If you see a word, phrase, or acronym on this blog you don’t understand, you will find it below in the alphabetical listing.
A word highlighted in italics is another word also defined in this glossary.
Many of the below terms are mine, and many were originally created by others.
Some meanings have evolved from all recognition. Some of the words below I use with a different meaning from the original intention and I use them in a very specific context, as defined below.
Whenever I use these terms, I am referring to the definitions below, not any definitions you may have heard elsewhere.
Arrangement – reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of re-harmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure
Arpeggio – A chord played one note at a time. A liquid` or broken chord, usually played evenly low to high and back again.
ATE- Autonomic Tone Efficiency. The ability to hear and decipher the core elements of a song and then transcribe them quickly. You should always be striving to improve your ATE.
Bar – A sub division of time in music. A bar last 4 beats in 4/4 time or 3 beats in 3/4 time.
Barre Chord – From the French term barre. The technique of placing the left hand index finger over two to six strings in the fingering of a chord. The great advantage of using barre chords is that they are “moveable shapes” that can be applied at practically any fret.
Big Brother theory – Big brothers nearly always think they are correct and their little brother or sisters must learn exactly as they tell them. A lot of the time the big brother is only showing them one way, not the only way. Take what they say with a pinch of salt. It doesn`t have to be a big brother, it can be any guitarist you look up to.
BB – Battle Buddy. A military term used in music to represent a friend who is learning alongside you.
BPM – Beats per minute, or tempo. Defines the “click speed” of the metronome.
Break, Blast – A practice method meaning you play something 10 x slow (break) and then 1 x fast (blast)
Bridge – The bridge is located on the body of the guitar and transfers sound from the strings to the body of the guitar.
CCP – Common Chord Progressions. Chord progressions that you hear on a daily basis in songs everywhere. You should know at least 5 of these and ideally 10. I-V-VI-IV (as used by Axis of Awesome) is one of the most popular.
CROS – Core Repertoire of Songs. The songs you play to high standard on a regular basic. These are your `go-to` songs that you are 100% confident with.
Capo – A mechanical barre that attaches to the neck of a guitar by means of a string, spring, elastic or nylon band, or a lever and thumbscrew arrangement. The capo can be used to raise the key of a song to suit a vocalist as well as to lower the action and shorten the string length.
Chicken Scratching – The strings are being “scratched” (strummed) with the pick, while the left hand is damping the strings (touching the strings lightly). Produces a rhythmic effect in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.
Chord – A group of three or more notes played simultaneously.
Chord chart – A diagram which shows a chord progression.
Chord progression – A sequence of chords played one after another.
Chorus – the centrepiece for most songs. This is the `hook` point and what a song usually leads to. Most songs will have 3-4 choruses
Chromatic Scale – a twelve-note scale which utilises every note. Jazz and composers such as Chopin use this frequently.
CWAS – `Classical With A Strap`. The best and most efficient way for a guitarist to sit as described here.
DADGAD Tuning – a popular alternate tuning where the six strings of the guitar are tuned, low to high, to D,A,D,G,A and D. This is often used in Celtic music.
Diatonic – the notes used in a given major scale or the chords derived from the triads of that scale.
Dotted Note – a dot added to a note in order to give it more length; a dotted half note is three beats long; a dotted quarter note is one and a half beats long, etc.
Double Stops – simultaneously playing two notes on adjacent strings. Popularised and used a lot by Chuck Berry.
`Doubting Days` – The times where you are not yet hooked on the guitar and doubt whether or not you will be good enough to play it, or whether or not the effort is worth it. Usually happens frequently in the first months and drops off over time. Every single good or great guitarist has had frequent or even many doubting days.
Drop D Tuning – an alternate tuning in which the low E string is tuned down a whole step to D. Commonly used in modern rock and metal as well as some acoustic styles. Often used to make difficult passages easier as well as extend the range of notes available to us.
Dynamics – changes in volume or tempo while playing.
Eighth Note – a note of a half a beat’s duration.
Fill – A short musical phrase that fills a space in the music. Similar to riffs except that riffs are usually repeated note by note while fills usually are different each time.
Finger picks – Banjo-style picks that fingerstyle guitarists use when playing steel-string instruments.
Fingerpicking/Fingerstyle – Playing with the fingernails or fingertips with or without fingerpicks as opposed to playing with a pick.
Flatpick – A triangular or teardrop-shaped piece of nylon or plastic used to pluck or strum guitar strings. Flatpicks are available in a large variety of shapes, sizes, and thickness
F.R.A.T – Fundamentals, Repertoire, Aural, Technique (One of my unique practice plans) that covers the essential elements of learning guitar properly.
F.P.A – Fun Perfection Axis – The balance between enjoying the guitar – `fun` and pushing yourself harder – `Perfection`. Some people will naturally lean towards fun and some perfection. Imagine it is a set of weighing scales. The aim is to never let the scales tip over the edge of one side.
