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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Peghead - Top of the instrument where the tuners
- 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
- Saddles - Piece of bridge that holds the string in
- 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