Term Definition
Abalone Mother of pearl found in abalones and used for guitars’ inlays
Guitar Glossary actionDistance between the strings and the fingerboard. Also used to define the general playability of the guitar related to neck and saddle settings.
Adironback Spruce (Red Spruce) Tonewood used for guitar tops – very expensive - has more overall resonance than Sitka
Amplifier Electronic equipment that increases strength of signals passing through it. In acoustic guitar amplification process an amplifier increase a line-level signal coming from a pre-amplifier.
Archtop (guitar) Guitar Glossary ArchtopAn archtop guitar is a steel-stringed guitar with a distinctive arched top,
Plucking hand technique where strings are played one after the other, generally with fingers. A standard arpeggio is payed with the thumb plucking a bass strings, than index, middle and ring fingers plucking treble strings one after the other.
Auditorium (Grand auditorium) Guitar form: average to large size guitars
Back Back part of the soundbox.
Ball end Metal cylinder set at the end of the strings in order to fix the strings to the guitar’s bridge or tailpiece
Bar Chords Type of guitar chord, where one or more fingers are used to press down multiple strings across the guitar fingerboard
Bending Playing technique consisting in bending one or more strings and creating a pitch in tone.
Binding Guitar building: material (plastic or wood generally) placed between the different parts to seal them off. In non technical word, it is the sort of line you see at the edge of the guitar, on the soundboard and on the neck mainly
Blender Electronic equipment used to mix two or more pick-up signals.
Body Part of the guitar made of top, back and sides (soundbox)
Bolt on neck Guitar Design: building technique where the neck is fixed to the body with bolts
Bottleneck Round piece of material (orginaly a Bottleneck) used to play slide guitar.
Wood elements glued within the soundbox (top, back and sides) used both to reinforce the soundbox and guide vibrations. Braces patterns have a great influence on the guitar’s tone. “X”,”A” and “V” braces are the most known for flat top guitars
Copper/tin alloy used in strings manufacturing
Brazilian Rosewood Type of tone wood used for back and sides; the Rolls Royce of tonewoods!
Bridge Piece of wood, generally made in rosewood, placed on the lower bout of the soundboard. The bridge allows elevating the strings and generally to fix them to the guitar’s body.
Bridge pins Guitar Glossary: Bridge pinsCones blocking the strings at bridge’s level.
Bronze Term used (wrongly) for brass alloys used in guitar strings – see Brass
Buzz Parasite sound such as strings touching frets while vibrating or loose braces vibrating against the soundbox.
Capo Item used to simulate fingers on bar chords. It is generally used to transposing all strings and play usual chords on higher notes. A capo can yet be partial and allow more complex alternate styles.
Varnish used in the 50-70s. made of natural components allowing the wood breathing. Used on High-end guitars today.
Set of harmonically related notes, reached through a specific finger position on the fretboard.
Coated (strings) Strings (wound strings actually) can be covered with plastic or other materials to protect them from corrosion.
Coils In a magnetic pick-up, wire wound around a non-conductive core to create an electro-magnet.
Combo (amp)
A combo amp contains both speakers and amplifier. The alternative is a head, which contains just the amplifier, which you would plug into an external independent speaker.
Composite Carbon fiber materials used in guitar building.
Concert (Grand Concert)
Guitar Glossary Concert formGuitar design: Small guitar form
Cross picking Playing style: technique for playing the guitar using a pick in a rolling, syncopated style across three strings.
Cutaway Guitar Glossary CutawayGuitar design: indentation in the upper bout adjacent to the neck of the instrument, designed to allow easier access to higher notes.
D.I. Electronic device utilizing a transformer or amplifier to change the electrical output of an electric instrument to the impedance and level usually obtained from a microphone. A D.I. can be used as a pre-amplifier but to direct the signal to a mixer or a P.A. system. Check our selection.
Dreadnought Guitar Glossary: dreadnoughtGuitar design: the most known guitar form, as designed by Martin in 188o and named after a 19th century battleship: a large and full sounding guitar!
Ebony Guitar Glossary EbonyEbony is widely used for fretboard. Macassar ebony is an exotic dark tone wood used for back and sides.
Engelmann Spruce Tonewood used for guitar tops - slightly louder and more projective or "open" sound than Sitka spruce
F-Hole Guitar Glossary: F-HoleGuitar design: holes carved in the top of the guitar, similar to violins holes. F-holes are mainly found on arch-top guitars.
Fifth string The fifth string of a standard 6-string guitar is the fifth one when you start counting from the bottom of you fingerboard. Why the fifth string matters? In standard tuning, it is tuned on the 440Hz frequency (A-440)
Finger picking
Plucking hand playing technique, derived from Banjo’s playing. The thumb is playing a bass line – as the left hand would do for a piano – while other fingers are playing the melodic line.
Fingerboard A strip of wood on the neck of a stringed musical instrument against which the strings are pressed in by fingers.
First string First string at the bottom of the fingerboard (and not the first string you see when you are playing) – You will share on your tuning from the 6th to the 1st string… Strange!
Flat picking Playing style: technique using a guitar pick held between two or three fingers to strike the strings. See also strumming and cross picking.
Flat top Flat Top designed steel string guitars – in opposition to the Arch Top of the Mandolins.they have been replacing in the 20th century.
Flatwound Winding wire with a rectangular cross section
Fossilized ivory Petrified animal bones or teeth used as a substitute for elephant tusk
French polish Varnish used with classical guitars
Fret Metal bar placed on the fingerboard
Fretboard Fretted fingerboard
Fundamental tone (s) Leading tone(s) generated by the vibration of the string(s).
Gauge Refers to the diameter of the strings – used for steel string guitars.
Gear Head
see machine head
Gloss (finish) A highly reflective, shiny surface obtained through varnishing the guitar.
Grand Auditorium See Auditorium
Graphite See Composite
Halfwound Winding wire with an hybrid cross section: half rectangular and half round
Hammer-on Playing style: technique where the sound is obtained by pressing the fretboard while the string is still vibrating (without plucking the string again).

