Musical Glossary

(This page is still in the early “Draft” stage but I have opened it so others can learn from it and provide feedback/suggestions/help.)


Accidentals – when the sharp () and flat () are used to mark notes; though in music theory/notation, the term “accidental” is more complex



Alternate Changes – see Chord Substitutions

Alternate Tunings –

Amp or Amplifier


Arpeggio – a musical technique where notes in a chord are played or sung in sequence, one after the other, rather than ringing out at the same time




Backing Track

Bar (or Measure) – is a segment of time corresponding to a specific number of beats


Bend – [gif]


CAGED System



Changes – see Progression

Choke – Stopping the sound of a bent note as soon as it reaches the intended pitch

Chord – any set of three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously

Chord Inversion – a chord voiced with a note other than the root in the bass

Chord Substitutions – using a chord in the place of another – often related – chord, in a chord progression

Chord Voicing – the order of the notes in a chord: which notes are on the top or in the middle, which ones are doubled, etc…

Circle of 5th’s – a visual representation of the relationships among the 12 notes of music, their key signatures, and the associated major and minor keys

Closed Position –

Comping – (an abbreviation of accompanying; or possibly from the verb, to “complement”) is a term used in jazz music to describe the chords, rhythms, and countermelodies that piano players or guitar players use to support a jazz musician’s improvised solo or melody lines.


Compound Chord – see Slash Chord

Contrary Motion

Cowboy Chord – see Open Chord

Cycle of 5th’s – a series of chords whose root notes are a 5th apart


Diatonic Scale – a scale composed of seven distinct pitch classes.


Dissonance – is the quality of sounds that seems unstable


Double-tracking – Double tracking or vocal doubling is an audio recording technique in which a performer sings or plays along with their own prerecorded performance, usually to produce a stronger or “bigger” sound than can be obtained with a single voice or instrument. It is a form ofoverdubbing; the distinction comes from the doubling of a part, as opposed to recording a different part to go with the first.


Drone – when a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece.

Drop Voicing – “A drop voicing is created from a close position voicing by dropping one of the notes down an octave.  If the second note from the top is dropped, the voicing is called a drop 2 voicing; if the third note from the top is dropped, the voicing is called a drop 3 voicing.  For a C7 chord in root position, “C E G Bb”, the corresponding drop 2 voicing is “G C E Bb”.  The second note from the top, G, has been dropped down an octave.  The corresponding drop 3 voicing would be “E C G Bb”.”




Enharmonic – if two notes have the same pitch but are represented by different letter names and accidentals



Fill – a fill is a short musical passage, riff, or rhythmic sound which helps to sustain the listener’s attention during a break between the phrases of a melody. “The terms riff and fill are sometimes used interchangeably by musicians, but [while] the term riff usually refers to an exact musical phrase repeated throughout a song”, a fill is an improvised phrase played during a section where nothing else is happening in the music.[2] While riffs are repeated, fills tend to be varied over the course of a song.

Fingerpicking or Fingerstyle Guitar – using your fingers (or fingerpicks) instead of a pick


Flat – on a guitar: when you go one fret to your left; see Accidental

Flat 5 Substitution – see Tritone Substitution


Fret (noun) – [pic] metal strips inserted into the fretboard

Fret (verb) – to push down on the string with your finger

Fret Buzz – occurs when the vibrating part of one or more strings physically strikes the frets that are higher than the fretted note (or open note). This causes a “buzzing” sound on the guitar; Fret Buzz can be caused by different things: low action, improperly installed frets, strings too loose, improper relief of guitar neck


Fuzz Distortion – a term used to describe a particular form of distortion; originally created by guitarists using faulty equipment (such as a misaligned valve tube) which is now emulated by a number of ‘Fuzzbox’ effects pedals

Hammer-on – [gif] a technique performed by sharply bringing a fretting-hand finger down on the fretboard, causing a note to sound; this technique is the opposite of the pull-off

Harmonics – the stop points on a stringed instrument at which gentle touching of a string will force it into a harmonic mode when vibrated. Harmonics are described as having a “flutelike, silvery quality that can be highly effective as a special color”

Harmonized Chord Scale


Heptatonic – a musical scale that has seven pitches per octave


Hook – a musical idea, a passage or phrase, that is believed to be appealing and make the song stand out


