A Guide to Guitarist Slang: A List of Terms You Need to Know

by Frederik Nielsen, Jun 25, 2021 . 4 min read

A Guide to Guitarist Slang: A List of Terms You Need to Know

There’s a ton of stuff you need to learn if you’re a guitar beginner. You have to learn the riffs, chords, and different finger techniques before you even learn to play your first song. Also, you need to learn a whole lot of new words and phrases. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to guitarist slang.

The guitar is probably the instrument with the most slang words, which gives it another layer of ‘cool’ in many people’s eyes. Here are a few basic guitar slang words that will help every newbie not sound like a complete newb. Without further ado, let’s start…

Guitar Slang

The Axe – or Ax, depending on whom you ask – is possibly the most common slang word for a guitar. Surprisingly, the term dates back to the mid-’50s when jazz musicians used it as a slang word for saxophone. Over time, it became a go-to term for the electric guitar.

Archtop – is slang for the steel-stringed acoustic guitar that has an arched top, unlike the classic, folk-style guitar that usually has a flat top. This type of guitar is still pretty popular among jazz players, so there’s another jazz connection for you.

GAS (or G.A.S.) – you may have seen this abbreviation in the comment section of various guitar-selling pages and websites. It stands for “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” and mainly refers to the compulsive need of buying new guitars and guitar-related gear. (PS: Roadie 3 might help you curb that habit since it’s one device that solves all your tuning needs.)

Guitar Playing Slang

Shredding – refers to playing incredibly fast. People like Zakk Wylde and Dimebag made the technique famous. Most people think it originates from the idea that you’re playing so fast that you’ll “shred” your fingertips if you don’t slow down.

Licks – are catchy melodies played on the guitar. As opposed to riffs, however, they’re usually not repeated but simply memorable. You’ll find plenty of licks in Hendrix solos, so be sure to check out songs like Purple Haze if you want some stellar examples.

Dirty or Filthy – When you turn the gain on your amplifier up, the sound becomes increasingly distorted. You can also buy a pedal that will help you re-create that effect. The distorted sound is usually referred to as “dirty” or “filthy.” This sound is a norm in heavy metal music, so you better get familiar with it.

Stage Slang

Gravy Gig – Once you finally find a band, this is a phrase you’ll grow to love. A gravy gig usually means a gig that requires little to no preparation from the band members.

Idiot Check – Once you pack all of your equipment, load up your van, you go back to the venue for an “idiot check” to make sure nothing was forgotten this time. An idiot check is usually done twice by two different people.

Paid Rehearsal – Playing in front of two to three people in attendance, where the entire band still gets paid somehow (you should pray to have such a manager) is called a paid rehearsal.

What’s Your Favorite Term?

Those are the basic slang words every guitarist should know. There are dozens of others, of course, but knowing these will help you not sound like a fool next time you have a talk with another guitarist. We hope you enjoyed our guide to guitarist slang and that you found it useful. What are some of your favorite guitar slang words? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment in the section below.

And more for more guitarist tips, check out 3 Killer Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright.

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