1 - When strings are vibrating they produce a leading tone, called fundamental tone. At the same time, other tones are generated (see overtones). Those producing the same note on higher and lower octave are called harmonics.

2 – On a guitar, when you are gently pressing the strings on some specific parts of the fretboard (infamous 12th fret in particular) and plucking the strings, you get what is generally called harmonics.
Headstock The headstock is located at the end of the guitar. It is fitted with machine heads that adjust the tension of the strings. Headstock can be an independent part, glued to the neck, or just part of the neck in its own right.
Hex core Core wire with an hexagonal cross section – allows the winding wire not move compared to a round wire
Indian Rosewood
Guitar Glossary Indian rosewoodTone wood used for back and sides to give warm and darkness to the tone of the guitar. It is also used for fingerboards
Inlays Guitar Glossary InlaysDecorative materials set into the wooden surface of the guitar. Abalone and Mother of pearl are preferred materials for inlays.
Laminated woods (Sometimes referred as veneer) Building technique where a guitar panel is built with multiple layers of wood.
Lubricating oil seal Part of some machine heads where gearing mechanical parts are sealed in an oil bath, allowing smoother and finer tuning
Machine Head Guitar Glossary Machine HeadMechanism generally set on the headstock to adjust the tension of the strings to the desired tune. (also referred to as a tuner, gear head, or tuning machine)
Magnetic pick-up Magnetic system where guitar vibrations are transformed in electric vibrations through a coil responding to the magnetic field generated by steel strings
Mahogany Tone wood most often used to make the back, sides, or neck of a guitar. It is sometimes used to make the top as well. Guitars with mahogany soundboards tend to have a softer, darker tone than those made from spruce.

Guitar Glossary MapleTonewood more acoustically transparent due to its lower velocity of sound and high degree of internal damping.  It can be used for back and sides, to allow tonal characteristic of the top being heard without the addition of significant tonal coloration.

Species: big leaf, quilted (picture) sugar, and bearclaw
Mother of pearl
Guitar Glossary Mother of PearlIridescent internal layer of a mollusk shell, used for guitar inlays.
Neck Guitar Glossary NeckPart of the guitar that projects from the main body and is the base of the fingerboard
Nitrocellulose Lacquer used to varnishing guitars – do not obtrude woods’ pores and allow breathing
Nut Guitar Glossary NutStrip, between the fretboard and headstock, on which the guitar strings sit.
Open tuning

Any other tuning then eBGDAE (see standard tuning) – combination are numerous. Most famous are drop tuning (DADGBE), DADGAD, DADF#AD or DGDGBD (Rolling stones’ favourite)

Overtones Overtones are frequencies generated by all part of the guitar when strings are ringing, beyond the fundamental tone. Overtones give the color to the instrument, compared to pure fundamental tones. Try the “guitar” selection on a cheap keyboard and you’ll hear quickly the difference between fundamental and overtones.
P.A. Electronic amplification system. Similar to an amplifier combo but designed to handle multiple sources such as voice, instruments and play-back devices such as an I-pod. A preferred choice for singer/songwriters performing solo.
Parlor Guitar glossary parlorGuitar design : small form
Peg Guitar Glossary PegScrew used for making the strings on a guitar tighter or looser
See headstock
Phantom (power)
DC electrical power coming from an electronic device (such as an Amplifier or a D.I.) used mainly for active microphones.
Pick Guitar Glossary PickSmall thin device used to pluck a stringed instrument
Pickguard Guitar Glossary PickguardThin covering glued to the top of a guitar to protect it from picks and fingernails

Electronic or magnetic system intended to transform mechanical vibrations into an electric signal, so as to amplify the guitar sound through speakers. Check our selection.

