Glossary

Music concepts explained

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103 articles in this collection
Written by Sam Blakelock

4ths

An interval of four staff positions/four notes higher in a diatonic scale
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Accidentals

A symbol that indicates a note is not in the given diatonic key
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Alternate tunings

Any tuning outside of the standard EADGBE guitar tuning
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Altered dominant chords

A dominant 7th chord with added extensions b5, #5, b9, and/or #9
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Arpeggio

A sequence of notes outlining a chord
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Articulation

How you play a note
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Barre Chord

A chord shape that requires you to lay a single finger (often the index finger) across your fretboard
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Bend

Pushing a string up or pulling it down in order to manipulate the pitch
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Blues Scale

A minor pentatonic scale with an added b5
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Call & response

A musical dialogue where a phrase is played or sung in direct response to one that precedes it
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Capo

A device that clamps guitar strings down across a single fret, which transposes the open tuning to a different key.
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Chicken Pickin'

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Chord Scale relationship

The single note scale associated with a given chord. The scale contains the chord tones as well as its upper extensions.
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Chord diagram

A visual representation of a guitar neck that displays the strings, frets, and finger numbers required to play a given chord.
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Chromaticism

A sequence of half-steps derived from the chromatic scale, which consists of all 12 notes found in Western music
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Clef

A musical symbol that indicates the pitch of notes written on the staff.
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Diatonic

Within the given key or scale
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Diminished chord

A chord composed entirely of minor third intervals – root, b3, b5, and bb7
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Diminished Scale

A dissonant-sounding scale that alternates between half steps and whole steps (or vice versa)
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Dominant 7 chord

A triad with an added flat seventh above the root. Root, 3, 5, b7
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Dorian

The second mode of a major scale
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Double stops

Playing two notes simultaneously on guitar
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Down stroke

Picking or strumming the strings in a downward motion
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Dynamics

The loudness of the notes you are playing
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Eighth note

A note that is played for one eighth the duration of a whole note
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Extensions

Notes added above a 7th chord.
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Finger numbering

The numbers assigned to fretting- and picking-hand fingers
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Fingerstyle

A method of guitar playing that incorporates individual fingers to pluck and strum strings instead of a pick
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Fingerstyle pattern

Pattern based on the order of fingers used to play a rhythmic phrase.
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Flat

Applying a flat symbol (♭) to a note lowers the pitch by one half step
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Flat 7 (diminished 7th, b7)

The 7th degree of a scale lowered by a half (b7) or whole (bb7) step
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Fret buzz

Sound produced when the guitarist is not using proper technique to fret the strings
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Fretting out

When you bend a guitar string, and the fret chokes off the sound of the note / prevents it from sustaining
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Fret wrap

A device that wraps around your guitar neck / strings and dampens the vibration
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Half diminished

A minor 7th chord with a flatted fifth.
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Half note

A note that receives half the value of a whole note
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Half step

A semitone or a one-fret change on the guitar.
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Hammer on

A guitar technique where a fretting-hand finger presses a string hard enough to cause it to emit sound without help from the picking hand.
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Harmonics

High-pitched notes created by shortening the string's vibrating length
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Harmonic Minor Scale

A natural minor scale with a raised 7th
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Humbucker

A type of guitar pickup commonly found on Gibson guitars.
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Hybrid picking

A picking technique that combines the use of a pick and fingers.
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Interval

The distance between two notes
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Inversion

Reordering a chord’s notes so a pitch other than the root is on the bottom
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Key signature

A group of accidentals that indicate the key of the song
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Legato

An indication that notes are to be played in a smooth, flowing manner
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Lydian

The fourth mode of the major scale. A major scale with a #4
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Major 7 chord

A chord composed of a root, third, fifth, and seventh
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Major 2nd interval

Interval spanning one whole step
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Major 3rd interval

Interval spanning two whole steps
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Major 6th interval

