Arming the Artists

Terms every guitarist should know

Posted: 4th October 2022

So you’ve just picked up your first guitar, you’re learning fast and you’re on your way to becoming the next guitar hero. But what do all the different pieces do and how does your guitar make the sounds that it does? In this article, we explain some of the terms you might have heard referring to parts and the correct terms for your guitar and playing.

Read time: 4 mins


Headstock - The top part of the guitar which typically houses the tuning pegs and other important components.

Tuning pegs - These can be found on the top of the headstock, they are used to hold the strings in place and maintain tuning.

Truss rod - The truss rod is located above the nut on the headstock, typically covered over. It is used to adjust the tension of the guitar neck, a process which is used in the set-up process.

The nut - This is the part the strings lean on before reaching the headstock and tuning pegs.

Fretboard - This is sometimes referred to as “the neck” or “fingerboard”. It is used by holding down the strings against each fret and then either picking or strumming some - or all - of the strings to resonate different tones.

Toggle switch - A lever on the front of the guitar switch switches between pickups.

Bridge - This is a critical piece of the guitar. It holds the strings at the body of the guitar giving the strings tension which allows them to resonate notes all the way up to the nut.

Strap locks - You might also hear these being referred to as strap pins or strap buttons. These are the small pegs that hold the strap in place.

Tech terms you should know

Vibrato - A technique where the string is repeatedly rocked back and forth. This causes the pitch of the note to quiver and oscillate. This can be achieved by moving the tremolo bar attached to the bridge.

Intonation - The ability of the guitar to stay in tune with itself. For example, the 12th fret should be an exact octave from the open string.

Set up - This is the term used when referring to the process of making sure that the guitar play can be played to its full potential. This process can involve, precise tuning, adjusting the trust rod and pickup height and intonation.

Riff - A short phrase in a pop or jazz song, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song.

Different types of necks

Bolt-on neck – The most common form of guitar construction, this is a method of construction involves joining a guitar neck and body using screws or bolts.

Neck-through – With this method of construction the same piece of wood that makes up the neck of a guitar also makes up the middle section of the body. The rest of the body is made up of two separate pieces of wood glued with the middle section.

Set-neck - Set necks are glued in via a dovetail joint in the electric guitar body.

Different types of Pickups

Pickups - These are found in the center of the body of an electric guitar under the strings. These are used to turn string vibration into electricity and can be modified and adjusted in many ways to change the tone of the guitar to fit your playing style.

Single-Coil pickups - The most recognised and common style of pickup. These pickups are known for a bright and crisp tone that leads to very defined notes that can cut through a loud environment. they are great for cleaner more refined styles of playing.

Humbucker pickups - humbucker, is a type of guitar pickup that uses two single coils put together to create a more polished signal. These pickups are favoured more by the more aggressive, faster style of player.

Active pickups – Unlike common passive pickups which you find on most guitars, active pickups use a separate power source (normally a battery) to operate and enhance the sound. Active pickups tend to be championed by the modern metal guitarist.

Coil taps - Coil taps are a hybrid pickup system that allows for both single-coil and humbucker sounds. These pick ups can be found on a wide range of guitars.