Here’s a list of terms, words and phrases with short definitions. I tried to make this list as thorough and complete as possible but it’s inevitable I forgot some things. So I’ll be adding to this throughout time. If you’d like to know what lesson videos/related blog posts I have about a certain term, use my search bar to the right to find a lesson video for where you’re at in your playing. Or you can go to my Free Lessons page and click on the appropriate tab. I typically have PDF’s, Play Alongs or Backing Tracks that can aid in your learning process as well!
If you have a question or a word suggestion for me to cover here, head over to my Contact page and shoot me a note in the “message” box and I’ll be sure to add it.
5 Chords – Also known as Power Chords – These are chords comprised of two notes, the 1st and the 5th.
7th Chords – These types of chords consist of 4 notes, using variable degrees. There are Major 7 (1-3-5-7), Dominant 7 (1-3-5-b7), Minor 7 (1-b3-5-b7), m7b5 (1-b3-b5-b7) and Diminished 7 (1-b3-b5-bb7).
Alt Chords – These are a type of Dominant 7 Chord. Typically they have some sort of upper extension (9, 11, 13) that’s altered, or sharp/flat. Example: If you see a C7alt, you can play C7#9, C7#5b9 or C7#5#9
Alternate Picking – This is the picking technique of picking down on one note and up on the next. Then down on the next note and up on the following note. The pattern constantly changes between down and up, down and up.
Arpeggio – Playing the notes of the chord is succession, much like a scale. It incorporates the same notes as a chord (1-3-5 or 1-b3-5 or 1-3-5-7 or any other chord variation) but instead of strumming the chord, picking each note individually. Typically arpeggios follow the same order of the chord as well. Example: 1-3-5-1-3-5-1-3-5 not 1-5-3-5-1. This is how they’re played normally, not always though.
Augmented – A type of Chord that has a #5. The formula is 1-3-#5.
B Section – This sometimes is pretty vague. If a song has a section that is repeated often, it’s referred to as the A section, the next section of the song would then be the B section. It’s basically the next section of the song but can be either the chorus or bridge.
Barre Chord – A chord that includes no open strings, only fretted notes. Typically including a majority of the strings.
Bending – This is when a string is pulled up or down on the fretboard, changing the initial pitch.
Borrowed Chords – A chord that is borrowed from a closely related key. Closely related to refers to keys close to the original key within the circle of fourths or the major/minor equivilant of the initial key.
Bridge – Typically a part of the song that happens once. Most commonly heard after the second Chorus or Refrain.
CAGED – A visualization tool that organizes the fretboard using barred versions of our open chords: C, A, G, E and D. This is a way to play and visualize chords, arpeggios, scales and modes throughout the neck.
Capo – A guitar gizmo that allows the user to play familiar chord shapes higher on the neck, without having to barre their index finger. This is often used to transpose a song to another key while still maintaining the same playability or chord shapes.
Chord – A group of notes organized by a certain formula. This typically refers to three notes or four note groupings, but can include more notes depending on the extension. A chord is when all the notes are played, picked or strum simultaneously, as opposed to an arpeggio which plays them separately.
Chord Melody – A piece of music that includes both the melody (singing part) and harmony (chords) played at the same time.
Chord Tones – Usually referred to when discussing soloing/lead guitar. This is thinking of the notes in the chords while soloing or playing lead guitar.
Chords as Numbers – Referring to chords in a key in the order they appear in the scale. This can be referred to as Roman Numerals (I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii) or numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Upper case roman numerals refer to that chord being major, lower case roman numerals refer to that chord being minor. Each number stays the same regardless of what key your in and how the note names change because each key utilizes the same scale formula.
Chorus – This refers to the catchiest part of the song. The lyrics tend to be the same in each Chorus and typically has the title of the song within those stated lyrics. Sometimes referred to as “Refrain”.
Chromatic – Notes that either ascend of descend by half steps (one fret), regardless of whether the notes are in the key/scale/chord.
Diatonic – Notes that only follow what’s found in the initial key.
Diminished – Diminished triad formula is 1-b3-b5, a diminished 7th chord formula is 1-b3-b5-bb7. Whole diminished is a diminished 7th chord (1-b3-b5-bb7). A half diminished chord is referring to a m7b5 built 1-b3-b5-b7. The whole diminished chord is unique because it’s built on consecutive minor 3 intervals (3 frets apart).