Interval spanning four whole steps and a half step
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Major 7th interval

Interval of a major 7th (5 whole steps and a half step)
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Major chord

A chord composed of a root, major 3rd, and 5th
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Major scale

A commonly used diatonic scale containing 7 notes
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Measure

Line segments dividing a staff into equal increments to display time
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Melodic Minor scale

A natural minor scale in jazz with a raised 6th and 7th
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Metronome

A device used as a practice tool that provides a steady beat.
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Minor chord

A chord composed of a root, flatted 3rd, and 5th.
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Minor 6 chord

A chord made up of a root, b3, 5th and 6th
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Minor 7 chord

A minor triad with an added b7
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Minor 2nd interval

Interval that spans one half step.
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Minor 3rd interval

Interval that spans one whole step and a half step.
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Minor 6th interval

An interval spanning four half steps
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Minor 7th interval

An interval spanning five whole steps
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Mixolydian

The fifth mode of the major scale
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Music notation

A written method used to convey musical ideas
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Natural Minor Scale

A scale with a flatted third and sixth, also known as the Aeolian mode.
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Note names (on the staff)

Notes are assigned corresponding letters A,B,C,D,E,F,G as a way of communication. With accidentals, there are 12 notes in Western music.
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Octave

An interval spanning 8 notes in the major scale, reaching the next occurring version of that note.
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Open-position chord

A guitar chord played in the lowest position on the guitar neck, utilizing a combination of open strings and fretted notes.
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Open String

A string played without fretting on the neck
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Palm muting

A technique where you place the palm of your picking hand against the strings while playing in order to deaden or shorten notes
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Pentatonic Scale

A five-note scale common to rock and blues improvisation
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Perfect 4th interval

Interval spanning two whole steps and a half step
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Perfect 5th interval

Interval spanning three whole steps and a half step
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PIMA

Letters assigned to picking-hand fingers with classical guitar fingerstyle technique
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Power chord

A two-note chord made up of the root and fifth
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Pull off

Pulling your finger off a string to sound a note without picking it.
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Quarter note

A note that is one quarter the value of a whole note.
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Scale Degree

The note order relative to the first scale degree of a given key.
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Sharp

Applying a sharp symbol (#) to a note raises the pitch by one half step
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Sharp 5 (#5)

A raised 5th. In a chord, a #5 makes the chord augmented
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Sharp 11 (#11)

A raised 4th used as an upper extension in a chord
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Single coil

A type of guitar pickup common on Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars.
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Slide

A metal or glass tube worn over one of the fretting fingers, used to slide along the string
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Spread triad (broken triad)

A triad where the notes are not all within the same octave
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Staccato

An articulation where notes are short and broken up
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Staff

A five-line, four-space figure where music is notated
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String names

In standard tuning, the guitar strings are named after their open pitches
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Syncopation

Shifting or displacing the beat by emphasizing the weak beats
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TAB

A guitar-specific notation system displaying the strings and fret location for each note
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Tempo

The speed at which music is performed
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Time signature / meter

A number value given at the beginning of a piece of music displaying how many beats are in a measure and which note value receives one beat.
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Transpose

Taking a song or musical phrase and moving it to a different key
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Tritone

An interval that’s an augmented fourth or diminished fifth from the root (three whole steps.)
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Triads

Three-note chords built from a root note, third, and fifth
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Tuning

On the guitar, tuning is the method of raising or lowering a string's pitch until it perfectly matches the desired note
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Turnaround

A chord progression occuring at the end of a song that’s used to lead back to the top of the form
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Upstroke

Picking or strumming the strings in an upward motion
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Vibrato

Manipulating a string by slightly raising and lowering it's pitch quickly and repeatedly
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What if I don’t understand the musical terms being used in the lessons?

We created a music theory glossary for all of those confusing terms.
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Whole note

A note value that receives four beats
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Whole Tone Scale

A whole tone scale is a scale composed entirely of whole steps.
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