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Guitar Term Dictionary

Below is a large alphabetical list of terms that should help you get a basic idea of the meaning of most guitar and music theory related concepts. While these explanations are very short in most cases the information supplied should be enough for you to grasp the basic idea. However some topics will require more information and will be covered in the lessons section of this site.

Quick Jump Links: A || B || C || D || E || F || G || H || I || J || L || M || N || O || P || R || S || T || V || W

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Aeolian - The sixth mode of the Major Scale. A scale with the formula of 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7. This Mode is also the first Mode of the Natural Minor Scale.

Altered Chord Progressions - Chord progressions that progress through a variation of the Normal Progression form.

Altered Chords - Any chord in which one or more notes do not belong to the key being used.

Amplitude - The value between the two largest points of a sound wave. Measured in decibels (dB).

Approaching Tone - A non-diatonic tone that is quickly shifted a half step up or down to reach a diatonic tone. Approach tones aren´t usually necessary to the melody itself but are added to spice it up.

Arpeggio - A chord played so each note rings in section succession rather than simultaneously.

Augmented Chord - A Major Triad with a sharp 5th (1, 3, #5), or any chord based from this Triad.

Augmented Fourth - Interval between two notes in which the higher note is located 6 half steps above the root note. This interval is enharmonically equal to a Diminished 5th.

Augmented Note - Any note that is moved up a half step beyond its sharp note. The note C## (double sharp) can be called a C Augmented note.

Augmented Scale - A 6-note scale with a formula of 1, b3, 3, 5, #5, 7.

Avoid Tones - Scale degrees whose use should be avoided for particular chords in the Major Scale.

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Bar Chord - A standardized chord fingering moved up and down the fretboard from one root note to another root without changing the chord type.

Bee Bop Major - An eight-note scale that adds a chromatic half step to the Major Scale. The Bee Bop Major Scale´s formula is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, 6, 7. This scale is used primarily in Jazz or Bee Bop situations.

Bee Bop Minor - An eight note scale which adds a chromatic half step to the Natural Minor Scale making it formula 1, 2, b3, 4 5, b6, 6, 7. This scale is also used in Jazz and Bee Bop situations.

Bending - The act of changing the pitch of a note by bending the string.

Blues Scale - A six-note scale that adds a chromatic half step to the pentatonic scale, which gives it that "blues" sound.

Borrowed Chords - A theory that says it is possible to replace a chord, which belongs to the Major Scale with the chord that occupies the same scale degree of the Minor Scale rooted from the same note as the Major Scale. This train of thought can be applied to the Minor Scale as well.

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Cadences - A one to two chord, chord progression that is used to either end a given section or give the illusion the section is ending.

Chord - Three or more notes played either simultaneous or picked out one note at a time.

Chord Formula - A formula given to every chord. This formula is based on the location held by each note of a given chord and it´s relationship to the Major Scale.

Chord Inversions - Playing a chord rooted with any chord degree except the root on the bass string.

Chord Progression - A series of chords.

Chromatic Movements - Any movement progressing up or down the fretboard by consecutive half steps.

Circle of Fifths - A theoretical tool used to determine what notes are found in each scale as well as which keys are closely related to each other.

Closely Related Keys - Any two scales or keys that are separated by only one note.

Consonance - The amount of stability perceived by the listener. Consonant intervals include Major and Minor 3rds & 6ths, Perfect 4ths, 5ths, and octaves.

Crescendo - An increase in dynamics that builds up over some length of time.

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Decrescendo - A decrease in dynamics over some length of time.

Diatonic Movements - Movements that progress from one note in a given key to the next note in that key regardless of the distance between the two notes.

Diminished Chord - A Triad with the formula of 1, b3, 5, or any chord based from this Triad.

Diminished Fifth - Intervals between two notes in which the higher note is located 6 half steps from the root note, this interval is enharmonically equal to an Augmented Fourth.

Diminished Note - Any note moved down a half step beyond it´s flatted note. The note Abb (double flat) can be called an A Diminished note.

