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 Post subject: Guitar buyer's glossary of terms and acronyms
PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 7:08 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:45 pm
Posts: 581
Location: Hampshire, UK
MIJ? OHSC? Caps & pots? CONUS shipping? Dings & dots?... What does it all mean?

Here's my glossary of terms for guitar buyers - feel free to add any I've missed.

  • Action - The height of the strings above the frets.
  • Active - Incorporating a battery-powered pre-amp for more output and better tone controls.
  • Archtop - A guitar with an arched top (has been carved or pressed) and movable bridge and tailpiece. Also known as "jazz guitar".
  • Bigsby - Shorthand for tremolo (vibrato) unit developed by Paul Bigsby
  • Binding - A protective and decorative strip made of wood or plastic, placed along the outer edges of the top, back, neck, fingerboard and some times headstock, used to seal and protect joints. Often 'deluxe' guitars have 'bound fingerboard' whereas basic models do not.
  • Block Markers - Square, rectangular or shark tooth inlays marking fingerboard position.
  • Bolt On - Normally refers to an instrument that has it's neck attached by bolts (or more correctly, screws) rather than being glued in place.
  • Bookmatched - Most acoustic and archtop guitars have tops and backs that are 2 pieces of wood glued together to form one large panel. Bookmatched refers to the wood coming from the same tree and placed so that the grain in the panels creates mirror image patterns. Usually an indicator of good quality.
  • Braces -  Wooden struts glued inside hollowbody guitars that provide strength and affecting tone quality.  Brace patterns include  X brace, ladder brace, fan bracing and scalloped braces.
  • Cap - Capacitor, an electrical component used in tone circuits on electric guitars.
    Center Block - A solid wood block running through the body of a semi-acoustic guitar body.
  • Checking - Used to describe cracking found in lacquer finished guitars. Vintage guitars often have checking in their lacquer finishes.  Checking is caused by the guitar's wood expanding and contracting with changes in temperature and humidity.  Is important to maintain constant humidity and reasonable range of temperature to prevent checking. 
  • CONUS (as in CONUS shipping included) - Continental United States (every state but Hawaii and Alaska)
  • Cutaway - A guitar which has been cut away to allow easy access to the frets while reaching over the body.  A double cut guitar away has both sides cut away.  Many people just refer to "single cut" and "double cut" guitars.
  • Ding - a small dent or scratch.
  • Dot Neck - Guitar with round circular "dot" inlays in the neck position markers.
  • Dreadnought - Large acoustic guitar models. Originally from Martin - their biggest and loudest acoustic guitar.  
  • Electro Acoustic - An acoustic guitar with a built in pickup, often a piezo electric under-bridge pickup.
  • Fingerboard (or fretboard) - This is the surface of the neck that contains the frets. 
  • Finish - This refers to the protective coating covering the guitar, often paint or lacquer.
  • Fixed Bridge - Refers to non-vibrato bridges.
  • Flame - Sometimes also called Flame Top.  Generally refers to Maple with dramatic grain resembling flames.
  • Flat Top - Used to refer to an acoustic guitar with a flat (non-arched) top.  Many Martin and Gibson guitars are flat top acoustic guitars.
  • Fret wear - flattening or grooves in frets, caused simply by playing. Strings gradually wear away the contact surface of the frets, especiallt when bending is used often. See also re-fret.
  • Hang Tag - Small tags and cards hung on guitars in show rooms.  A hang tag for a vintage guitar is generally very difficult to find.
  • Hard tail - fixed bridge, without tremolo.
  • Headstock - Describes the part of the guitar where the strings attach to the tuners.
  • Heel - Portion of neck where the neck curves or is reduced to join the body.
  • Hollow Body - An electric guitar body style with a thin body similar to an acoustic guitar.
  • HSC - Hardshell case
  • Humbucker - A noise canceling twin coil pickup.
  • Inlay - Decorative material that is cut and embedded into the body, neck or headstock of a guitar.
  • Intonation - Refers to the guitars ability to play in tune at various positions along the neck. Often adjusted by adjusting the bridge saddle.
  • Jackplate - Mounting plate for output jack. 