Dominant 7 – A type of chord that is built using this formula (1-3-5-b7). There is only one Dominant 7 chord per key so it tends to ‘dominate’ the key.
Dorian – A type of scale built using this formula: 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7.
Drop D Tuning – This tuning is the same as our Standard Tuning only our low E string (6th string) is tuned down a whole step to a D note. The tuning then becomes (Low to High or 6th string to 1st string) D-A-D-G-B-E.
Enharmonic – A different name for the same note. Example: A# is on the 6th fret, 6th string. Bb is on the 6th fret, 6th string. A# and Bb are enharmonic.
Economy Picking – Similar to Alternate Picking only always using a down stroke when switching between strings.
Extended Chords – A chord that is built by continually stacking thirds, even beyond the 5th note or the 7th note and going as high as the 13th note.Example: 1-3-5-7-9-11-13. (9=2 only up an octave | 11=4 only up an octave | 13 = 6 only up an octave).
Fills – A short melodic line presceeding or at the end of a chord progression or musical bar.
Finger Picking – Using your fingers to pluck individual strings.
Fingerstyle – Using your fingers to pluck individual strings. This is typically a combination of both finger picking and chord melody (playing both the melody/harmony of a song).
Flat (b) – This refers to a type of note. Flat means a half step before the note. Example: A is on the 6th string, 5th fret | Ab is on the 6th string, 4th fret.
Hammer-ons – Picking a note and playing the next note without picking it, just placing your finger on the desired fret. Always ascending in musical tones (notes).
Half Step – One fret. Can either be ascending one fret or descending one fret. This refers to the actual movement between notes, not the note itself. For example: B is a half step away from C. That movement is called a half step. Notice how it includes two notes (B and C).
Harmonic Minor – A scale that is built using this formula: 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7.
Harmonics (Natural) – Notes performed by lightly (and I do mean lightly, hardly touching the string) placing your fingers above the fret (above the actual metal bar). They can be found on the (easiest to hardest frets) 12th, 7th, 5th, 4th, 9th, 3rd and 2 and a half frets. Two and half means between the 2nd and 3rd frets.
Harmonics (Artificial) – A technique to get the same sound of a natural harmonics only with any note.
Harmony – Refers to the underlying chord of a song/melody.
Hook – The catchy part of the song, typically synonymous with the chorus or refrain.
Horizontal Scales – Playing a scale on one string or sometimes a limited amount of strings.
Hybrid Picking – Using your pick and fingers at the same time to either play lead or rhythm guitar.
Interval – The amount of space between 2 notes. Interval exercises are all done diatonic to the scale, but can also be chromatic if a specific interval is described.
Intro – The beginning of a song. Short for “Introduction”.
Inversion – A chord with another chord tone as the lowest note. For example: Major chord is 1-3-5. An inversion would be those same notes in a different order with a different first note: 3-1-5, 3-5-1, 5-1-3, 5-3-1. Can be used with major, minor, 7th chords and extended chords. The example of 1-5-3 would not be an inversion because our first note is still the same.
Key – What scale makes up the notes of the melody/harmony.
Lead Guitar – Guitar parts that have a more melodic (single note) function than harmonic (chord) function.
Leading Tone – The note a half step before the root note.
Lick – A short musical lead guitar part usually consisting of single notes.
Lydian Dominant – A scale made with this formula: 1-2-3-#4-5-6-b7.
m7b5 – A chord/arpeggio made with this formula: 1-b3-b5-b7.
Major 7 – A chord/arpeggio made with this formula: 1-3-5-7.
Major Scale – The basis of all of our scales and most music theory which includes only 7 notes. It is made up of a formula of our root note (1) and a series of half steps (H) and whole steps (W). The numbers refer to the number we give each note following the series of half steps and whole steps. Here is that formula: 1 (W) 2 (W) 3 (H) 4 (W) 5 (W) 6 (W) 7 (H) 8 = 1 again.
Melody – The singing part of the song or the main/memorable part of the song. What you’d hum if it’s an instrumental song.
Minor 7 – A chord/arpeggio made with this formula: 1-b3-5-b7.
Minor Scale – There are 3 Minor Scales. Here are each of their formulas: Natural Minor (Aeolian) – 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 | Harmonic Minor – 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 | Melodic Minor – 1-2-b3-4-5-6-7.
