How to Describe the Sound of a Guitar

By Miles Jarvis
Guitars produce a wide variety of textures and tones.

Guitars are capable of producing a wide range of sounds. Different styles of guitars, styles of playing and styles of musicians, as well as less accomplished players, each contribute to the guitar's versatility and variety of sound. Learn how to describe the sound of a guitar by understanding the different types of guitars and guitar music. Familiarize yourself with guitar music jargon and the many adjectives that describe a guitar's sounds. Having a better vocabulary for talking about guitar sounds will not make you a better musician, but it may help you work toward the effects you desire.

If you understand the differences in sound between guitars and other musical instruments, you will have an easier time describing a guitar's sound and how guitars differ from other instruments. Listen to and think about a broad range of musical instruments' sounds. Contrast and compare a guitar's tonality, texture, range of dynamics and pitch.

Become familiar with the differences in sound between classical guitars, solid-body electric guitars, hollow-body electric guitars, dreadnought acoustic guitars, steel guitars, twelve-string guitars, and other guitar types. Different styles of guitars sound different; they may be twangy, full-bodied, bright, metallic or harp-like.

Learn how amplification, guitar effects and studio production affect guitar sounds. Guitars may sound over-compressed, lightly compressed, distorted, grunty, tinny, full of reverb, delayed, fuzzy or crunchy.

Listen to how a guitar is played. The instrument can be strummed softly, quickly or with a Spanish rhythm. It might be picked lightly, slowly or with a driving rhythm.

Learn adjectives that are commonly used to describe guitars and music in general. Guitars can be sweet, warm, bassy, melodious, harmonious, driving, dull, out-of-tune, hollow, jazzy, speedy, droning, guttural, soft, uplifting, muted, and many other adjectives.


Use a thesaurus to expand your guitar music lexicon. While experienced musicians may share much the same vocabulary, descriptions can be somewhat subjective.

About the Author

Miles Jarvis has been writing since 2009, with expertise in the field of East Asian languages and culture. He earned a B.A. in Chinese studies at the University of Waikato and has also studied at universities in Hong Kong and Japan.