0dB: In the measurement of sound pressure level (SPL), 0dB is referenced to the threshold of hearing or auditory perception of a tone of 1000 cycles (hertz) per second (1 KHz).

2/4: A time signature consisting of 2 quarter-note beats per bar.

3/4: A time signature consisting of 3 quarter-note beats per bar.

3/8: A compound time signature consisting of 1 dotted quarter-note beat per bar (3 eighth-note pulses).

4/4: A time signature consisting of 4 quarter-note beats per bar.

5/4: A time signature consisting of 5 quarter-note beats per bar.

6/8: A compound time signature consisting of 2 dotted quarter-note beats per bar (6 eighth-note pulses).

7/4: A time signature consisting of 7 quarter-note beats per bar.

7/8: A time signature consisting of 7 eighth-notes. It is often powerful and driving creating a sense of momentum and anticipation.

9/8: A compound time signature consisting of 3 dotted quarter-note beats per bar (9 eighth-note pulses).

12/8: A compound time signature consisting of 4 dotted quarter-note beats per bar (12 eighth-note pulses).

A tempo: A return to original speed.

Accelerando (accel.): Gradually getting faster.

Accent: An emphasis produced through increased volume and attack.

Accidentals: Sharps (#) and flats (b) not included in the key signature. They only apply for the duration of the bar in which they occur unless carried over with a tie.

Adagio: Italian term describing a slow tempo (66 - 76 beats per minute).

Aeolian mode: Also known as the natural minor scale, this mode uses the notes of the major scale beginning on the sixth note (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8).

Allegro: Italian term describing a fast tempo (120 - 168 beats per minute).

Ampere: A unit of measurement of electrical current. They are normally called 'amps' and the symbol for them is a capital I.

Amplifier: A device capable of increasing the magnitude or power level of a voltage or current that is varying with time (frequency), without distorting the waveform of the signal. The incoming signal is far too weak to power a speaker system. The role of the amplifier is to take that weak signal and strengthen it to the necessary power level to operate the speakers with minimal distortion.

Andante: Italian term describing tempo at a moderate walking speed (76 - 108 beats per minute).

Arpeggio: The notes of a chord played individually.

Atonal: Not in any key.

Attenuation: The reduction in level of a signal.

Augmented: A raised or sharpened note. e.g. An augmented 5th in the key of C is G# instead of G.

Balanced Cable: A pair of wires surrounded by a braided shield.

Balanced Line: A transmission line consisting of two conductors plus a braided shield, capable of being operated so that the voltages of the two conductors are equal in magnitude (voltage) and opposite in polarity with respect to ground.

Bandwidth: Response characteristic in which a definite band of frequencies having a low frequency and high frequency limit are transmitted or amplified uniformly.

Blues scale: A distinctive minor scale similar to the minor pentatonic scale but with the inclusion of a flat 5th in addition to the perfect 5th (1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7, 8).

BPM: An abbreviation for "Beats Per Minute". Tempo is measured by how many crotchet beats occur every minute. The higher the number, the faster the piece of music is.

Bridge (1): A musical interlude which is usually the third section of a song. For this reason not all songs have a bridge. Many bridge sections are of an 8 bar duration often called the "Middle 8".

Bridge (2): The plate or mechanism to which the strings are attached on the body of a guitar.

Bus: A conductor that serves as a common connector to several signal sources, always associated with a mix amplifier.

Cantabile: In a singing style.

Capo: A device which is strapped or clamped onto the neck to raise the pitch of all strings equally. E.g 3 frets higher if placed on the third fret. etc.

Changes: Jazz terminology for a chord sequence.

Chord: Two or more notes played at the same time.

Chord progression: A series of chords.

Chord tones: The notes belonging to a chord.

Chorus (1): The main part of a song based on the central melody, excluding any introductions, verses, interludes or endings.

Chorus(2): An effect which makes your guitar sound like two instruments playing the same part.

Chromatic: Moving from one note to another note one semitone away.Chromatic scales have 12 semitone intervals from the starting note to the octave.

Circle of 5ths: A pattern which relates key signatures to each other according to their number of sharps and flats.


Classical: The term classical actually refers to a musical period from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s. It is now commonly used to describe the classical genre that encompasses many styles of music from the Baroque period (1600s & mid. 1700s) through the classical, romantic (early 1800s & 1900s) and 20th century periods of music. This title is also used to define the distinction between classical and popular music.

