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Guitar Slang – The Most Popular Terms

In any professional area, there is a “special language.” The guitar world is no exception, which means it’s worth getting to know the slang for guitar, perhaps even before you learn how to play. Therefore, I will help you get acquainted with guitar terminology in this article while separating it into several specific groups. After all, your hobby will eventually lead you to a group of people where all of these concepts are commonplace. Agree?

Guitar Slang

Ax (or Axe) – a common slang name for any guitar, originally derived from an identical name for the saxophone in the 1950s. The same jazz guys then called their trumpets Axes. It remains a mystery why the nickname stuck with guitars, but the fact is still actual, especially when you look at 12-string guitars.

Archtop – and again, the name was given to the acoustic guitar with steel strings by jazz musicians. They are the ones with the most popular instruments with an arc-shaped top, not a flat top.

GAS (or G.A.S.) – simply translated as “addiction” or the need to buy and buy guitars and related products. It stands for Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. I wish you weren’t too familiar with this term.

Slang for Guitar Technique

slang for guitar technique

Riff (or “ostinato”) is the most memorable to the listener, the repetitive, distinctive part of the composition. It is the one that comes to mind at the mention of the song title.

Lick is also, like the Riff, an easily grasped part of a piece of music, only it is not repetitive. It is usually an insert at the beginning (introduction) or in the solo, has a higher pitch, and is characterized by techniques like Hammer-on or Slide.

Shred is an impressively fast game that can literally “shred” the performer’s fingers. Musicians such as Steve Vai, Dimebag Darrell, and Zakk Wylde have performed this technique in their works.

Dirty, Filthy, and Fuzz are distortion effects, which can be obtained by increasing the load on the amplifier or guitar pedals, typical for heavy rock. Fuzz is also referred to as a “dirty” sound, but it is a clipping effect achieved with pedals as well.

Clean – the opposite of “dirty,” that is, without effects, as close to the acoustic sound as possible. Usually achievable by reducing the amplifier below the threshold.

Stage Slang

stage slang

The Rig is a term that refers to absolutely all of a guitarist’s or band’s equipment in totality.

Gravy Gig – are you a member of a budding band? This term is for you! It means performing in a band with no preparation – all the elements and romance of the beginning of every musician’s journey.

Paid rehearsal – is also good for beginners. The term means a paid performance in front of a very small audience. But I’m sure you’re not in danger of that.

Idiot check – literally. How do you make sure you haven’t forgotten anything after the concert and equipment gathering are over? Go back and check. Two times, preferably.

Slang for Guitar Parts (briefly)

Whammy Bar – the pitch-changing metal tab attached to the tremolo bridge.

Pups – an acronym for pickups.

Pots – volume knobs on an electric guitar, shortened from “potentiometer.


Of course, there are many more terms and slang names, but that’s enough to get you started. I’m sure this guitarist slang will help you love your craft even more. And most importantly, feel more confident around professionals.

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