Too much fun = zero progress. Too much perfection = no enjoyment and eventual dislike for guitar.
G.A.S – can mean either ‘Gear acquisition syndrome’ or ‘Guitar acquisition syndrome’, a compulsion to buy even more gear/guitars
Half Note – a note of two beats’ duration.
Half Step – the distance of one fret
H.C.T – Highly Critical Thinking. A must for when trying to improve your guitar skills. You must be always striving for perfection for any piece you know. Don`t let little mistakes pass by unnoticed. HCT will help you get perfection and therefore better guitar skills, quicker.
Harmony – two or more notes played simultaneously
Interval – the distance, in terms of steps and half steps of one note from another.
I.P.T – Inefficient Practice Time – The time wasted on minor or pointless things when practising. This should be absolutely minimised.
Key – the tonal center of a piece of music.
Metronome – a device used to audibly count out the tempo of music.
Modes – a scale created by taking a major scale and beginning on a note other than the root and going through the steps of the scale until reaching the starting note again. There are seven modes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian.
M.I.A = Made in America
M.I.J = Made in Japan
M.I.K = Made in Korea
M.I.M – Made in Mexico
M.I.U.S.A = Made in Unidentified Sweatshop of Asia
M.S.P – Minimum Stretch Point. The distance the index and pinky fingers of your fretting hand can stretch – usually measured in frets while that hand is on the fretboard.
M.U – Musical Arrhythmia. A term to describe a complete lack of rhythm. A myth as it can be improved with proper training.
N.G.D = new guitar/gear day, a day, in which you get a new guitar or gear.
Nut – notched strip of hard plastic, bone or other material located between the neck and the headstock on the guitar’s fingerboard.
Octave – an interval of eight named notes from the root note, always bearing the same name as the root note.
Open Tuning – tuning the strings of the guitar so that they create an easily identifiable chord when strummed without any stings being fretted
P.A – Performance Anxiety
Part-Time Strummer – A guitarist who has no intention of ever really improving, other than being able to strum a few Oasis or Beatles songs to impress their friends with. Most part-time strummers don`t realise that they have done a lot of the hard work by getting to this stage and a little more work will help them become proper musicians.
Pinch – a fingerpicking technique where two notes are played simultaneously by the right hand by picking the lower one with the thumb and the higher one with a finger.
P.M.D – Perceptual Memory Distortion – This is when you remember something wrongly to how you learnt it. If you have ever learned a piece, played it 100% correctly, left it for a few weeks or months, played it again, assumed you are still playing the correct notes, but it doesn`t sound quite right or someone informs you it`s not quite right, that is PMD in action. It`s very common.
P.O.S – piece of shit, that damn piece of gear that is the bane of your existence or a very cheaply made piece of gear that is produced sub-par from the factory
Pups = guitar/bass pickups
S.A.B.R – Small Adjustments, Big Results. The little things that can be tweaked that don`t take much effort, but can yield huge results.
Sharp – an accidental sign indicating raising a note a half step.
Sixteenth Note – a note of one quarter of a beat’s duration
Slide – a left hand slurring technique involving sliding a finger from one fret to another.
Sub-Division – the way bars and beats are broken into smaller chunks eg. eighth notes, sixteenth notes, etc.
Sweet Spot – The ideal spot your fingers and hands should be placed to get the perfect sound. There are multiple sweet spots for different techniques.
Swing – playing eighth notes as the first and last of a set of triplets (as opposed to “straight eighths”.
Syncopation – Notes that fall on the offbeats.
TA – True Amusia: a clinical cognitive impairment which means the brain cannot process musical sounds properly to make sense of them. Researchers have found that less than 5% of people suffer from this condition.
Tablature – a system of reading music involving six horizontal lines (indicating the strings of the guitar) and numbers (indicating which frets to play in order to sound the notes).
Time Signature – usually indicated by a fraction at the start of a piece of music, the time signature will tell you how many beats each measure receives (the upper number of the fraction) and which type of note is designated as a single beat (the lower number).
Transcribing – The ability to workout and play and write down (if necessary) music by listening to it.
Transposing – changing the notes (and chords) of a song from one key to another
Trill – a left hand technique involving a rapid change from one note to the next higher (or lower) note.
Triplet – a note of a third of a beat’s duration.
Turnaround – a quick chord progression at the end of a song to prepare the listener for a second verse; usually ends on the V chord in a Twelve Bar Blues
Twelve Bar Blues – a standard blues song format involving specific chord changes over the course of twelve measures.
Vibrato – a left hand technique which adds a quavering quality to a note; usually used with notes of longer duration.
Whole Note – A note that lasts 4 beats
Whole Step – The distance of two frets