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Guitar Notes Explained: A GuideFor BeginnersGuitar notes are at the heart of everything a guitaristdoes. They are the building blocks we use to play allchords, riffs & solos.In this GuitarFire guide you will learn: The guitar string notes The difference between guitar notes and guitar chords. The musical alphabet The difference between sharps and flats 3 useful theory tips to help you navigate the fretboardfastLet’s dive straight in!.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Guitar String Notes (Standard Tuning)In standard tuning these are the open string guitar notes:This is the way most guitars are tuned. There are otherways to a tune a guitar that change the guitar notes, butit’s best to avoid alternate tunings while you’re abeginner.Stick with standard tuning for at least the first 6months of your guitar journey. If you switch to anexotic alternate guitar tuning, the chord shapesall change. That’s not much fun for a beginner. Let’skeep things nice and simple!www.nationalguitaracademy.com

There are six strings on a guitar. Each stringhas a name AND a number. The thickest string is called the 6th string. In standardguitar tuning, this is tuned to E. We often refer to this asthe ‘low E string‘. This is the deepest/lowest guitar noteyou can play.The 5th string is tuned to A, so it’s usually referred toas the A string.The 4th string is tuned to D, so it’s usually referred toas the D string.The 3rd string is tuned to G, so it’s usually referred toas the G string.The 2nd string is tuned to B, so it’s usually referred toas the B string.The 1st string is tuned to E. This is the thinnest of allthe strings. We often refer to this as the ‘high E string’.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

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How to remember the guitar string notesThe easiest way to remember the guitar string notes isto use a mnemonic: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big EarsOr my personal favourite Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye EddieKaboom!Try and make a mnemonic yourself. (The sillier it is thebetter; that will make it more memorable.)QUICK TIPThese notes are exactly the same on acoustic, electric,classical and semi-acoustic guitars.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

What’s the difference between guitar notesand guitar chords? Notes are the smallest unit of musical language. We group notes together to form chords.Some of our students find this analogy helpful: Notes are like letters. Chords are like words.To form a chord, we need to group some notes together.Let’s look at some examples:NotesGuitar notes are individual pitches.ChordsA chord is made when we stack guitar notes togetherand play them all at the same time.The chord has a larger and fuller sound because wehear several guitar notes played at the same time.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Don’t make this common beginner mistake!One of the worst mistakes you can make as a beginnerguitarist is to try and learn all the guitar notes on thefretboard.In my experience (20,000 hours teaching guitarbeginners) it’s totally overwhelming for guitar learnerswho take this approach.All your energy as a new guitarist should befocussed on chords.Objectively, this is a more successful approach.I think this is because it’s easier and more fun to learnsome static chord shapes and immediately begin makingmusic.So learn a few simple chords and get strumming; Youcan master your fretboard’s DNA at a later point.Eventually everyone ‘graduates’ to focussing more onguitar notes, scales and theory, but you shouldNOT start there.(If you do you will make slower progress and your guitarjourney will be more difficult than it needs to be. You willalso become a very lop-sided guitarist.)Quick TipFocus exclusively on chords and strumming during thefirst 3-5 months of your guitar journey.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Guitar Notes: Exploring The FretboardWe’re going to move on now and explore thefretboard in greater depth. This is NOT essentialknowledge for an absolute guitar beginner, but itwill deepen your understanding of the instrument ifyou want to learn more.Read on only if you want to learn more about themusical alphabet and how guitar notes lay across thefretboard.There’s useful stuff here, but I don’t want to overload youif you’re new to the instrument.Understanding guitar notes & the musicalalphabetGuitar notes are the same as violin notes and pianonotes. (The musical alphabet is the same acrossall instruments.)I’ve always found it a bit odd how many musicians don’tknow their musical alphabet. After all, the normalalphabet has 26 letters and the musical alphabet onlyhas 12 notes. The normal alphabet goes from A to Z. The musical alphabet goes from A to G.However, we have to remember our sharps and flatswhich appear between most (though not all) of theletters.The musical alphabet (and hence, order of guitar notes)looks like this:www.nationalguitaracademy.com

