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2. Naming the notes

Musical notes are named using the letters of the alphabet.

A B C D E F G

The lowest sounding note would be the A on the left with the notes gradually getting higher towards the G. After the G the pattern would start again at A and continue getting higher, likewise it could continue getting lower before the A on the left like this.

A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G

These notes are known as natural notes. If you look at a piano keyboard the natural notes are the ones in white. If you pick any note from the list above and count along the line till you reach the same note again you should have hopefully counted to eight. If you got to seven make sure you counted every note including the one you started on. This distance is called an octave.

Example

A to the next A is an octave

B to the next B is an octave

C to the next C is an octave
Etc

Octaves

If you find the open E string on your guitar, this is the first or sixth string, then look for a double dot on the neck, this dot Indicates the 12th fret. If your guitar does not have a double dot count up to the 12th fret. Play the open E string and listen to the note produced, this is an E, then play the E string again but this time pressing down with your fretting hand on the 12th fret, this note is also an E and this is what an octave sounds like. The double dot is to indicate where the notes start again, or in other words is one octave higher than the open string.

Flats & Sharps

You have hopefully noticed that we have said that an octave is eight notes apart but to play an octave on the guitar we have had to climb up twelve frets. This is because in between the natural notes there are other notes. These notes are called sharp or flat notes. The symbol for a sharp is #, and the symbol for a flat is b. To avoid confusion I will always put the note names in capitals and the flat sign in lower case. For example Eb would be E flat. F# would be F sharp.

To flatten a note you need to go one fret lower down the fret board. For example, if we took the E at the 12th fret on the E string and moved it down one fret to the 11th fret this note is Eb.

To sharpen a note we need to go one fret higher. For Example if we took the D on the tenth fret of the E string and moved it up one fret to the 11th fret this note would be D#.

In the two examples above we ended up on the same fret but with two different note names. This is because D# and Eb are the same note. Every sharp note has an equivalant flat note.

There are sharps and flats in between every pair of natural notes except B and C, and E and F.

So if we put all the notes down now we end up with this.

A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A

If we transfer this to the guitar using the E string again we can play the notes using the following frets

Fret       Note
0               E
1               F
2           F#/Gb
3               G
4           G#/Ab
5                A
etc .

Try counting up the frets on the E string and naming the notes as you go along. You should be at E again when you reach the 12th fret.

Tones & Semitones

A distance of one fret on the guitar can be called a semitone and a distance of two frets can be called a tone. For example if we play the fifth fret on any string then move it up it by one fret, to the sixth fret, we could say we have raised the note by a semitone. If we raise it by two frets we could say we have raised the note by a tone.

Exercise

Try naming all the notes on one string by starting with the open string and then working your way up the string. You should end up on the note name you started with by the 12th fret. If you dont something has gone wrong. Dont worry. Try again.

Next up:  Lesson 3 – Finding the notes.

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Jaco Pastorius


Jaco Pastorius is probably the most influential Bass player of all time.  Playing a Fender Jazz with the frets removed Jaco had a unique and instantly recognisable style making use of harmonics, false harmonics, legato, and punchy lines .  Jaco recorded with Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, and, Joni Mitchell amongst others as well as recording his own solo projects.

Jaco had two Grammy Award nominations for his self-titled debut album. He won the readers’ poll for induction into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only four bassists to be so honored (the others being Charles Mingus, Milt Hinton, and Ray Brown), and the only electric bassist to receive this distinction.

Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads was most famous for being Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist on the albums “Blizzard of Oz” and “Diary of a madman”, Ozzy’s first albums since splitting with Black Sabbath.  Randy played guitar for the band “Quiet Riot” before joining Ozzy’s band and was also a dedicated classical guitar player and would seek out classical guitar lessons whilst on tour.  Randy was one of the first “schooled” rock guitarists and had a deep knowledge of music theory, composition, and guitar techniques.  This coupled with his natural musicality combined to make him one of the greatest guitarists ever.  Randy was tragically killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982.  In 1987 Ozzy released “Tribute”   a live recording of Ozzy and Randy in concert plus some studio out-takes.  Have a listen to the clip above to hear Randy playing both in a classical style and also some great lead guitar.  The solo at around 2 mins 40 secs is a masterpiece.  Enjoy.

Guitar Chords For Beginners

These are some of the most commonly used beginners chords.  You will often see these chords on sheet music and guitar tabs.  The chords are the same on acoustic and electric guitar.  The fingerings I have put on them are the ones I normally use and teach but feel free to use your own if you prefer.

Next: How to read guitar tab

Thoughts on Guitar Practice

In this lesson I will show you how to master the guitar in twenty minutes. Learn all the tricks , techniques and scales the pro’s use.
We have all seen the ads that claim to show you how to do this.  Well here I am going to show you how to do it for free.
OK now for the truth.
You cant master the guitar in twenty minutes.  To learn to play an instrument takes time, a lifetime in fact, there will always be something that you can do better.  You will reach different levels of playing along the way but once you reach one level you will find there is a higher level to aim for.
The only way you will improve your playing is practice,and good quality practice. Speak to guitarists you admire, the guitarist in you favourite local band, your teacher, or read articles by your guitar heroes and you will find one common thread running between them. They all practiced, a lot.