Clipping: Amplifier overload causing a squaring off or undesirable change in the wave form resulting in distortion or perceptible mutilation of audio signals.

Combo (equipment): An amplifier which has the speakers and amplifier all housed in the one unit.

Combo (Jazz): A small Jazz ensemble.

Common Time: (also called 4/4 time) This time signature has 4 beats in every bar. It is called common time because it is used so frequently.

Comping: Abbreviation for accompaniment. This term was traditionally used to indicate chordal accompaniment, but is now used to indicate almost any accompaniment.

Compression: Reduction of the effective gain of an amplifier at one level of signal with respect to the gain at a lower signal level.

Compound interval: An interval beyond the octave.

Compound Time: A time signature where the beat falls on a dotted note which means each beat is divisible by three. To determine how many beats in a compound bar, divide the top number by three. e.g. 6/8 has two beats per bar.

Consonance: The harmonious quality or certain intervals and chords.

Counterpoint: Two simultaneous melodies. In this sense it is a type of harmony although not all harmonies are counterpoint as one part is often secondary to the other with the main part defined as the melody.

Crescendo: Getting louder.

Crotchet: A note lasting for one beat. Crotchets are often called "quarter-notes".

Current: The rate of flow (measured in amperes (amps)) of electricity in a conductor or circuit. The symbol for this is a capital I.

Cut: The reduction in gain of a frequency or band of frequencies when equalizing an audio signal.

Da Capo al Coda (D.C. al Coda): Go back to the top and play until the directions to the coda ending.

Da Capo al Fine (D.C. al Fine): Go back to the top and then play until "Fine".

Dal Segno al Coda (D.S. al Coda): Go to the sign and then play until the directions to the coda ending.

Dal Segno al Fine (D.S. al Fine): Go to the sign and then play until "Fine".

dB (Decibel): A unit for measuring volume.

dBM: A decibel scale referenced to 0 dBM = 1 milliwatt into 600 ohms or 0.773 volts RMS.

dBV: A decibel scale referenced to 1 volt RMS; 0 dBV = 1 volt.

Decrescendo/Diminuendo: Getting softer.

Demisemiquaver: A note which lasts for 1/8 of a crotchet (quarter-note) beat which is also known as a 32nd note.

Diatonic: The major scale and the theory which relates to all of the modes and chords which are derived from the major scale.

Diminished: A chord or scale using the notes 1, b3, b5, bb7 (half-diminished is 1, b3, b5, b7).

Dip: A reduction in gain at a certain frequency also called a notch.

Dissonance: The unharmonious quality or certain intervals and chords.

Dolce: Sweetly.

Dorian mode: A distinctive minor scale using the notes of the major scale beginning on the second note (1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7,8).

Dominant: 5th degree of major or minor scale (e.g. G in the key of C). Chords built on this note are dominant chords. They like to resolve to the tonic or submediant chord.

Dotted note: A note with a dot after it indicating that this note should last for one and a half times its normal duration.

Downbeat: A beat falling on the numbers of the time signature as opposed to an upbeat which falls in the space between these numbers. e.g. A downbeat in 4/4 time is a beat which occurs on either the first, second, third or fourth beats.

Duplet: (also called couplet) Two notes in the space of three of the same kind.

Dynamics: Variations in musical volume and intensity.

Enclosure: A technique used in jazz where a target note, before being played, is preceded by one or more notes from both sides.

Enclosure (Box): An acoustically designed housing or structure for a speaker.

Enharmonic: Of the same pitch. Some notes have different names but are said to be enharmonic equivalents as they have the same pitch. eg. C# and Db.

Ensemble: A musical group or band.

Feedback (Electronic): The return of a portion of the output of a circuit to its input.

Feedback (Acoustic): The regeneration of a signal from the output of a sound system into a microphone input.

Filter: An electrical or electronic device that permits certain frequencies to pass while obstructing others such as a crossover filter used with speakers.

Flamenco: A style of music traditionally passed on without the use of musical notation. Elaborate percussive rhythms characterise Flamanco music which is often used to accompany dancing.

Flat (b): Lower in pitch. On the guitar a flattened note is lowered by one fret.

Forte (f): Dynamic marking for loud.

Fortissimo (ff): Dynamic marking for very loud.

Frequency: The number of vibrations or oscillations in units per second. This is measured in cycles or hertz per second and can be a measure of either an electrical signal or musical pitch.