A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.Quick TipThe # symbol means ‘sharp’. So you pronounce “A#” as“A sharp”.Sharps vs flatsSharps and flats are the same thing, just looked atfrom a different angle.We can describe all sharps as flats. If we do, the musicalalphabet looks like this:A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G, Ab, A.We use the “b” sign to denote “flat”.So A sharp (A#) can also be called “B flat” (written asBb). A# and Bb are the same note.If it were 9.30 in the morning you could say it was “halfpast nine” or your could say it was “30 minutes to ten”.Both descriptions would be accurate and both describethe same thing.Once again: A# and Bb are the same note.The same goes for the other sharps. C# (AKA “C sharp”) is the same note as Db (AKA “Dflat”). D# is the same note as Eb. F# is the same note as Gb. G# is the same note as Ab.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

So we can write all the guitar notes like this(with sharps):A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.Or like this (with flats):A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G, Ab, A.In reality, you will often see a blend of both.Like this:A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.Do all guitar notes have a sharp or flat?No. Let’s use this pattern to explain. (We’re going tostick with all sharps to make this easier to understand.)A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.You may notice that not all the letters have a sharpbetween them. We go straight from B to C. There is no ‘B#’ or ‘Cb’in-between.We go straight from E to F. There is no ‘E#’ or ‘Fb’in-between.In music, there is no B#/Cb or E#/Fb. They don’t exist.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

How to memorise the musical alphabetEach fret has a number and it goes up one by one as weascend the fret board:If we pluck a string without fretting any notes we say thatwe’re playing an “open string”.We think of this as zero. An open string 0From 0, when we go ‘up’ the fretboard, we’re headingtowards the body of the guitar, like this:www.nationalguitaracademy.com

We say we’re travelling ‘up’ because the pitch of thenotes goes higher.How to practice the notes of the musicalalphabetThe best way to practice the musical alphabet on aguitar is to start on the open A string (5th string) andcount up one fret at a time, naming the notes as you gountil you get to the 12th fret (the one with two dots on it): Start by plucking the open 5th string and you will hear anA note.Then press on the first fret on the 5th string and pluck.You will hear an A# note. Keep going.This is the full order you will hear from the open string allthe way to the 12th fret:A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Congratulations, you just moved through afull octave! By the time you’re on the 12th fret, you will be back at Aagain. (But you’ve now moved into a higher octave.)If you’re not at A when you reach the 12th fret, chancesare you’ve missed out a sharp or added one where thereshouldn’t be one. Go back and check.Once you get used to counting up the string usingsharps, why not try counting back down it, this timeusing flats?If we want to go ‘down’ the fret board we go the oppositeway, towards the neck and tuning keys.From the 12th fret down the open string, the guitar noteswill flow like this:A, Ab, G, Gb, F, E, Eb, D, Db, C, B, Bb, A.This is harder to do, as most people don’t know theiralphabet going in reverse!Take your time and get it right.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

NINJA TIP: Saying the notes aloud as you play themhelps embed the guitar notes in your mind. This isan example of neuro-linguistic programming andyou can use this to learn faster.Use Fret Markers To Quickly Get YourBearingsIf you look on the neck of most guitars you will see fretmarkers (little white dots).These show you which frets are which. The dots areusually on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9thand 12th frets.Natural notes vs sharps and flatsNatural notes are the notes that aren’t sharps or flats:ABCDEFGThere is no ‘H’. After G the next note is A, but it’s ahigher A than the previous one. (We have now entered ahigher octave.)Don’t worry too much about what this means (octavesare just how we split all the notes into manageableportions).www.nationalguitaracademy.com