Diminished Scale - A six-note scale with the formula 1, 2, 3, #4, #5, b7. Also known as the Whole Tone Scale.

Dissonance - The amount of tension or instability perceived by the listener. Dissonant chords will usually contain intervals such as major and minor sevenths, major and minor seconds, and tritones.

Dominant 7th Chord - A Major Triad with a Minor Seventh Interval added.

Dominant Bee Bop Scale - An eight-note scale that adds a chromatic half step to the Major Scale. The Bee Bop Major Scale´s formula is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 7. As with the other Bee Bop Scales this scale is used primarily in Jazz or Bee Bop situations.

Dorian - The second mode of the Major Scale. A scale with the formula of 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7.

Double Harmonic Major Scale - A seven note scale with the formula 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, 7.

Double Harmonic Minor Scale - A seven note scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, #4, 5, b6, 7.

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Enharmonic Equivalents - A theory that states that notes may have more than one name depending on what scale or key you are playing in. For example an A sharp can also be called a B flat.

Enigmatic Major Scale - A seven note scale with the formula 1, b2, 3, #4, #5, #6, 7.

Enigmatic Minor Scale - A scale with the formula 1, b2, b3, #4, 5, #6, 7.

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Forte - A dynamics indication meaning loud.

Fortissimo - A dynamics indication meaning very loud.

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Gypsy Scale - A scale with the formula 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7.

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Half Diminished 7th Chord - A Diminished Triad with a Minor 7th added, the formula for this chord type is 1, b3, b5, b7

Half Step - The smallest movement that can be made on a guitar, this is simply the movement from one fret to the next.

Hammer-Ons - To hit a string on a given fret with enough force to make the note ring without picking it.

Harmonic Major Scale - A scale with the formula 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, 7.

Harmonic Minor Scale - A Minor Scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7.

Hungarian Major Scale - A scale with the formula 1, #2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7.

Hungarian Minor Scale - A scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, #4, 5, b6, 7.

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Intervals - A way of measuring the distance between a root note and a given note. The distance between these two notes is in relation to the Major Scale.

Ionian - The first mode of the Major Scale the formula for this scale is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Irregular Chord Progressions - Any chord progression that does not follow the Normal or Altered Chord Progression format.

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Jazz Minor Scale - A scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7. This scale has the same formula as the Ascending Melodic Minor Scale and is used primarily in Jazz situations.

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Locrian - The seventh mode of the Major Scale, the formula for this scale is 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7.

Lydian - The fourth mode of the Major Scale, the formula for this scale is 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7.

Lydian Minor Scale - A scale with the formula 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, b6, b7.

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Major 2nd - An interval between two notes where a note is one whole step above the tonic.

Major 3rd - An interval between two notes where a note is two whole steps above the tonic.

Major 6th - An interval between two notes where a note is 4 1/2 whole steps above the tonic.

Major 7th - An interval between two notes where a note is five whole steps above the tonic.

Major chord - A Triad with the formula of 1, 3, 5, or any chord based from this Triad.

Major Scale - A seven note scale with the formula 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. The Major scale is the scale by which all other scales are compared to. There are no alterations in this scale (sharp or flat notes).

Melodic Minor Scale - A scale with the ascending formula 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and a descending formula 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.

Meter - Dividing beats into understandable patterns.

Mezzo Forte - A dynamics indication meaning somewhat loud.

Mezzo Piano - A dynamics indication meaning moderately soft.

Minor 2nd - An interval between two notes where one note is a half step above the tonic.

Minor 3rd - An interval between two notes where one note is three half steps above the tonic.

Minor 6th - An interval between two notes where the a note is four whole steps above the tonic.

Minor 7th - An interval between two notes where the a note is 4 1/2 whole steps above the tonic.

Minor Chords - A Triad with the formula of 1, b3, 5, or any chord based from this Triad.

Mixolydian - The fifth mode of the Major Scale, the formula for this mode is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7.

Modes - A sub-scale for each note of the Major Scale. Each of these sub-scales will start from any given note of the Major scale and progress through that scale one octave.