Full Range: The entire audio spectrum, 20 Hz - 20 KHz

Fusion: A combination of musical styles, usually jazz/rock or jazz/funk.

Gain: An increase in strength or amplitude of a signal. The increase in signal power that is produced by an amplifier; usually given as the ratio of output to input voltage, current, or power expressed in decibels.

GM: General MIDI, a generic bank of MIDI instruments that is not specific to any manufacturer allowing compositions created on one device to be played on another.

Ghost-notes: Notes with percussive value only.

Grace notes: A very short note of undefined rhythmic value which usually precedes the target note.

Groove: The rhythmic "feel" of music.

Half-diminished: A chord or scale using the notes 1, b3, b5, b7 (diminished is 1, b3, b5, bb7).

Harmony: An additional musical line supporting the melody. Harmony also describes the vertical nature of music in that it deals with notes played simultaneously unlike melody which deals with notes played consecutively.

Harmonic Minor scale: A distinctive minor scale like the Aeolian mode but with a maj7 (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7,8).

Harmonics: High sounding notes which are singled out from the various overtones which are present in a normal note.

Head: Another name for an amplifier which is separate to the speakers.

Headroom: The difference between the average operating power level of an amplifier circuit and the point at which clipping or severe distortion occurs.

Hemidemisemiquaver: An extremely fast note which lasts for 1/16 of a crotchet (quarter-note) beat. They are also known as a 64th notes.

Hertz (Hz): The frequency of a vibration or oscillation in units per second.

Impedance: The total opposition to alternating current flow presented by a circuit. Measured in ohms, impedance is commonly used to rate input and output characteristics of components so that a proper match can be made when connecting two or more devices, such as a microphone, speaker or amplifier.

Improvisation: Spontaneous creativity.

Inside: To improvise inside the harmonic structure of a song.

Interval: The distance between two notes.

Intonation: Playing in tune.

Inversion(Chord inversion): A chord where the order of the notes is rearranged.

Ionian mode: Another name for the major scale.

Jack, plug or socket: A receptacle on a receiver, amplifier or other component into which a mating connector can be plugged.

Key (Key Signature): The tonal center of a song or part of a song.

Largo: Italian term describing a very slow and solemn tempo (40 - 66 beats per minute).

Leading note: A note played immediately before a chord change which leads into the new chord. If the chord progression is static then a leading note can still be used to enhance that stability.

Legato: To play smoothly without breaks.

Lento: Slow.

Locrian mode: A half diminished scale using the notes of the major scale beginning on the seventh (1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7,8).

Lydian mode: A distinctive major scale using the notes of the major scale beginning on the fourth (1,2,3,#4,5,6,7,8).

Maestoso: Majestic.

Major: A chord is considered major unless stated otherwise. e.g. If the chord G is written it means G major.

Major scale: All major scales consist of a series of 8 notes. These notes are in a pattern of tones (whole-steps) and semitones (half-steps). The formula for the major scale is Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone.

Marcato: Marked and accented.

Master: Main level or gain control for a bus or mix.

Melodic minor scale: A minor scale which is usually played in two different forms depending on whether it is ascending or descending. The ascending melodic minor is like the major scale with a flattened third (1,2,b3,4,5,6,7,8) and the descending melodic minor (8,b7,b6,5,4,b3,2,1) uses the same notes as the natural minor or Aeolian mode (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8).

Melody: The main theme or tune in a piece of music.

Meno: Less.

Metronome: A device which plays a pulse at an adjustable tempo measured in beats per minute (BPM).

Mezzo: Classical terminology for moderately/medium.

Mezzo forte (mf): Dynamic marking for medium loud.

Mezzo piano (mp): Dynamic marking for medium soft.

MIDI: Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A communication protocol that enables different pieces of musical equipment to communicate with each other.

Middle C: The C note which is in the middle of the keyboard and in between the treble and bass clefs. On a guitar this is your lowest C on the 3rd fret of the A string.

Minim: A type of note which lasts for two beats. They are also known as half-notes.

Minor: A lowered (flattened) third produces a minor chord or scale. Notes can also be considered to be minor for the same reasons even if the entire chord is not played.

Minuet: A style of French country dance in 3/4 time that was later used as a 17th century court dance and then as a third movement of a classical symphony.

Mixolydian mode: A distinctive major scale using the notes of the major scale beginning on the fifth (1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,8).

