This glossary of music & show-biz terms is a work in progress. Please contact the webmaster with any suggestions.
5 chord – A chord consisting of only the root and 5th notes. Also known as a power chord.
9th note – The next note above the octave in a given scale, following the same scale pattern. For example the 9th note of C1 would be D2.
add9 chord – A chord with an added 9th note.
Amp – Short for amplifier. Also short for ampere, a measurement of electrical current.
Amplifier – A device which raises the amount of electrical signal coming from a pickup, microphone, or other source so that it can be emitted from speakers.
Arpeggio – Playing the notes in a chord in order, either ascending or descending. Often misused as a term to describe playing the notes of a chord individually, regardless of ordedr.
Call – The time you’re supposed to be at the venue and check in with the Stage Manager or whoever is keeping track of who has arrived.
Chord – A group of notes sounded at the same time.
Chord numbering – A method of referring to given chords in a key.
Chord voicing – Playing a chord while adding, removing, or substituting notes in other octaves that would normally appear in the chord.
Chromatic scale – A scale utilizing only half-steps, resulting in 11 pitches in a single octave. The fretboard of a guitar is arranged in this scale with each fret representing a half-step.
Consonant – Sounds or intervals that have a pleasing or harmonious sound.
Curtain – When the show starts. Also known as show time or go time (see below for other uses of go).
Diatonic scale – A scale containing two tonic, or root notes.
Dissonant – Sounds or intervals that have an unpleasant or disharmonious sound.
Fingerboard – See fretboard.
First position – Playing position based at the nut. See also open position.
Fret – Length of wire or some other hard material placed perpendicular to the fretboard at specific intervals to aid in sounding notes of a desired pitch. Often misused to refer to the space between two fret wires.
Fretboard – Part of the guitar extending along the top side of the neck. Usually includes frets and fret markers. Also knows as the fingerboard.
Fret markers – Dots or other marks on the fretboard to aid in finger placement. Uses vary widely but traditionally marks are placed at frets 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 21, and 23, if such frets are present. The marker at the 12th fret is usually different in some way to denote the octave point for each string.
Go – Execute the cue or action as directed in the warning & standby calls, usually shortened. In the example above, it would be “house go” or “house lights go.”
Go Time – See curtain.
Half step – A note immediately adjacent in the chromatic scale. Equivalent to one fret on a guitar or two adjacent keys on a piano. See also whole step.
Headstock – Part of the guitar containing the upper anchor point of the strings, which are usually wound on tuning machines.
House – The part of a venue where the audience is. Also a general term to describe a venue as an entity, such as “We can use the house’s PA system.”
House Open– When the house is open so the audience can enter and take their seats. Usually 30 minutes prior to curtain.
I chord – The first chord in a given key. Usually based on the root. Part of the set of chord numbers.
Interval – The tonal distance between two notes.
Inversion – A chord with the lowest pitch being other than that of the root note in the chord. For example, a C Major chord with notes G-C-E (low to high). This is written as C/G. Also any chord where the notes are presented in any order other than ascending.
Load-In – The process of bringing gear into a venue. This term is sometimes used as a synonym for call time.
Load-Out – The process of taking gear out of a venue.
Major scale – An 8-tone diatonic scale with intervals – whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. Also a minor scale with the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes raised one half-step.
Major triad – A set of 3 notes consisting of the first, third, and fifth notes in a major scale. The foundation of a major chord.
Minor scale – An 8-tone diatonic scale with intervals – whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole. Also a major scale with the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes lowered one half-step.
Minor triad – A set of 3 notes consisting of the first, third, and fifth notes in the minor scale. The foundation of a minor chord.
Modal tuning – A type of open tuning that produces a modified chord that is not specifically minor or major. For example, DADGAD tuning is modal because it produces an open Dsus4 chord.
Neck – Part of a guitar extending from the body to the headstock. A general term for both front and back, or a more specific term separating it from the fretboard.
Nut – Part of the guitar where the neck joins the headstock. The nut holds the strings in position and helps raise them above the fretboard to produce clear tone.
Octave – An interval of exactly double (or half) the pitch of the current note.
Open position – Playing position based at the nut in which chords can be played using unfretted (open) strings.
Pentatonic scale – A scale containing 5 notes. A misnomer since there are not 5 root (tonic) notes.
Power chord – See 5 chord.
Root – The first note of a given scale, from which it derives its name. Also the first note in a chord based on a given scale.
Standard tuning – Guitar tuning favored in most Western music. Strings are tuned (low to high) E-A-D-G-B-e (e is two octaves above E).
Standby – Stage manager call. An action or cue is imminent (30-60 seconds). Comes after warning.
Transpose – To change a piece of music from one kay to another.
Triad – A group of 3 notes. Usually refers to the foundation of a chord, as in major triad or minor triad.
Tuning machines – Devices used to change the pitch of the strings. Normally positioned at the headstock. Also called tuners.
Warning – Stage manager call. Signal that a cue is coming up soon (1-2 minutes). Normal usage would be, “warning house lights to half,” or something similar.
Whole step – A note two intervals away in the chromatic scale. Equivalent to two frets on a guitar or two keys on a piano separated by one other key. See also half step.
XLR – A type of audio connector using 3 pins. Most commonly used for microphones and mic cables. Like most other types of connectors, they have male and female genders. XLR is short for eXternal Line Return.