  • Laminated - The backs, sides and even tops of some instruments can be made from several pieces of wood which have been laminated to form one piece, usually at the determent of it's sound. (Especially if it's the top that's laminated.) ?A neck can also be made from more than one piece of wood to produce a decorative center stripe.
  • Lawsuit - Used to refer to a milestone 1977 copyright infringement lawsuit that prevented Japanese guitar makers copying the famous designs of Gibson and Fender. Japanese guitars are sometimes termed "pre-lawsuit" to indicate that they were copies made before this ruling.
  • Locking Nut - A device that clamps the strings, locking them in place at the nut to prevent the guitar going out of tune during heavy tremolo (whammy bar) use.
  • Luthier - A guitar maker and guitar repair expert.  A good luthier will always offer free repair estimates and explain the nature of the repair.  Sometimes incorrectly spelled Luther.
  • Machine Heads - also knows as tuners or tuning machines.
  • Matsumoku - A famous Japanese guitar manufacturing factory, renowned for making very high quality guitars at low price in the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes (incorrectly) spelt Matsamoku, Matsumoko etc
  • MIJ - Made in Japan. MIJ guitars of the late 1970s and early 1980s were often good quality.
  • Neck Pickup - Refers to the pickup closest to the neck.
  • Neck Plate - A metal plate used in the Fender style bolt on designs. it is screwed to the neck and the body fastening the neck to the guitar body.
  • OHSC - Original hardshell case
  • ONO - "or near offer"
  • OVNO - "or very near offer"
  • P-90 - Refers to an early Gibson single coil pickup. (sometimes used just to denote a single coil pickup)
  • Passive - Describes a guitar that does not use pickups which require battery power (active pickups).
  • Peghead - A peghead is where the tuners are mounted, also called a headstock. Vintage guitars often have cracks or repaired headstocks as this will often crack if a guitar falls over.
  • Pickguard - Also scratchplate.  Often cracked around the screw holes on vintage guitars. 
  • Pot - Potentiometer. The electronic component turned by control knobs used for control of volume and tone.
  • Pre-CBS - Refers to Fender guitars manufactured before the 1965 takeover of Fender by CBS.  Vintage collectors prefer pre-CBS guitars.
  • PU (also P/U or pups) - pickup(s)
  • Quilted - Describes beautiful undulating pattern found in wood, generally refers to Maple and can also be referred to as "maple quilting" or maple quilted".
  • Refin - Refers to a refinished guitar.  Refinished guitars have a significantly lower value than original guitar with the original surface.
  • Refret - Also called a fret job, refers to re-fretting a guitar, usually needed due to excessive fret wear.
  • Rout(ing) - The process of cutting a pickup or control cavity. Old guitars are sometimes (re-)routed to enable a different pickup to be installed.  This usually reduces the value of a vintage guitar and routing should never be done on a valuable guitar.
  • Scale Length - Length of the vibrating string from nut to saddle or twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. 
  • Set Neck - A set neck is a neck that is glued into the body and uses no bolts for attachment. 
  • Setup - Guitar repair term to set intonation and action.
  • Single Coil Pickup - An pickup design with a single coil of wire wrapped around a magnet
  • Stop Tailpiece - Sometimes called a stud tailpiece.  Fixed to the top of the guitar and anchors the strings to the top.  
  • Through Neck - A Through neck design uses a neck that actually runs right through the center of the body and effectively forms part of the body.
  • Truss Rod - The metal rod that runs through the center of a guitar's neck below the fingerboard.  The truss rod helps to stiffen the neck and prevent bowing caused by the tension caused by the strings.  Can usually be adjusted to change the relief of the neck.
  • Tune-o-matic - This bridge is commonly found on Les Paul style electric guitars.  It sits on two thumbwheels and has six saddles which allow individual intonation adjustment for each string.
  • Vibrato - The technically correct name for what is often called tremolo or trem.  Also known as "whammy bar".

97 Fender Strat Plus; 81 Aria Pro II CS-350; 70s Gherson Les Paul; 09 Hofner Verythin; 02 Takamine EG540SC ;03 Johnson Travel; 60s Minorca Classical; Indian Sitar; 70s Ovation Deacon; 76 Shergold Meteor Deluxe; Godin Multiac Nylon SA


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