Common Guitar Slang and their Definition
If you’re a beginner guitarist, there’s a lot on your plate you need to digest. Other than learning the chords, the scales, and the finger picking techniques, there’s a whole lot of new words you’ll need to learn to entirely familiarize yourself with the dynamic world of the guitar. Each of these common guitar slang and their definition have been carefully recollected from popular forums such as Reddit meaning they’re popular phrases you’ll hear from musicians in the real-world.
Ax or Axe
Axe is a common slang used to refer to the guitar among most musicians. The phrase was used back in the 1950s during the reign of iconic musicians such as Benny Goodman, Charley Parker, Lester Young, and John Coltrane among others. Most of these musicians played the tenor sax leading us to suspect the phrase axe came from the word sax.
Other musicians such as Louis’ and Miles’, Lee Morgan, and Wynton Marsalis played the trumpet making the phrase axe a popular slung for the trumpet. Today, axe is a common slang that refers to the guitar.
Guitars come in many types with some featuring 7-strings, 12-strings, and 5-strings. But, the most common type of guitar among most guitarists is the 6-string guitar. Most legend guitarists such as Bryan Adams used the 6-string guitars nicknaming their guitars “six-string”. Composers and music bands went ahead to nickname their bands with the letter 6 being a common denominator (Les Six, 6 O’clock Saints, Vanity 6, Six in Six and, Six Organs of Admittance among others.
So, following such milestones, it has become certainly clear that the phrase six-string is used to describe the guitar.
Another common slang for the guitar is the jazz box. In most cases, the phrase jazz box is used to describe a semi-hollow style guitar that resembles violin-style f holes. This type of guitar is lighter than the standard thick bodied guitar and was commonly used by rock star musicians such as Dave Grohl and Chuke Berry. Due to its dominance in the Jazz and Rock genres, the phrase jazz box is commonly referred to the guitar in these two genres.
Most musicians in the UK and Southeast US have adapted the slang name gitfiddle or simply fiddle to refer to the guitar. The phrase was coined from the popular 15th century violin which had overlapping characteristics of both the guitar and the fiddle.
Keppi and keihas are both Finish names that describe a stick, rod, staff, or spear. Since the neck of a guitar resembles a stick or a spear, I’m assuming this phrase was borrowed from either of these. All the same, if you’re in Finland and you happen to hear the phrase keppi or keihas, I believe you’re now aware of which musical instrument they’re referring to.
You all know that a grater, also referred to a shredder, is a kitchen appliance that’s used to slice foods into small pieces. But, in French, this word can have a whole new meaning when it comes to music. In French, a guitar is referred to as une-gratte or une rape. But, when it comes to referring to an old guitar, most guitarists use the phrase grater instead.
So, there you have it. If you’re a beginner in the world of music, I believe you’re now aware of the common slang words used to refer to this common musical instrument. Apart from what we’ve mentioned here, there are plenty of other slang words that are available depending on where you come from.
So, if you have other slang words of the guitar at your disposal, please don’t hesitate to share them in our comments section below.
Glossary of Terms
Accent – An accented note is used to develop rhythms. Accented notes are not necessarily louder, but slightly more aggressive and have more attack than regular notes.
Action – The distance between the strings of a guitar and the fretboard. A lower action makes the guitar easier to play but may result in a buzzing noise (See Fret Buzz).
Arpeggios – When a guitar player plays a solo and plucks the notes of a chord in succession he is using arpeggios. In other words, Arpeggios are the notes of chords plucked individually instead of strummed.
Amp – The Amp is half of your rig, the other half is you and your guitar. . . Amps can range from a small 6 inch speaker to a wall of chaos. Amps go jointly with Volume.
Bridge – The bridge is the (usually shiny and silver) piece of metal on your guitar that sets the string height. It is on the body of the guitar and contains the saddles that the strings sit in.
Changes – Jazz and Blues songs use changes where each measure may be in a range. The Changes’ is the same as saying the Chord Progression’.
Double Stop – A soloing technique, used a lot in Blues, where a play frets two notes adjacent to each other.
Fret Buzz – The unwanted noise of the string vibrating against the frets. Can be fixed by increasing string tension or raising the action of your guitar.
Fret Hand – The hand that is used to fret the notes. Usually the left if you are right handed.