Modes: The seven scales which are constructed from the notes of the major scale.

Moderato: Italian term describing a tempo at a moderate speed (108 - 120 beats per minute).

Modulate: To change keys.

Molto: Very.

Octave: An interval of 12 semitones.

Ohm: The unit of electrical resistance, equal to the resistance through which the current of one amp will flow when there is a potential difference of one volt across it. Ohm is the unit of measure used to express opposition to current flow. Every wire or part through which electricity passes has some resistance to that passage.

Ostinato: A repetitive phrase or rhythm which is literally obstinate and persistent.

Outside: To improvise outside the harmonic structure of a song.

Parallel: An electric circuit in which the elements or components are connected between two points with one of the two ends of each component connected to each point.

Patch: A sound setting on a synthesizer or keyboard.

Pentatonic scale: A scale containing five notes. The major pentatonic is (1,2,3,5,6) and the minor pentatonic is 1,b3,4,5,b7.

Perfect 4th: An interval where two notes are a Perfect 4th apart. There are 5 semitones between the two notes.

Perfect 5th: An interval where two notes are a Perfect 5th apart. There are 7 semitones between the two notes.

Phrygian mode: A distinctive minor scale using the notes of the major scale beginning on the third note (1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8).

Pianissimo (pp): Dynamic marking for very soft.

Piano (p): Dynamic marking for soft.

Pitch: The frequency of a note. Pitch is usually described in terms of its musical quality such as "A" rather than its scientific value such as 440Hz.

Poco: A little.

Power chord: A chord usually consisting of only the 1st and 5th or 1st, 5th and octave. Power chords are therefore neither major nor minor and are so named as they are most commonly played on a guitar with a distorted tone.

Pre-amp: An amplifier which basically shapes the sound before the power amp increases the volume.

Presto: Italian term describing a very fast tempo (168 - 208 beats per minute).

Quadruplet: Four notes in the space of three.

Quaver: A note lasting for half a beat. In 4/4 time a quaver is an eighth-note.

Quintuplet: Five notes in the space of three (in compound time) or four (in simple time).

Ragtime: Early type of Jazz particularly for solo piano popular from around 1895 - 1920.

Rallentando (rall.): Gradually getting slower.

Ravel scale: A scale using the notes 1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7, 8. This scale is also known as the "Super locrian", "Altered" or "Diminished Wholetone" scale.

Relative minor: Every major key has a minor key a major sixth above it which shares all of the same notes. e.g. Amin is the relative minor of C.

Resistance: Opposition to the flow of electrical current measured in Ohms.

Ritardando (ritard.): Gradually getting slower.

Ritenuto (rit.): Immediately getting slower.

RMS (Root mean square value): The square root of the time average of the square of a quantity; for a periodic quantity the average is taken over one complete cycle. RMS voltage is 0.717 times the peak voltage of a sine wave.

Root note: The principal note of a chord on which the chord is built. It is also the tonal center of the chord on which the chord is named. e.g. The root note of Gmaj7 is G.

Rubato: Freely.

Scale: A series of notes in ascending order from the root note to its octave.

Scale degree: Scale degrees can refer to notes within a scale or chords within a key. These are numbers (usually Roman numerals) which describe how far a note is from the root note of the scale or chord. They can also relate how far a chord is from the key. For example, in the Key of C the C chord is I and the F chord is IV because F is the fourth note in the key of C.

Scale tones: The notes belonging to a scale.

Semibreve: A type of note which lasts for four beats. They are also known as whole-notes.

Semitone: An interval which is when the notes are one fret apart on the guitar.

Sempre: Always.

Sequence: A melodic phrase immediately repeated at a higher or lower pitch.

Sequencer: Originally hardware in the 80's but now software used to create music by recording note information from a keyboard, traditionally via MIDI.

Seventh chords: Four note chords containing the I,III,V and VII notes. There are ten different varieties of seventh chords.

Sharp (#): Higher in pitch. On the guitar a sharpened note is raised by one fret.

Simple time: A time signature where the beat falls on undotted notes and is therefore divisible by two. Written as a time signature, the top number indicates the number of beats per bar and the bottom number indicates the value of each beat.

Sixth: An interval of a sixth which can be major (e.g. C to A), minor (e.g. C to Ab), augmented (e.g. C to A#) or diminished (e.g. C to Abb which is C to G).

