Tips & Tutorials | October 27, 2021

Guitar Parts and Jargon: Part 3

by Kristi Bronico

We’re back this week with Guitar Parts and Jargon Part 3. If you missed our previous two posts, you can check them out here. In this installment, we’ll cover some common fretted instrument terms that you may find helpful along the way as you master the acoustic guitar.


ACTION   

This refers to the height of the strings above the fret wire and fretboard. The higher the action, the harder you have to press down on the strings to form clean notes and chords. But it’s not all about comfort. If the action is too low, you could get some buzzing sounds.


ALTERNATE TUNING

Any tuning other than standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E).


ATTACK

This is the initial sound that a string makes when it is picked or strummed with a finger or a guitar pick.


BARRE CHORD

This is a type of chord where you flatten your finger across the fretboard to form a chord. You can move your finger in this position up and down the fretboard to form a number of different chords.


BASS

For an acoustic guitar, this refers to the low-sounding or low-end notes.


BENDING

When you push or pull a string sideways across the fret, it raises the pitch of the note. This is used a lot in rock, blues and jazz style music.


CAPO

Available in different styles, a capo is a device that attaches to the neck of the guitar and presses down evenly across the fret, just next to the fret wire, to raise the key of a song to suit the vocalist. Some players use a capo to temporarily lower the action for comfort.


CHORD

A chord is simply three or more notes sounding simultaneously. Fun fact: You can play hundreds of songs if you learn just three chords.


DROP D TUNING

When you tune the low E string (the thickest string) down to a D. This is the most commonly used drop tuning and it’s used in many popular songs.


DYNAMICS/DYNAMIC RANGE

In reference to the acoustic guitar, this is how soft or how hard you play. The dynamic range is the range in volume, from softest to loudest, that is attainable on your guitar.


FINGERSTYLE

This is a style of guitar playing without using a guitar pick. It often involves plucking multiple strings together which you can’t do with a guitar pick.


GIG

A commonly used slang term for a live performance and one that is often for money.


INTONATION

This is a tricky one, but the basic definition is how in-tune your guitar is with itself. Even if you tune a guitar perfectly, it will sound bad if the intonation is off.


LICK

A lick is a short group of notes that are played in a song. A series of licks are often put together to form a solo played by the lead guitarist.


NOTE

A note is a musical pitch that you play on an instrument. When you play more than one note at a time, it becomes a chord.


PICKING

A style of playing where strings are individually plucked with fingers or a guitar pick.


PLEK

This refers to a sophisticated computer-controlled machine that scans and evaluates the frets along the length of the neck. The machine stores optimum values for the frets and the nut and compares them to the scan. If they are not aligned, the machine will trim and smooth the frets and the nut to achieve optimum playability and string height. This is very important for the feel and sound of the guitar.


RIFF

A riff often refers to a short musical phrase that is played repeatedly in a song to form a rhythm as opposed to a lick or lead.


RHYTHM

This refers to the rhythmic pattern that the music follows. It’s important to have a good sense of rhythm if you want to pursue a career in music.


STRUMMING

The act of brushing fingers or a guitar pick across two to six strings in an up and down motion.


SUSTAIN

This is the length of time that a note rings after it is played.


TONE

This is the sound of a note and can be used as a general term to describe the sound of your guitar.


TREBLE

For an acoustic guitar, this refers to the high-sounding or high-end notes.


TUNING

Assigning pitches to the open strings of the guitar. Standard tuning for the acoustic guitar is E-A-D-G-B-E.


We hope you found these definitions helpful as you navigate the exciting world of music.