Lesson 17 Music Theory - Notes on String

I've purposely held off on this topic, I can't even begin to tell you just how important it truely is. Music theory can get quite confusing, if you go on to learn more, take it one part at a time. What I am going to talk about here is basic theory and it's vital to learning the guitar.

Notes in Music

Whole Notes: A-B-C-D-E-F-G

In "Western" music there are simply seven whole notes, however, within these whole notes we have sharp and flat notes.

Figure 1: A - A#/Bb - B - C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab


Sharps vs. Flats
The scale shown above is one of the most important things to memorize, and memorizing it is very simple. If you look closely at figure 1, you will see that the interval between B and C has no sharp or flat, and the interval between E and F has no sharp or flat - these intervals are known as natural half steps. All of the other notes have a sharp or flat.

What is a sharp note and what is a flat note?
The "distance" between two notes is a whole step, the "distance" between a whole note and sharp/flat note is a half step. Therefore, playing an A note then a B note is a whole step, playing an A note then a A# note is a half step. Simply put, a sharp note is a half step above a whole note, and a flat note is a half step below a whole note.

What is the difference between a sharp and flat note?
Believe it or not they are the same! For example, C sharp is the same note as D flat, this concept applies to all of the sharp/flat combinations. When ascending a scale you refer to the notes as sharps, when descending you refer to them as flats.


Notes on the Guitar

Remember the talk about "distance" being a whole step or half step. When you apply this concept to the guitar, each fret represents a half step. However, keep in mind B-C and E-F are deemed as natural half steps.

Let's take a look at an example, in Part 4 of Lesson 3 guitar finger exercises we covered the notes E-F-G on the top E-String:


E String: |--0--1--3--|
Note:     |--E--F--G--|

What note is fret 2?
If you said F sharp or G flat then you are correct! Now lets break this down, remember in figure 1 we said there is no half step between E and F? Well look at the example above, indeed we play the open string E and the very first fret is F, in other words, there is no fret seperating the two notes. However, since F to G has a sharp/flat note fret 2 represents that F-sharp/G-flat note.

Keep Going!!!
The key to this lesson is that you start to memorize where the notes lie and that you know how to figure out what notes you are playing. So let's keep moving up the string and refer to Figure 1 to tell us what note we are playing:

E String: |--5--7--8--|
Note:     |--?--?--?--|

Since we know fret 3 is a G note, and we know from Figure 1 that G does have a sharp, then we know that fret four is a G#/Ab note. Therefore, fret 5 is an A note!

Using that same logic, fret 6 is A#/Bb and fret 7 is a B note! Now onto fret 8, in Figure 1 we said B-C has no half step, therefore fret 8 is a C note!

Finish it Off!
E String: |--10--12--|
Note:     |--D---E---|
You are almost there! We know fret 9 is C#/Db so fret 10 is a D note! Now were about to start all over again! On all strings the 12th fret is the same note as the open string. Therefore, fret 12 on the sixth string is an E note, so what is fret 13? If you said an F note, then you got it! It repeats in the same formation starting at the 12th fret.

Your assignment is to do this on the remaining strings. Just go through it one note at a time, say the note out loud as you play it to help memorize it. However, take your time, it's a lot to remember! Trust me on this, knowing the notes on the fifth and sixth strings will be invaluable to you as you start to memorize your barre chords.