Slur: A curved line over or under two or more notes of different pitch that indicate that those notes are to be played with a legato feel. Slightly accent the first note of a phrase getting gradually softer to the last note and leaving a small gap between each slur like a vocalists breath.

Sostenuto: Sustained.

SPL (Sound pressure level): The level or intensity at a point in a sound field (loudness). The deviation above and below normal atmospheric pressure.

Staccato: To play in an abrupt, sharply detached manner.

Standards: Commonly known tunes interpreted with a jazz feel.

Straight: The most common grouping of notes where the basic subdivision of notes is even.

Strings: Changing strings is something you will most likely need to do yourself. Make sure you buy the right type of strings. For instance, putting steel strings onto a classical (nylon string) guitar will certainly warp the neck. Single strings can be changed but you will also need to change your whole set periodically to keep them sounding bright. How often you change your strings depends on how much you play your guitar and other factors like whether your guitar is usually in your room or if it is often used for playing in smokey clubs etc.

Sustain: The quality of duration of a sound.

Swing: The underlying feel of most blues and jazz music. Swing is based on playing the one and three of a triplet subdivision.

Syncopation: To accent upbeats instead of downbeats. Playing a note on this weaker (off/up) beat and holding it over to the stronger (on/down) beat gives the rhythm an anticipated feel.

Tempo: The speed of the music expressed as beats per minute (bpm).

Tenuto: To "lean into" a note giving it full value, emphasis and weight but not an accent.

Tetra-chord: Four notes with a Tone, Tone, Semitone structure. e.g. The C tetra-chord contains the notes C,D,E and F.

Third: An interval of a third which can be major (e.g. C to E) or minor (e.g. C to Eb).

Ties: A curved line connecting a note to another note of the same pitch creating a note which lasts for the duration of these notes combined. This is used to make notes longer and enables notes to cross the bar line.

Time signature: The basic feel of the song is determined by the time signature which consists of two numbers. The top number indicates the number of beats per bar and the bottom number indicates the value of each beat.

Tone: The qualities of a sound, also referred to as timbre.

Tone(Whole-tone): An interval of a whole tone which is when the notes are two keys apart on the keyboard.

Tonic: Tonal center.

Transpose: To change the key of a piece of music.

Triad: A three-note chord whose notes can be placed in consecutive major or minor thirds.

Triplets: A group of three notes played in the same time as two notes of the same kind.

Tritone: A b5th interval (three whole-tones apart). e.g C to Gb.

Tritone substitution: A harmonic technique in which a dominant 7th chord can be replaced or substituted with another 7th chord a tritone (#4/b5) away.

Truss rod: A truss rod is a metal rod embedded into the neck of your guitar. It is there to adjust the tilt of the neck and sometimes requires adjustment. Truss rod adjustments effect the action of your guitar which is the distance between the strings and the fingerboard. Many manufacturers advise you not to make adjustments yourself as you may damage the neck. Ask a guitar repairer if in doubt.

There are three main reasons why a truss rod may need adjustment:

1/ To set the action to suit your playing. Many people like a low action to make general playing easier. Some even set it as low as possible but not so low as to produce fretbuzz. The advantages of keeping a higher action are for increased volume and tone.

2/ To compensate for changing your string gauge. Thicker strings will pull the action higher so you may want to adjust the truss rod to keep the action low (and vice versa when changing to lighter strings).

3/ Seasonal changes may require minor adjustments as temperature also effects the action.

Turnaround: A group of chords at the end of a chorus, which lead back to the beginning of the song.

Upbeat: A beat falling in between the numbers of the time signature as opposed to a downbeat which falls on these numbers. e.g. An upbeat in 4/4 time is a beat which occurs on the "and" between any of the first, second, third or fourth beats.

Vamp: A short groove, riff or chord progression which is often looped to create atmosphere. Vamps make useful intros in Jazz and Latin music to establish the feel before the melody starts.

Verse: A secondary part of a song that usually precedes the chorus.

Vibrato: An intentional wavering of pitch.

Vivace: Lively and spirited.

Voicing (Chord voicing): The arrangement of notes within a chord.

Voice-leading: The sense of forward motion in music where the movement is implied by the notes leading up to a chord change (e.g. C7 leading up to F).

Walking bass: A predominantly quarter note driven bass groove that feels like it walks through the progression.

Whole-tone: An interval which is when the notes are two frets apart on the guitar.