Piezzo (pick-up) Electronic system where guitar vibrations are transformed in electric vibrations through a fabric of crystals. This fabric generally lay under the saddle.
Plectrum See Pick
Polyester (varnish) Resin based varnish – more durable than nitrocellulose but thick layers may compromise woods’ tonality – a preferred choice for mass producing
Polyethurane (varnish) Resin base varnish – similar to polyester
Power chord While chords are made of at least three different notes, power chords are generally made out of two notes, giving a more focus sound .
Pre-amp Electronic device that detects and strengthens weak signals coming from pick-ups and/or microphones, to prepare for proper processing in an amplifier. Check our selection.
Pull-off Playing style: technique where the sound is obtained by releasing a string from the fretboard while it is still vibrating (without plucking the string again).
Purfling Purfling is an inlay placed close to the edge of the soundboard (but not at the edge where you find the binding) which both offer a cosmetic upgrade to the guitar and avoid possible cracks in the soundboard to extend to the bindings
Radius Guitar Glossary RadiusCurve of the fretboard. Can be flat (classical guitars) but is generally round with the fretboard being closer to the strings in the middle.
Red spruce See Adirondack Spruce
Rosette Ornamental circular band surrounding the central hole of the guitar.

Tonewood used for back and sides, producing complex overtones. Also used for fingerboards and bridges.

Species: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar
Roundback Round guitar back design, famous with Ovation guitars where full back and sides are replaced by one single round composite part
Roundwound Winding wire with a round cross section
Saddle Guitar Glossary SaddleStrip, on top of the bridge, on which the guitar strings sit.
Satin (finish) In opposition to gloss finish: softer look and touch varnishing.
Scale length Length of strings between the bridge and the nut, which corresponds to the sounding length of the strings.
Scalloped Guitar Glossary ScallopedFretboard building design where the fretboard is slightly carved in to facilitate pressure of fingers against the frets.
Sides Side parts of the soundboard.
Silver platted (strings)
Winding wires used on bass strings are sometimes silver platted. Silver offer distinctive sound appreciated by Jazz players, as well as hypoallergenic characteristics.
Sitka Spruce Tonewood used for guitar tops – extremely vibrant– the reference on today’s market – facing extension issue due to over harvesting

1 - Playing style where a bottleneck is used above the fretboard without pressing on the strings, creating continuous transitions in pitch.

2 - technique where the sound is obtained by shifting finger on the fretboard while the string is still vibrating (without plucking the string again).
Slim Body Guitar design: guitar form where sides are thinner – a slim body can reduce feed backs for electr-acoustic guitars, it can also offer better playability.
Solid wood Is said of a part made with a unique wood piece, compared to parts made of laminated woods or with two pieces (a solid or laminated wood core with veneer cover glued on it). Solid wood parts, in particular for top and soundboard, are considered to offer a better and richer tone to guitars.
Soundboard Guitar Glossary SoundboardPart of the guitar composed of the top, bridge and saddle
Soundbox Part of the guitar composed of top, back and sides: the “resonating box”
Soundhole Hole placed on the soundbox: generally in the middle of the top, but can be offset or even placed on the sides
Speaker Device that converts electric signals, coming from an amplifier, into the equivalent air vibrations in order to make audible sound.

Tonewood mainly used for guitar tops because of their good resonance quality.

Species: Sitka, Adirondack (a.k.a red spruce), Engelmann
Standard tuning Guitars are generally tuned, from 6th to 1st string string, as follows: EADGBe
Except if your are using your guitar as a loom, those are the things you pluck to make some sound (music or noise, it depends...)
Strumming Playing style: technique using a guitar pick or fingers to strike several strings simultaneously to play rhythm.
Sustainable wood Term that is used without any clear definition! It relates mainly to woods that are not endangered or endangered woods that are harvested under a controlled process allowing woods resources to be preserved.
Tailpiece Guitar Glossary TailpieceTriangular piece of material to which the lower ends of the strings are fastened. Used mainly on Arch-Top guitars but also available on some Flat tops.
Tapping Playing style: technique where the sound is obtained by tapping the fretboard and make the string vibrate without plucking it.
Tonewoods Tonewoods are woods that are used for their tone characteristics in musical instruments
Top Top part of the soundbox, generally made of two wood parts glued to each other.
Transducer A device that convert a signal type (such as mechanical) into a different type of signal (such as electrical). Pick ups and microphones are transducers.
Truss Road Part used to stabilize and adjust the lengthwise forward curvature of the neck and allow to set action adapted to strings tension. The truss rod is generally located inside the neck and can be adjusted from a bolt located within the soundhole, at the end of the neck.

1/ As part of the guitar, see machine head

2/ Mechanical or electronic device used to adjusting strings tension to required tune
Tuning machine see machine head
Twelve-strings Guitar

The 12-string guitar is an acoustic or electric guitar with 12 strings in 6 courses, which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. Essentially, it is a type of guitar with a natural chorus effect due to the subtle differences in the frequencies produced by each of the two strings on each course. Listen to virtuoso Australian John Butler playing 12-string ! Check our selection.

Veneer Thin slice of wood glued onto a core panel. The term is also used for laminated parts, in opposition to solid wood.
Walnut Tonewood, generally (yet rarely) used for top – lot of bass and sustain
Wound strings

Guitar Glossary Wound stringsStrings made of a core wire (generally steel) wrapped with another wire.

XLR (connector) Guitar Glossary XLR connectorMulti-pins audio connector mainly used for microphones. Can be found on guitars including active pick-ups. Used with adapted cable and amplifier (or D.I.) can manage both Phantom power and audio signals.