Flamenco – A style of guitar from mexico that holds a complex tradition to the country. It is played with different flicks on the finger and hand to create odd rhythms and melodies.
Geetar – Slang for Guitar. A Geetar may be used to describe a Guitar that is more folk or country in nature.
Groovin’ – Slang used when your really getting down with the beat. When a bass player is really locked in with the drummer and they are playing really tight, they are groovin’.
Harmonic Node – The point on a standing wave where is moves the least. Such as the middle of your hand if you pivot it.
Harmony – The use of different notes but the same rhythm to make a more expressive melody. Harmonies can be very complex or easy.
Harp Harmonics – When you fret a string and pluck it at the respective node or halfway point of the string. You can do this by placeing you picking hand finger over the string and plucking the string with your thumb.
Headstock – The Headstock is the piece of your guitar that contains the tuning pegs and is separated from the neck by the nut. It will also contain the brand name of your guitar and model.
Jam Session – A Jam session is between more than one player. Songs are usually based off of a simple groove and then improvised from beginning to end.
Lead – The lead is the part of the song that has the melody or solo. A lead line, or player, is usually single notes but not limited to single notes.
Legato – The opposite of Staccato, Legato is a technique where notes are played to their full value, long and connectected. Often to get a more Legato sound players will use long lines of slured notes on the same string.
Natural Harmonics – Natural harmonics are created when you place your finger on the string but done fret it and pluck it.
Nut – The nut of the guitar is on the opposite side of the bridge and sets the width of the strings at the headstock end of the guitar. Nuts are susceptible to being brittle after age and can break, but are easily replaced.
Neck – The neck is connected to the body of the guitar with bolts or glue, and is sometimes a complete piece that runs through the guitars body. The neck contains the fretboard and often times is the same piece of wood that contains the Headstock of the guitar.
Pizzicato – Used more often in orchestral strings. The string is plucked rather than played with a bow.
Pickup – The Pickup is a device made up of thousands of wraps of 42 gauge wire around a set of 4, 5, 6, or 7 magnets, depending on how many strings there are on your guitar. The magnets pickup the vibration of the steel string and convert it into electrical energy.
Picking Hand – The opposite hand of the fretting hand, this is the hand that is placed above the pickups or sound hole and is usually the right hand if you are primarily right handed.
Pinch Harmonics – Produced by the thumb or finger nail slightly touching the string immediately after it being plucked.
Practice – What is practice? Stories have been told about few guitarists who have developed a time in which they practice only the things they are struggling with. Rumor has it that practice can actually help playing techniques and sound.
Rumba – A collection of rhythms that originates from Africa. There are both Cuban and Spanish Rumas.
Rhythm – Rhythm is the length and accentuation of notes and tones at the speed of the tempo. Rhythm is usually thought of as being more important to drummers, however if a guitar player or bassist doesn’t have a good rhythm, someone is getting cut from the band.
Scales – The great fundamentals of music. Scales are a selected pattern of notes that are correct’ for playing melodies and solos.
Slides – When notes are tied together by sliding your finger up the fretboard instead of plucking the next note.
Strings – Long spaghetti like strands of silvery sound. Strings should be replaced if they become hard to keep in tune or star to rust.
Staccato – Also means short and separated. This is a technique of playing where each note is very short and has space between each following note.
Tuning pegs – The Strings are attachted to the tuning pegs and the pegs are wound to tighten the string and make them in tune. The tuning pegs, if you purchased your guitar at an authorized dealer, should be in the headstock, otherwise you are probably not playing a guitar.
Trill – Much like a Tremolo a Trill is a quick alteration between two notes. It can be used in all types of music.
Tremolo – A tremolo is a quick alteration of two notes at a blazing speed. You can use a whammy bar to do this is you wiggle it in both directions quickly. It may also be used to describe a picking technique where the player picks as fast as possible out of time.
Trembalo – Great slang from Stong Bad himself. Used in his reply to one of his fans when they ask if he knows how to play the guitar.
Virtuoso – Someone who has an exceedingly great talent for and instrument. Virtuoso is usually a word that describes guitarist but is not limited to guitarists.
Volume – Volume is the leading cause to hearing failure. Volume has also been linked to disturbance and police calls. However, volume has also been known to create large amount of adrenaline and fun. Volume is best used when up.