10 Electric Guitar Terms and Definitions (Must Know)

Electric Guitar Terms and Definitions
Power ChordA root and a fifth, usually played with the index and ring fingers
Drop D/Drop TuningDrop the low E string down a whole step to D
Shred GuitarHigh speed, distorted lead guitar playing
Guitar Effects PedalElectronic stomp boxes that modify the sound of your guitar
DistortionDistorting your clean tone to create a rock tone
Pinch HarmonicA right hand harmonic created by striking the string with the flesh of the thumb at the same time as picking
PickupsAct as the microphone for your guitar
RiffA Rhythmic, repetitious phrase/section
Tremolo/Whammy BarPart of the bridge, the tremolo bar bends notes in and out of pitch
TappingA “tap” is a hammer-on done with the right hand instead of the left hand

These electric guitar terms and definitions are essential for new electric guitar players.

Power Chord

A power chord is simply a root and a fifth.

It is usually played with your index and ring fingers.

It looks like this:

E Power Chord
E Power Chord Diagram

Drop D/ Drop Tuning

Drop D tuning occurs when you tune your low E string down a whole step to a D note.

This allows you play power chords on the lower three strings (D, A, and D) with a single bar.

It also gives access to a lower sound, which some guitarists consider to be “heavier” in sound.

Some popular bands that use drop D are Tool, Avenged Sevenfold, and Papa roach.

Here’s a forum that dives into bands that use Drop D.

Shred Guitar

As a general rule shred guitar is high speed, high gain lead guitar playing.

Shred guitar techniques include, but are not limited to tapping, legato, sweep picking, and tremolo picking.

Guitar Effects Pedal

A guitar effects pedal is used to modify your electric guitar notes.

Effects pedals plug straight into an amplifier, but they require their own power sources.

Many guitarists use stompbox effects pedals, but some guitarists, especially modern players, tend to veer towards multi-effects units.


Distortion happens when you alter a clean tone. This is usually done by turning up your gain.

Pinch Harmonic

A right hand harmonic that makes your note “squeel”.

This is done by striking the string with the flesh of your thumb at the same time as picking.

Here’s a video lesson on pinch harmonics:


Pickups act as the microphone for your electric guitar by sending the electric signal from your guitar to your amp.


A riff is a repetitious, rhythmic phrase.

They differentiate themselves from licks by being an accompanying phrase, rather than a lead guitar phrase.

Whammy/ Tremolo Bar

This is a bar on your bridge that bends your notes in and out of pitch.


Tapping is a picking-hand technique where you use your picking hand to hammer-on notes.

This can be useful for playing notes/phrases that may otherwise be difficult with the fretting hand alone.

Here is a guide to tapping:


Guitar Tapping Basics Article