Interval – the difference between two pitches

Intonation – the pitch accuracy of a musical instrument or a musician’s realization of pitch accuracy


Key Signature – [pic] is a set of sharp or flat symbols placed together on the staff

Lick – not to be confused with riff

Luthier – someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments (except harps); the term originally referred specifically to makers of lutes



Measure – see Bar


Movable Chord

Nashville Number System – similar to (movable-do) Solfège which uses “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti” to represent the seven scale degrees of the Major scale. However the NNS instead uses numbers to represent each of the scale degrees. In the key of C, the numbers would correspond as follows: C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7. In the key of B, the numbers would be B=1, C=2, D=3, E=4, F=5, G=6, A=7.

Nashville Tuning – a way of simulating a twelve-string guitar sound, using two six-string guitars playing in unison. This is achieved by replacing the lower four courses on one 6-string with the higher octave strings for those four courses from a 12-string set, and tuning these four strings an octave higher than normal tuning for those courses on a 6-string. Double-tracking this guitar with the standard-tuned 6-string is commonly used in recording studios to achieve a “cleaner” 12-string effect.

Natural Notes – the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G; also represented by the white keys on a piano


Neighbor Tone – where you step up or down from the chord tone, and then move back to the chord tone


Oblique Motion

Octave – the interval between the first and last notes is an octave. For example, the C Major scale is typically written C D E F G A B C, the initial and final C’s being an octave apart. Two notes separated by an octave have the same letter name and are of the same pitch class.

Open Chord – is a chord that includes one or more strings that are not fingered. Thus in an open chord the strings ring, or sound, freely and fully

Open Position – the area of the guitar where open chords are typically played

Overdrive – a less extreme version of Distortion

PA (System) or Public Address System – is an electronic sound amplification and distribution system with a microphone, amplifier, and loudspeaker

Palm Mute

Passing Tones – a non-chord tone prepared by a chord tone a step above or below it and resolved by continuing in the same direction stepwise to the next chord tone (which is either part of the same chord or of the next chord in the harmonic progression)



Pedal Tones


Pentatonic – is a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave








Pitch Class


Progression or Chord Changes – a series of musical chords

Profile – see Relief

Pull-off – [gif] a technique performed by plucking a string by “pulling” the string off the fretboard with one of the fingers being used to fret the note; this technique is the opposite of the hammer-on

Quarter Tone


Relative Minor – major and minor scales that have the same key signatures.

Relief (or Profile) – the amount of curvature in the fingerboard of a guitar

Reverb (or Reverberation) – the persistence of sound after a sound is produced. Noticeable when the sound source stops but the reflections continue, decreasing in sound until nothing

Riff – a short, repeated, memorable musical phrase

Root (Note) – denotes the idea that a chord could be represented and named by one of its notes. It is in this sense that one can speak of a “C chord”, or a “chord on C”, a chord built from C and of which C is the root. The root needs not be the bass note of the chord: the concept of root is linked to that of the inversion of chords


Scale – a sequence of ordered musical notes


Semitone -the interval between two adjacent notes; the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music



Sharp – on a guitar: when you go one fret to your right; see Accidental


Slash Chords or Compound Chord – a chord whose bass note or inversion is indicated by the addition of a slash and the letter of the bass after the root note letter; example: a C major chord in second inversion is written C/G, which reads “C slash G”, or “C over G”. If B were the bass it would be written C/B, which is read “C slash B”, or “C over B”.


Solfège – assigning the notes of a scale a particular syllable, and then practicing by singing different note sequences using these syllables. The seven syllables commonly used for this practice in English-speaking countries are: do (or doh in tonic sol-fa),[2] re, mi, fa, sol (or so in tonic sol-fa), la, and ti. In other languages, si is used (see below) for the seventh scale tone. There are two ways of applying solfège: (1) fixed do, where the syllables are always tied to specific pitches (e.g. “do” is always the pitch “C”) and (2) movable do, where the syllables are assigned to different pitches based on musical context




Standard Tuning – the typical tuning of an instrument, on guitar: EADGBE




Tap-on or Tapping


Time Signature – [pic] used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats (pulses) are to be contained in each bar and which note value is to be given one beat

Tone Pot


Tremolo Picking

Triad – three-note chord consisting of a root note together with the third and fifth

Trill – rapid alternation between two adjacent notes

Tritone – strictly defined as a musical interval composed of three adjacent whole tones; for example: the interval from F up to the B above it (in short, F–B) is a tritone as it can be decomposed into the three adjacent whole tones F–G, G–A, and A–B.