Modulation - The act of changing from one key to another in a given piece of music.

Motive - The smallest identifiable music section.

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Natural Minor Scale - The Aeolian (6th) mode of the Major scale. A scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.

Neapolitan Major Scale - A seven note scale with the formula 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Neapolitan Minor Scale - A seven scale with the formula 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7.

Normal Progressions - A set order moving from one chord to the next.

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Octave - An interval that has twice as, or half as many vibrations per second. This interval is made of six whole steps or twelve half steps.

Open Chords - A chord fingering in which one or more notes of that chord is played using an open string.

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Pentatonic Scale - A five note scale with the formula 1, b3, 4, 5, b7

Perfect 4th - An interval between two notes where the higher of the two notes is three and one half steps above than the tonic.

Perfect 5th - An interval between two notes where the higher note is four and one half steps higher than the tonic.

Perfect 8th - An interval between two notes where the higher note is six whole steps from the tonic.

Period - A group of phrases (usually two).

Phrase - A melody, harmony, or a combination or the two, lasting from 2 to 8 measures and ending with a cadence.

Phrygian - The fifth mode of the Major Scale. The formula for this mode is 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.

Pianissimo - A dynamics indication meaning very soft.

Piano - A dynamics indication meaning soft.

Pull-Offs - Removing the finger holding down a note to let the fret or open string behind it ring without being picked.

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Rest - A section of silence or pause in a musical passage.

Root Note - The most fundamental note of any chord or scale. (Also known as a Tonic.)

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Scale - A series of notes played in secession to create any Major, Minor, or Altered key.

Scale Degrees - A number given to each note in a given scale used to represent the position it holds in that given scale and it´s relationship to the Major Scale.

Scale Tone Triads - The triads that are created by moving a triad through all the notes of a given scale diatonically.

Secondary Dominate Chords - A Major Triad or Dominate 7th chord played from any scale degree other than the 5th of the Major Scale. This chord type will resolve a Perfect 5th below the Secondary Dominate at the Secondary Tonic from this point the progression can continue to progress towards the tonic.

Secondary Leading Tone Chords - A Diminished Triad, Half Diminished Seventh Chord, or a Diminished 7th chord played from any scale degree other than the 7th of the Major Scale. This chord type will resolve a Major 7th below the Secondary Leading Tone chord at the Secondary Tonic (up one half step), from this point the progression can continue to progress towards the tonic.

Secondary Tonics - A Triad other than the tonic that will be used to resolve a Secondary Dominant or Secondary Leading Tone chords. The resolution of these chord types will be temporary. Once the use of a secondary chord type has been resolved the progression can continue to move towards the tonic.

Slide - A way of moving from one note to the next.

Spanish Eight-Note Scale - An eight note scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, 3, 4, b5, b6, b7.

Suspended Chords - Any chord in which the third scale degree is replaced by the second (Suspended 2nd), the fourth (Suspended 4th), or the sixth (Suspended 6th).

Sustain - To maintain the volume level of a note for a longer period of time.

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Tempo - The amount of beats per minute (B.P.M) as measured by a metronome, or the general speed of a piece of music.

Theme - A series of musical phases, periods, and/or chord progressions that repeat in a manor such as ABA format.

Timbre - The sound of an instrument.

Tonic - The most fundamental note of any chord or scale. (Also known as a Root Note.)

Triads - A three note chord in which all notes are separated by an interval of a third. The five possible triads are Major (1-3-5), Minor (1-b3-5), Augmented (1-3-#5), Diminished (1-b3-b5), and Major b5th (1-3-b5).

Twelve Bar Blues - A progression type used in the Blues and Jazz genres. This type of progression will be twelve bars in length and will usually use the I - IV - V progression in its construction.

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Vibrato - A technique to increase sustain and add a voice like effect to a melody line.

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Whole Step Half Step Scale - An eight note scale with the formula 1, 2, b3, 4, #4, #5, 6, 7.

Whole Tone Scale - A six note scale with the formula 1, 2, 3, #4, #5, b7, also called the Diminished Scale.