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Dictionary Of Guitar Terms

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  • 12 String Guitar - Unsurprisingly a guitar with 12 strings, it features the normal notes but each of the 6 normal strings has another string next to it which is pitched an octave higher. These guitars give a fuller sound when playing chords.
  • Acoustic Guitar - A guitar whose sound is produced through the natural vibration of the wood and doesn't need any electronics or amplifiers to make it work.
  • Active Leads - Leads with a battery and electronics in them that boost the sound signal to cut out hiss and to make the sound better. They are especially useful if you use very long leads.
  • Alternate Thumb Technique - Fingerstyle playing where you combine playing the playing of chords and the bass line. You play the chord and then the bass note alternately. Eric Clapton's 'Tears In Heaven' is a good example of this.
  • Amplifier - Electronic device which increases the volume of the guitar.
  • Axe - Slang for guitar.
  • Barré - It is a bar created by the guitarists fingers which is positioned across the strings. It allows a moveable cord to be produced.
  • Bassists - Funny creatures, they stand motionless on stage looking gormless playing the same low note over and over again before eventually venturing onto a new note. The bassist is usually the least musically able person in the band. Your sound would be too tinny without them though so they are worth having. Read some Bassist Jokes on my Joke Page.
  • Beatles - The greatest guitar band ever.
  • Bend - Where you physically push or pull a string of your guitar with your fingers causing it to bend and so raising the pitch of the note.
  • Bottle Neck Slide - Metal Tube that slides over one of your left hand fingers so that you can slide the pitch of notes and chords up and down smoothly easily, and without slashing your fingers to bits.
  • B - String Bender - Device on some Telecasters which allows the B - string to be stretched. It is used in country music.
  • Cappo - Device that clips over the fingerboard of the guitar to raise the pitch of all the strings.
  • Clean Sound - The natural sound of your guitar. A clean sound often sounds like an acoustic guitar.
  • Distorted Sound - A sound which has been made 'dirty'. In its extreme form it makes a very growly sound. It's used in most rock, pop and metal to varying degrees.
  • Dive-bomb - You suddenly drop the pitch of the note/chord by pushing the whammy bar right down.
  • E-Bow - Gadget that allows the sustain of your guitar to last forever.
  • Feedback - Where the sound from the amp is picked up by the pickups, goes back to the amplifier and is amplified further. This loop causes that very high pitched screaming sound called feedback.
  • Fingerstyle - Playing your guitar with your fingers. Used by guitarists such as Mark Knoffler and me.
  • Fret - The pieces of metal that go across the fretboard.
  • Fret Wanker - Someone who is into playing hundreds of noted every second, they are technically brilliant but what they play is utter shite.
  • God - A name sometimes applied to Eric Clapton on account of him being able to play the electric guitar.
  • Hammering On - It sounds rude but it is actually where you play a note and then using one of the fingers of your left hand 'hammer' it onto the next higher note. You do not pick the second note. It is the opposite of pulling off.
  • Headstock - The top of the guitar, its where all the tuners are.
  • Humbucker - Basically two single coil pickups stuck with the wire of each being coiled around in opposite directions and connected together. It helps to get rid of that guitar hum. They also produce more output than single pickups.
  • Left Hand Mute - Where you have your left hand fingered on the notes or chord but you are not pushing down fully which creates a short thuddy sound when you play. If you use loads of distortion then you can get a nice crunchy sound with this technique.
  • Nut - The bit that is between the fingerboard and the headstock that the strings pass over and touch.
  • Palm Mutes - Where you damp the strings lightly with your right hand to stop the note from ringing after you've played it. This creates a short thuddy sound when you play.
  • Pickup - The device that picks up the vibrations of the strings and converts them into electrical signals.
  • Plectrum - Plastic thing that you pick the strings with. Usually tear shaped. Sometimes called a pick.
  • Pulling Off - The opposite of hammering on. You play a note and then pull the left hand finger which is on the note off sideways so that you get a lower note.
  • Rhythm Playing - If you're playing guitar and you're not doing a solo then you are probably doing rhythm guitar. It is seen by many people as just strumming the chords to make a rhythm for the song but you can do a lot more with it. Listen to Suede's Coming Up. The only solo is in Trash, the rest of Richard Oakes' parts are all rhythm playing. Beautiful Ones and Saturday Night are two good examples of what you can do with it.
  • Riff - A rhythmic figure played many times in a song. It is apparently a shortened version of the word refrain.
  • Scales - Boring as hell but essential if you ever want to do any improvising or make up your own solos. The basically act as a template telling you what notes you can play when in a certain key.
  • Slide - Where you slide your left hand fingers up or down the fretboard to raise or lower the pitch of the note.
  • Solo - A lead part, for us guitarists it is played on guitar. It is your chance to dazzle people with your amazing skills and playing ability. Or as is often the case it is a chance to bore your audience with aimless fretboard widdling.
  • Stairway To Heaven - A song by Led Zeppelin which is a standard piece for guitarists. Everyone should know it but never play it as it is too much of a cliché, NEVER ever play it in a guitar shop. People who do so are liable to be chucked out and quite right so.
  • Standard Tuning - Where the strings are tuned (low pitch to high pitch) E, A, D, G, B, E.
  • TAB - A type of guitar notation that is very easy to learn and read. See my Essential Guitar Riffs Page for some examples of this.
  • Trashing Your Guitar - The act of smashing your guitar up, usually on stage. Many people exchange their nice guitar for a cheap one a few songs before the trashing act and smash up the cheap guitar instead. It is pretty pointless but can look quite good from the audience. This seems a bit weird as surely by trashing your guitar you are trying to show that you have no respect for equipment, but if this is the case why swap guitars for a nackered in second hand one?
  • Tremolo - The Handle that lets you lower the pitch of the note. Also called a whammy bar.
  • Twin Necked Guitar - A guitar which has two necks such as the one that Jimmy Page is famed for using. One of the necks features the normal six strings and the other has 12 strings. It allows you to play solos and have the advantage of 12 note chords with out having to change guitars.
  • Wrong key - A crappy excuse (lie) given by people when they play the wrong note. They will say something like "Ooops, I'm playing in the wrong key" in an attempt to cover up for the fact that they dropped a bollock.
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