Tritone Substitution




Unison – two or more musical parts sounding the same pitch or at an octave interval, usually at the same time.


Vibrato – when the finger that is used to play the note is wobbled on the fretboard, or actually moved up and down the string for a wider vibrato

Walkdown – (in country music) a bassline which connects two chords whose roots are a third apart, often featuring an inverted chord, example: G and Em (a minor third apart) may be joined by an intervening chord to create stepwise motion in the bass: G-D/F-Em; (in jazz) a descending bassline below chords sharing a common tone, example: if the above was G-D/F-Em7 the bassline would descend, G, F, E, while D is held in common; (in 12-bar blues) refers to the movement from V to IV in bars nine and ten

Walkup – opposite of Walkdown





B-Bender – [pic] a guitar accessory that enables a player to mechanically bend the B-string up a whole tone (two frets) to C-sharp.

Capo – [pic] a device used to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch. Derives from the Italian “capotasto” which means the “nut” of a stringed instrument. Musicians commonly use a capo to raise the pitch of a fretted instrument so they can play in a different key using the same fingerings as playing open. In effect, a capo uses a fret of an instrument to create a new nut at a higher note than the instrument’s actual nut.

Effects Pedal – [pic] electronic devices that alter how a musical instrument or other audio source sounds; many are organized onto a pedalboard

Fingerpicks – [pic] clips onto or wraps around the end of the fingers and thumb (thumbpick)

Pedalboard – [pic] allows a performer to create a ready-to-use chain of multiple pedals

Pick – [pic <–no pun intended] usually gripped with two fingers—thumb and index—and played with pointed end facing the strings; generally made of one uniform material—such as some kind of plastic (nylon, Delrin, celluloid), rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, wood, metal, glass, tagua, or stone. They are often shaped in an acute isosceles triangle with the two equal corners rounded and the third corner less rounded.

Plectrum – see Pick

Rackmount – [pic] commonly used in recording studios and “front of house” live sound mixing situations, though many musicians use them in place of stompboxes. Rackmounts are controlled by knobs or switches on their front panel, and often by a MIDI digital control interface. During live performances, a musician can operate rackmounted effects using a “foot controller”


Strap – [pic] a strip of fabric made to hold a guitar via the shoulders, at an adjustable length to suit the position favored by the guitarist

Strap Locks – [pic]


Tuner (Electronic) – [pic] a device that detects and displays the pitch of musical notes


Action – the distance between the fretboard and the string; the action on a guitar can be adjusted

Body (guitar part) –

Bridge – [pic] a device for supporting the strings on a stringed instrument

Cutaway –Venetian and Florentine.

F-hole – [pic] a sound hole in the shape of an “f”; usually made in pairs and placed symmetrically on both sides of the strings; most hollow-body and semi-hollow electric guitars have F-holes

Floating Pickguard – [pic] a pickguard that is raised above the guitar

Floyd Rose – [pic] a popular type of locking “Whammy Bar”

Fretboard or Fingerboard – [pic] a thin, long strip of material, usually wood, that is laminated to the front of the neck of an instrument; the strings run over the fingerboard, between the nut and bridge; to play the instrument, a musician presses strings down to the fretboard

Headstock (or Peghead) – [pic] contains the pegs or mechanism that holds the strings at the “head” of the instrument

Heel or Neck Joint – [pic] the point at which the neck is either bolted or glued to the body of the guitar; almost all acoustic steel-string guitars (with the primary exception of Taylors) have glued (otherwise known as set) necks, while electric guitars are constructed using both types; most classical guitars have a neck and headblock carved from one piece of wood, known as a “Spanish heel”.

