounds or vice versa
  • Cutaway - A cutaway usually refers to the back of the body of a guitar where is is been carved out or cutaway.
  • F- Hole - Sound hole carved into instruments.
  • Flame Maple Top - Refers to a maple top typically on carved body guitars that is cut or sawn to show flame like designs in the wood or top.  Typically used on higher end guitar models. 
  • Fret board or Fingerboard - On top of the neck its the area that you would press the string upon to create a note or frequency.  Fingerboards usually have Dot or inlay so that you can have a point of reference for moving your fingers along the fret board
  • Fret- The metal strips along your fretboard.  They come in a variety of sizes. For example, small, medium, medium-jumbo, or jumbo.  The size depends on what a guitarist likes best.
  • Fretless - A fretboard with no frets.  Usually found with basses and gives a smooth sound.  Used on songs like Pink Floyd's 'Hey You'
  • Floyd Rose - Popular brand name for a locking tremelo system typically used on humbucker pickup guitars.  Some call this a whammy bar system and there are many guitar manufacturers that license these systems for their guitars. 
  • Gig - When A band plays a show at a venue
  • Hardware - Refers to different parts of a guitar including jacks, bridge, tuners, and more
  • Head Stock - Top of the instrument where the tuners are located
  • Humbucker - 2 single coil pickups, side by side, and wired to that the electronic hum you get with most single coil pickups is canceled out
  • Inlay - Markers on your fretboard that give players with a frame of reference.  Most are dot inlays, but can be a variety of shapes or designs.
  • Min-e-Tune - A brand of robotic tuner that attaches to the headstock and tuners of a guitar. Robotically tunes the guitar based on vibration frequencies of the strings. This device can tune to many different tunings including custom ones.  Some guitar manufacturers are starting to use this technology, but you can also buy Min-e-tune separately for certain guitar brands.
  • Mother of Pearl - Type of inlay using a form of shellfish material
  • Neck - The guitar neck is sort of the middle of the guitar.  It's where the strings are stretched over the fretboard.
  • Nut - Piece of plastic or metal between the headstock and fretboard.   Guides the strings from the headstock and tuners over the fretboard
  • Pickguard - Piece of material place on the body of the guitar to protect from pick scratches, and to hide wiring and pickups.
  • Peghead - Top of the instrument where the tuners are located
  • Pickup - Device that takes the string vibration that you create and transform it into an electronic signal.  This signal it then used in amplifiers to boost the sound.
  • Quilt Top - Refers to typically a maple piece of wood place on the top of the body of a guitar.  This top is sawn or cut to show a quilt circular type wood ring pattern. This type of cut is difficult and really on used on very high end guitars. It demands a premium price for the difficulty of getting this cut right for a guitar top. 
  • Saddles - Piece of bridge that holds the string in place
  • Scalloped Fretboard - When the fret board has been carved out to create a scoop between frets.
  • Set Neck- When a neck is glued into the neck pocket of the body of a guitar.
  • Single Coil Pickup - Usually thinner sound than humbucker, used in most fender guitars
  • Strings - Stretched between the tuners and the body.  Different string weights give different sounds or frequencies.
  • Stop Tailpiece - Has slots in it to hold string balls in place.   Usually used with a Tune-o-matic bridge
  • Tremelo or Vibrato system - Device that includes a whammy bar to stretch the strings by pressing down on the bar. 
  • Truss Rod - A long rod inside your guitar neck used for stabilizing a wooden neck
  • Tune-o-matic Bridge - Attached to guitar's body by to posts and has adjustable saddles
  • Whammy Bar - Used to stretch the strings on a tremolo or vibrato system