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You are here: Home > Advice > Acoustic Guitar Advice Page > Acoustic Guitar Glossary

Acoustic Guitar Glossary

Abalone

The hard, internal lining of the giant sea snail's shell. Used for decorative and ornamental purposes on acoustic guitars, such as fretboard and headstock inlays.

Action

The distance between the frets and the strings of an acoustic guitar.

Attack

The initial sound a note makes when struck, between silence and when the note reaches maximum volume.

Binding

Strips of wood, plastic, or other material used both to strengthen and enhance the look of an acoustic guitar's body, neck, and/or headstock.

Bolt-on neck

A guitar neck that is attached to the body with bolts.

Bookmatching

The process of matching two pieces of wood for an acoustic guitar's back or top. Normally a single piece of wood is butterfly-cut down the middle and the two pieces are joined down the center of the instrument.

Bout

The curved areas above and below the narrow waist of an acoustic guitar. The curves above the waist are called the upper bout and those below are called the lower bout.

Bracing

The internal wooden support structure inside an acoustic guitar that gives the instrument integrity. Well-designed top bracing maximizes the ability of the top to vibrate.

Bridge

On most acoustic guitars, the bridge is a piece of wood placed below the soundhole. It is used to anchor the strings and transfer their vibrations to the soundboard.

Bridge pins

Fit into the holes on the bridge where the strings go in to anchor them in place. Most often made of plastic; some are made of ebony.

Capo

A device used to raise the overall pitch of an acoustic guitar. A capo attaches to the neck at a chosen fret and barres all of the strings. It allows guitarists to play songs in different keys without changing chord structures.

Cutaway

A guitar body style with a contoured upper bout that allows the player to reach the upper frets of the guitar more easily.

Decay

The level of volume loss from a note's maximum volume to silence.

Dovetail

A type of interlocking joint used in guitar-making, most often to attach the neck to the body.

Dreadnought

A large-body acoustic guitar originally designed by the Martin guitar company in the early 20th century, named after the large dreadnought battleships of the day.

Figuring

The pattern of a piece of wood's natural grain.

Fingerboard

The playing surface of a guitar neck. Typically a thin piece of wood that is glued onto the neck, with thin metal strips called frets placed at intervals that divide the neck into half-step increments.

Finish

The final coating applied to acoustic guitar woods. Flame and quilt are two examples of figuring.

Flame

A characteristic of a wood's appearance that appears to shimmer and move as light strikes it from different angles. See figuring.

Frets

Thin metal strips placed at intervals on the fretboard to divide it into half-step increments.

Fret markers

Fretboard inlays on an acoustic guitar that serve as a visual reference of the player's position.

Gig bag

A lightweight, soft, padded case used as a more convenient, temporary way to transport an acoustic guitar than a hardshell case

Headstock

The uppermost portion of a guitar neck, where the tuning keys are placed.

Heel

The lowest point of the neck, where it widens to attach to the body.

Inlay

Designs on the fretboard, headstock, or body of an acoustic guitar. Typically the inlay design is carved into the wood, then filled with one of many materials such as mother-of-pearl, metal, abalone, or plastic. For purely aesthetic purposes.

Intonation

The relationship of tones on different parts of the fretboard. The note of each string on the 12th fret should match the note of the 12th fret harmonic on the same string. If not, the guitar's intonation should be adjusted.
Laminated » As opposed to a solid piece of wood used in acoustic guitar-making, a laminated surface is created by gluing several thin plies of wood together.

Luthier

A woodworker who specializes in making stringed instruments.

Marbling

Often used to describe the natural patterns and color variations of ebony.

Mother-of-pearl

The inside lining of certain mollusks' shells. Typically used for inlays and other decorative enhancements.

Moustache bridge

A bridge whose shape is reminiscent of a handlebar moustache.

Neck Joint

The point where an acoustic guitar's neck joins the body.

Nut

Located at the top of the fretboard, the nut serves to evenly space the strings as they approach the tuners and transfer vibrations to the neck of the guitar.

Pearloid

A synthetic alternative to mother-of-pearl.

Pick

A thin piece of (typically) plastic used to strike the strings of an acoustic guitar.

Pickguard

A thin plate located below the soundhole that protects the guitar's top from scratches that may occur as a result of picking or strumming the strings.

Pickup

An electronic device that senses the vibrations of the strings and converts it to an electrical signal for amplification.

Piezo pickup

A crystalline structure that senses changes in compression and converts them to an electrical signal. Often placed under an acoustic guitar's saddle, the piezo senses the changes in compression when the strings vibrate. The most common pickup used in acoustic-electric guitars.

Quilted

A visual characteristic of certain tone woods that give it a wavy or folded appearance.

Rosette

A decorative inlay around the soundhole of an acoustic guitar.

Saddle (aka bridge nut)

Like the nut, the saddle spaces the strings at the bridge and, along with the bridge, transfers the vibration of the strings to the top.

Scale

The total length of the vibrating portion of a string.

Set neck

An acoustic guitar neck that is glued to the body.

Soundboard (aka top)

The piece of wood on the front of an acoustic guitar that is largely responsible for an acoustic guitar's tone and projection.