Inlay – [pic 1] [pic 2] decorative materials set into the wooden surface of the instrument

Machine Head – see Tuners

Neck – [pic] the part that projects from the main body and is the base of the fingerboard, where the fingers are placed to stop the strings

Neck-through or neck-thru – [pic] a method of electric guitar or bass guitar construction that involves extending the piece (or pieces, in a laminate construction) of wood used for the neck through the entire length of the body, essentially making it the core of the body. The strings, fretboard, pickups and bridge are all mounted on this piece. So-called “ears” or “wings” (i.e. side parts of the body) are glued or laminated to the central “stick”

Nut – [pic] a small piece of hard material that supports the strings at the end closest to the headstock, and is usually notched or grooved for the strings.

Peghead – see Headstock

**Pick Guard – [pic] a piece of plastic or other (often laminated) material that is placed on the body of a guitar

Pickup(s) – [pic] a transducer that captures vibrations and converts them to an electrical signal

Pickup, Magnetic –

Pickup, Piezoelectric –

Saddle – [pic]  the part of the bridge that physically supports the strings. It may be one piece (typically on acoustic guitars) or separate pieces, one for each string (electric guitars and basses)

Scratchplate – see Pickguard

Sound Board

Sound Box

Sound Hole

Tap plates/golpeadores

Tremolo Arm – see Whammy Bar

Truss Rod – [pic] the part of the guitar used to stabilize and adjust the lengthwise forward curvature (also called relief), of the neck. Usually it is a steel rod that runs inside the neck and has a bolt that can be used to adjust its tension.

Tuners (Guitar Part) – [pic] a geared apparatus for tuning stringed musical instruments by adjusting string tension

Whammy Bar (or Tremolo Arm) – [pic] a vibrato and pitch bend device attached to the guitar

TYPES OF GUITARS……………………………………..

Acoustic (Guitar) – a guitar that produces sound by transmitting the vibrations of the strings to the air

Acoustic-Electric (Guitar) – an acoustic fitted with a magnetic pickup, a piezoelectric pickup or a microphone. In acoustic-electric nylon string guitars, piezoelectric pickups and microphones are always used because magnetic pickups are not capable of picking up vibrations of non-magnetic materials

Archtop – [pic] a semi-hollow steel-string acoustic or electric guitar; the arched table combined with violin-style f-holes and internal sound-block creates a timbre that is acoustic and mellow; these two factors have made archtops a firm favorite with jazz guitarists.

Baroque Guitar – [pic]

Carved-top Electric


Double-Neck Guitar – [pic] designed so that two guitar necks can share one body; this allows the guitarist to switch between either neck with ease; it will normally have a standard six-string neck and a twelve-string neck though other combinations exist

Dreadnought – [pic] The dreadnought guitar body is larger than most other guitars that existed at the time of its creation, and thus results in a bolder and often louder tone. In 1916 the word ‘dreadnought’ referred to a large, all big-gun modern battleship. The neck is usually attached to the body at the 14th fret.

Electric Guitar – a guitar that produces sound by relying on electronic amplification

Flamenco Guitar – [pic] similar to a classical acoustic guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing

Hollow-body Electric or Semi-Acoustic (also see Semi-hollow) – [pic] a type of electric guitar that originates from the 1930s. It has both a sound box and one or more electric pickups. This is not the same as an acoustic-electric, which is an acoustic guitar with the addition of pickups or other means of amplification

Lap Steel – [pic] a type of guitar where the player changes pitch by pressing a metal or glass bar against the strings instead of by pressing strings against the fretboard

Pedal Steel – [pic] a type of electric steel guitar that is built on legs or a stand and is fitted with foot pedals which adjust the sound of the instrument; typically plucked with a thumb pick and fingers, or two or three fingerpicks

Resonator – [pic] a guitar that swaps a regular sound hole for a large circular perforated cover plate which conceals a resonator cone; the cone is made from spun aluminum and resembles a loudspeaker; the bridge is connected to either the center or edge of the cone by an aluminum spring called the spider; the vibrations from the spider are projected by the cone through the perforated cover plate

Semi-acoustic – see Hollow-body

Solid-body Electric – [pic] a guitar built without its normal sound box and relying on an electric pickup system to directly receive the vibrations of the strings

Twelve-String Guitar – [pic] a guitar with six regular strings and a second set of thinner strings that corresponds to the note of its regular string counterpart; the strings form pairs and therefore you play a twelve-string guitar in the same manner as you would a standard six-string.