The notes we’ve covered so far are called naturalnotes, because they have no sharps or flats.ABCDEFGLet’s have a look at finding these naturalnotes on the fret board.There are couple of rules we can use here to help usfind these notes.Rule #1 Between every natural note, there is a two fret gap. This is what’s known as a whole step.Rule #2 However some notes don’t follow the two fret rule! The gap between these notes is just one fret. As we learnt earlier, this is between B and C, and E andF.This is known as a half step.Now let’s look at how we can find these notes on eachstring.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Let’s start with the low E string (the thickeststring)We know that the open note is tuned to E, which is anatural note.Let’s try and find the natural notes on the E string.Play along with this exercise.This means we start from E and that the notes we wantto find are:EFGABCDSo if we take a look back at our rules, we can easily findthe 2 fret gaps in between the notes, as well as the onefret gaps. Between E and F, there is only one fret. We covered thisabove.We know E is the note of our open 6th string, therefore Fmust be found on the very next fret. The first fret.F and G have a 2 fret gap between them, so if we go uptwo frets from the 1stfret we land at fret 3. So fret 3 onour E string is a G note.G to A has a 2 fret gap too, if we go up two frets from the3rd fret where our G was, we end up at the 5th Fret. Sofret 5 on the E string is a A note.A to B also has a two fret gap, so if we go up two fretswe end up at fret number 7, therefore the 7th fret on theE string is a B note.I hope you can see that it’s pretty easy stuff, but watchout for the B to C. This is that sneaky half step, wherewe have to go up only 1 fret, instead of 2.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Ready to keep going? Let’s walk together all theway up to the top. So if B to C has a 1 fret gap, we end up at the 8th fret onthe E string.Therefore fret number 8 is a C note.C to D has a 2 fret gap, therefore if we go up two fretsfrom 8th fret, we end up at the 10th fret. So the 10th fretis the note D.D-E has a 2 fret gap, therefore if we go up two frets fromthe 10th fret, we end up at fret number 12. So the12th fret on the E string is an E.So we’ve now done the full cycle and ended up at the Enote in the higher octave.You should be able to hear that the open E string, andthe note at the 12th fret sound the same. The note on the12th fret is higher in pitch, but can you hear that they’rethe same? Try it now.All together, the notes you’ve played should soundsomething like this:www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Try this exercise to developunderstanding of guitar notes Find all the natural notes on the low E string. Find all the natural notes on the A string. Find all the natural notes on the D string. Find all the natural notes on the G string. Find all the natural notes on the B string. Find all the natural notes on the high E string.yourOnce you’ve done this, you may realise that some notesoverlap from one string to the next. Well done! You arediscovering the fretboard.Unlike the piano, where notes are played in a continuousline, the guitar notes overlap from string to string.Making sharps and flats clearWe covered this earlier, but I’d like to look at it again,from a slightly different perspective that helps it ‘click’ insome people’s minds.This is very confusing for most people, so it probably isfor you too. Don’t worry, it’s normal!Now you know about natural notes, you will see this froma different angle.Sharps and flats are the notes that are in-betweenthe natural notes.ABCDEFGwww.nationalguitaracademy.com

Sharps and flats live in the ‘spaces’ between thesenotes.Guitar Notes Explained: Sharpening Notes ToMake SharpsTo create a ‘sharp’ we have to sharpen a natural note.We do this by increasing the pitch of the note by onefret. This is a half step.So for example, if we have the natural note of “A” andwe sharpen it, it will become “A sharp”.Once again: We write ‘sharp’ by using a hashtagsymbol. “A sharp” is written as “A#”.Here are the A and A# notes on the fret board. Can yousee that the A# notes are always one fret higher than theA notes?Here’s what it would look like on musical notation. Seethe ‘hashtag’ symbol?www.nationalguitaracademy.com

When we look at sharps on a musical page, itnever says the word ‘sharp’. It will have a ‘#’instead.Guitar Notes Explained: Flattening Notes ToMake FlatsA flat is like the ‘opposite’ of a sharp. When we flatten anote we go the opposite way, so we decrease the noteby one fret. This is a half step.So if we have the natural note of A and want to flatten it,we go down a half step/one fret. This becomes “Aflat” which we write as “Ab”. The lowercase B symbol ishow we write ‘flat’. Ab is how we write “A flat” Bb is how we write “B flat” Cb is how we write “C flat” Db is how we write “D flat” Etc!Here’s a picture of the fret board showing you all the A’sand the Ab’s.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Can you see the Ab notes are always 1 fret lower thanthe A notes?Here’s a picture of what it would look like in musicalnotation.Quick TipWhen we see flats on a musical page, it will never saythe word ‘flat’. It will always have a lowercase “b” after it.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

A quick sharps and flats test!When we sharpen or flatten notes, there are a few rulesto remember. A couple of notes can’t be sharpened. What notes arethese? (Yes, B and E!)As we know, flats are the opposite of sharps. So theabove fact means what notes can’t be flattened? (Yes, Cand F!)I teach my students this by telling them to remember theword “BE”. I actually shout “To BE or not to BE” at themto drum it in. (It’s a bit weird, I know, but it works.)If all else fails, remember this:All notes can be sharpened except B and E.(Remember: “To BE or not to BE”!)Because sharps and flats are essentially the same thingthere is lots of confusion caused by the duplicateterminology.This infuriates me as a guitar teacher because it justmakes everything harder for beginners to learn. I wish itwere easier for wannabe musicians, but we’re stuck withthis clumsy naming structure. (Sorry guys!)Check out my article “What’s The Difference BetweenSharps and Flats? Which should I use?” to make thisconcept a lot easier.Quick TipLet’s try and make something really clear. Let’s take twonotes: A and B.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

