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Guitar and Music Terminology

Guitar Lessons and Guitar Tutorials

Guitar Terminology explained!

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Alternate Picking

Uses strict up down or down up picking strokes when playing scales and solos. A rule of thumb is: when picking from low to high strings, start with a downstroke (and alternate). When picking from high to low strings, start with an upstroke (and alternate. This technique makes for very precise guitar playing and is the first picking technique a guitar student should master, before moving on to other forms of picking


A chord where all notes are played separately in succession (sometimes very fast) one after the other, rather than all together, which would be a Chord.

Hammer Ons

A technique on the guitar, where the string is hit at a given fret with enough force by a finger of the fretting hand. Used a lot in conjunction with Pull Offs.

Legato Playing

Legato means 'fluid'. It is a combination of Hammer Ons and Pulls Offs, without using a pick. Alan Holdsworth, among others, is a master at Legato Playing. Usually done on the the same string for a couple of notes before moving on to the next string. Legato adds a very fluid sound to a solo.

Major Scale

The Major Scale contains 7 notes. It is called 'major' because it is THAT important. The formula to construct a major scale on the guitar is as follows: whole step, whole step. half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. A 'whole step' btw. is 2 frets and a 'half step' is one fret, in case you were wondering. To construct a G major scale we would have the notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F# G. With this formula we can build 12 major scales.

Pentatonic Scale

'Penta' is greek and means five. The Pentonic Scale therefore contains 5 notes. The formula is: 1, b3, 4, 5, b7. The Pentatonic Scale in Am has be used in a million songs. The notes are: A, C, D, E, G. This is the most common and most widely used scale EVER! Blues, Rock, Celtic, Country music are just a few music genres that use this scale (with a few variations of course). Jimi Hendrix played this scale many times. For example: Little Wing (Em Pentatonic).

Pull Offs

The opposite of Hammer Ons. A finger on the fretting hand uses enough force to 'tap' down on a string at a given fret and then 'pulls' the string off the fret with the fleshy part of the finger.

Sweep Picking

A great technique on the guitar. The pick is swept across all strings in a downward motion on the way down (low to high strings) and in an upward motion on the way up (high to low strings). Used a lot with Arpeggios.