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Basic Terminology to Know Before Learning Blues Guitar

blues guitar terminology

If you're just jumping into learning blues guitar, it can be tricky and confusing at first. In order to keep up with all the great lessons here, it may help to first get more familiar with some basic blues guitar terminology.

Numbers on the Guitar

Guitarists love numbers! There are several different numbering systems that you’ll come across as you study guitar. Until you’re familiar with them, it’s likely that you’ll find lessons and instruction very confusing.

Let's briefly review three different numbering systems. To explain them, it will be helpful to think of the guitar neck as if it were a grid, made up of both a Y and X-axis. If you are holding the guitar in playing position, when you move your hand up and down the neck of the guitar, you will be moving up and down our imaginary X-axis. When you move your hand between strings, you’ll be moving up or down our imaginary Y-axis.

blues guitar terminology

1.     Frets

The frets on the guitar neck fall on our imaginary X-axis. The numbering starts at one, beginning at the guitar nut (near the tuning pegs). The fret numbers increase as you move “up the neck,” along the X-axis towards the guitar bridge. Another commonly used term in guitar playing is “positions.” Frets and positions are synonymous. If someone tells you to play in the second position, you want to place your index finger just behind the second fret.

2.     Strings

Surprise! Guitar strings are also numbered! Think of the guitar’s strings as being on our imaginary Y-axis. The strings are numbered from the thinnest (the high E), to the thickest string (the low E). When you are holding the guitar in playing position, this means that the 1st string is the bottom string. As you move your hand up the imaginary Y-axis, simply count up the strings: 1… 2… 3...  until you reach the 6th string. The 6th string is the low E string, with the largest diameter on the guitar. When played “open,” it is the lowest note on the guitar.

3.     Fingers

blues guitar terminology

This one is more straight-forward, but it’s important to have it down! When it comes to guitar playing, your index finger on your fretting hand is referred to as the first finger. As you move on, towards your pinky, simply count up by one. Your middle finger is the second finger.. Your ring finger is your third finger… And the pinky finger is the fourth finger. If you ever need to use your thumb as a fretting finger, it doesn’t get a number, we just refer to it as the thumb.

Once you’ve sorted out all these different numbered frets, positions, strings, and fingers, you’ll have conquered some of the basic terminology needed for further blues guitar instruction. Grab your guitar and get started with some new learning materials!

For a refresher – and more Keith Wyatt, has a great lesson on guitar terminology at ArtistWorks which you can find in the Fundamental section of the Learn area in the Blues Guitar School.

This is the kind of knowledge you'll take with you throughout your blues guitar journey...

why not get a jump on it now?

blues guitar lessons with keith wyatt

If you're ready to step up your blues guitar playing, sure to check out Keith Wyatt's free sample lessons at ArtistWorks!

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