We can sharpen the A. Which would give us A#. We can flatten the B. Which would give us Bb. These two notes are EXACTLY the same, they justhave different names.(Usually the key of the song determines what notenames we use. But don’t worry about understanding keytheory right now! For now I just want you to know that A#and Bb are the same note.)As well as notes, the chords A# and Bb are exactly thesame.Exercise: Finding the notesNow we understand about sharps and flats, we can usethis information to help us find these notes on the fretboard.Let’s take the low E string.We already know where all the natural notes are.These notes are:EFGABCDLet’s look at how we move from one to the next:www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Moving between guitar notes E & FTo find the notes in-between we can simply break itdown: We already know that there are no sharps or flatsbetween E and F.So the open string to fret 1 is easy! Nothing to worryabout there. The next note after E is F.Moving between guitar notes F & G We know F and G are frets 1 and 3.So what we need to find out is what note fret number 2is.We know we can sharpen F, which would make fret2 F#.Or We could flatten G, which would make it Gb.Therefore we can say the guitar note on fret 2 iseither F#/Gb, because they are exactly the samenote.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Moving between guitar notes G & A We already know G to A is frets 3 to 5. So the fret weare looking for is fret number 4.To do this we can sharpen G, which would make fret4 G#.Or We need to flatten A, which would make fret 4 Ab.Therefore fret 3 is either G# or Ab. They are thesame note.Moving between guitar notes A & B We already know A to B is frets 5 to 7. So the fret we are looking for is fret number 6. To do this we could sharpen the A, which wouldmake fret 6 A#.Or We could flatten the B, which would make fret 6 Bb. Therefore fret 6 is A# or Bb. They are the same note.Moving between guitar notes B & C We know that B to C is a half step and that we can’tsharpen or flatten either note. So that one is easy!The next note after B is always C.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Moving between guitar notes C & D We know that C to D is frets 8 and 10. So the fret we’re looking for is fret 9. Here we could sharpen C, which would make fret 9 C#.Or We could flatten D, which would make fret 9. Db. Therefore fret 9 is C# or Db. They are the same note.Moving between guitar notes D & E We know that D to E is frets 10 and 12. The fret we’re looking for is fret 11. We could sharpen D to make fret 11 D#.Or We can flatten E to make fret 11 Eb.Therefore fret 11 is either D# or Eb. They are thesame note.Here are some diagrams of the natural and sharpenednotes.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Here’s the same diagram, but instead of sharpenednotes we now have flattened notes!Hopefully you can see that the natural notes are thesame and the sharpened and flattened notes line up inexactly the same place.Ok, now try this by yourself Now you understand how to sharpen or flatten notes onthe fret board. Try these exercises:www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Find all the sharp and flat notes on the E string. Find all the sharp and flat notes on the A string. Find all the sharp and flat notes on the D string. Find all the sharp and flat notes on the G string. Find all the sharp and flat notes on the B string. Find all the sharp and flat notes on the high E string.When you feel you have a good grasp of this,you can review it with this diagram of the fullfretboard of guitar notes:Your guitar note knowledge will help withchords (& vice versa)Let’s look at a G chord.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Can you see that the first note in the chord, which is the3rd fret on the E string, is a G? (This is the root note.)If we have a look at our C Chord, the first note which weplay in a C chord is a C note.www.nationalguitaracademy.com

The first note in a chord can help us knowwhat the chord is (& vice versa).Understanding the flow of guitar notes on thefretboard can help us develop our chord knowledgetoo.Guitar chords and guitar notes blend together throughrhythm and lead guitar. Knowledge of one helps yougain knowledge of the other.It’s a virtuous circle!www.nationalguitaracademy.com

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners Guitar notes are at the heart of everything a guitarist does. They are the building blocks we use to play all chords, riffs & solos. In this GuitarFire guide you will learn: The guitar string notes The difference between guitar notes and guitar chords. The musical alphabet