Mixolydian – A scale built using this formula: 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7
Modal – Music that lacks a leading tone to it’s root.
Mode – Greek for “mood”. Basically another word for scale. Common modes are: Dorian, Mixolydian, Lydian and Aeolian.
Natural Note – When turning a flat/sharp note back to it’s natural state. Example: Moving an Ab up a half step makes it A (Natural). Typically to clarify what type of A it is, if a different type of A was seen earlier in the song.
Neck – The part of the guitar that has the frets and fretboard on it.
Note – One musical tone/pitch. We refer to notes as letters and sharps and flats. Musical Alphabet is: A-A#/Bb-B-C-C#/Db-D-D#/Eb-E-F-F#/Gb-G-G#/Ab. There are only 12 notes.
Open Chords – Chords that utilize open strings.
Open Scales – Scales that utilize open strings.
Open Strings – Strings that are played that have no fretted notes or fingers on it.
Outro – The last or ending part of a song.
Palm Muting – A technique in which we use our palm to lightly touch the guitar by the bridge to mute the strings we’re playing.
Parallel Scale – A scale that has different notes, but the same root note. Example: C major and C minor.
Pentatonic – A scale comprising of 5 notes. A major pentatonic scale is the same notes as our major scale, only omitting the 4th and 7th note. A minor pentatonic scale is the same as our natural minor (aeolian) scale, only omitting the 2nd and 6th note.
Power Chords – Also known as 5 chord – These are chords comprised of two notes, the 1st and the 5th.
Prechorus – The section of the song that is different from the verse, preceding the chorus.
Progression – A group of chords played in a specific order.
Pull-offs – Picking a note and playing the next note without picking it, just placing your finger on the desired fret. Always descending in musical tones (notes).
Quartal Chords – Chords built by stacking 4ths, not 3rds.
Refrain – This refers to the catchiest part of the song. The lyrics tend to be the same in each Refrain and typically has the title of the song within those stated lyrics. Sometimes referred to as “Chorus”.
Relative Scale – A scale that has the same notes, but different root note. Example: C major and A minor.
Rhythms – I refer to Strumming Patterns as Rhythms.
Rhythm Guitar – The style of playing guitar mostly revolved around playing chords and strumming.
Riff – A short musical rhythm guitar part usually consisting of single notes.
Scale – A series of notes, typically 7 notes, in a specific order or sequence. All scales are based around our major scale with altering the notes of the major scale to make up our new one.
Shape – A way to visualize familiar chord/arpeggio/scale forms across the fretboard.
Sharp (#) – This refers to a type of note. Sharp means a half step above the note. Example: A is on the 6th string, 5th fret | A# is on the 6th string, 6th fret.
Slash Chord – A type of inversion. The first half of the slash chord is the chord itself, the second half is it’s lowest note. Example: G/B = G chord with the lowest note as a B.
Slides – Using one finger to move between notes, only picking the first note.
Standard Tuning – The tuning that has been standardized on the guitar. This tuning is (Low to High | 6th string to 1st string) E-A-D-G-B-E.
Strumming – Playing all the strings intended at once. You can strum both down (from our lowest string to our highest string) or up (from our highest string to our lowest string).
Sus Chord – A type of chord that omits the 3rd and replaces it with either the 2nd or the 4th of the chord.
Theory – The explanation of why things sound good (or bad). Theory comes after something is written to provide a template and explanation of why it sounds the way it does. Music happens first, theory comes after.
Tonal – The presense of a leading tone, giving extra emphasis to the intended root note.
Transposing – The ability to move a chord progression, scale, or melody to a different key, utilizing the same numbers to achieve the same order of notes.
Triads – Three note versions of major/minor chords. A Chord essentially is a triad with doublings of either the root (1), 3 or 5. Triads are just the three notes that’s needed to make up a chord.
Vamp – A repeating musical phrase that is repeated until otherwise stated or that is repeated for an extended period of time.
Verse – A portion of the song that’s lyrics change but structure, harmony and melody stays the same. Often referred to as the A section.
Vibrato – The slight “wiggle” or “wobble” of a note or chord. It’s not so severe that the note actually changes pitches to another note, rather slightly moves away from the initial note for the sound effect.
Whole Step – Two frets. Can either be ascending two frets or descending two frets. This refers to the actual movement between notes, not the note itself. For example: B is a whole step away from C#. That movement is called a whole step. Notice how it includes two notes (B and C#).