Some thoughts on practicing. 

You should practice as often as you can.  Twenty minutes a day is better than two hours every Sunday.  If you practice infrequently you may find that the improvement you made in your last session is gone by the next time you pick your guitar up.
Order Your Practice. Put together a routine with your teacher which focuses on the areas you want to improve on and sustains the areas you are currently happy with.  If you practice nothing but sweep arpeggios for six months you may find the rest of your playing suffers.
Set Targets.  By setting targets you can clearly see how much your playing is improving over time.  Seeing your improvement provides good motivation for further practice.
Practice Slowly and Accurately.  If you practice at a speed which is too high for you, you will end up making more mistakes and playing sloppily.  In the long term you will succeed in becoming a very good sloppy guitarist who makes lots of mistakes.
So there you go.  Master the guitar in twenty minutes….a day.

Choosing your first guitar

Buying your first guitar can be a daunting prospect so I have put together some tips and advice to make that purchase easier and also thrown in a few of my favourite beginners guitars.  

Electric or Acoustic, this is the first decision you have to make.

Electric guitars are solid bodied guitars and require some form of amplification to make a noise.  There are many different shapes of electric guitar, some of the most common ones are the “Stratocaster” as used by Jimi Hendrix and the “Les Paul” as used by Slash.  They are used in metal, rock, pop, and blues styles to name a few.  Some famous electric guitarists are, Jimi Hendrix,  Slash, and Steve Vai.

 

Acoustic guitars come in two main types, nylon strung or steel strung, and have hollow bodies. Nylon strung guitars are used mainly in classical and flamenco music and steel strung guitars are used for popular music styles such as folk, blues, blue grass, and fingerstyle guitar.  Some well known Nylon strung guitarists are John Williams and Julian Bream.  Examples of steel strung guitarists are Joni Mitchell,  Newton Faulkner, and, Tommy Emmanuel.  Most people learning acoustic guitar for fun choose a steel strung guitar.

Have a look at the artists listed above to get an idea of how the various guitars sound.

Acoustic guitars and electric guitars are usually tuned in the same way and the basic skills from one type to another are easily transferable.  An electric guitarist can play acoustic and vice versa.

The action is the distance between the strings and the frets on the neck of the guitar.   This is important when choosing your first guitar.  If the action is too high the guitar will be difficult to play and your fingertips will hurt more than they should.  If the action is too low the strings will buzz.  Either of these problems could really put you off playing.  However if you have purchased a guitar with these issues they are easily rectified.  Music shops should check these things before selling you the guitar.

Choosing an electric guitar

We are lucky today that the quality of entry-level guitars is much higher that when I was a lad.  I would recommend getting a guitar package, these usually come with a guitar, amplifier, lead, picks, and a strap.  Pretty much everything you need to get started.  I would also recommend going to your local music shop to try/view guitars.  If you can play it is important to play your prospective guitar and find out how it feels.  Make sure the guitar is tuned to concert pitch as some music shops have been known to tune down the guitars to make them easier to play.  If you can’t play ask someone in the shop to play the guitar for you so you can see and hear the guitar being played.  Check the action and ask the shop if the guitar has been properly set up.  Ask them to show you how the controls work on the guitar, volume pots, pickup selectors etc.

Some beginner guitars that I recommend are the Fender Squier and Tanglewood electric guitars.  Encore also make a decent starter pack for a slightly lower price.

Choosing an Acoustic guitar

Once again the quality of entry-level acoustic is very high now and the advice is similar to above.  Go to your local music store and have a good look round.  Play the guitar if possible or ask someone to play it for you.  It is really important to hear your acoustic guitar being played as the tone of different styles of acoustic guitars varies greatly.  Check the guitar has been set up to a reasonable standard and is tuned to concert pitch.  It is not as important to buy a pack with an acoustic guitar but you may want to consider getting a tuner, capo and a strap.  Some acoustic guitars come with pickups built-in, these are called electro-acoustic guitars.  If you think you may want to record or amplify your acoustic guitar get one with a pickup installed, it does not add too much to the cost of the guitar.

Some acoustic guitars I recommend are Tanglewood and Crafter.

Take your time choosing your guitar.  You may have it for a long time and getting the right one first time will save time and money.

Once you have purchased your guitar why not come back here and try some of the free lessons on my website.

Why Learn Guitar Anyway?

There has never been a better time than now to take up the guitar.

My first electric guitar was a white strat copy.  At the time it was a reasonable quality beginners guitar.  The action was so high you could have driven a truck between them and the neck, the frets so flat it had a fret less feel to it, and tuning pegs that Arnie at his prime would have struggled with and I loved it.  The choice of beginners guitars was quite limited and amps were almost impossible to find at an affordable price.
My amplifier was a RSC combo 5.  Never seen another one like it. It was a 5 watt practice amp with an oval speaker.  I poked holes in the speaker as I heard this would make it distort. It did, but in a rubbish way.  I also used this as a bass amp, it distorted well enough with a bass plugged into it.  It finally died when I stuck a switched on soldering iron into the back of it in an attempt to re solder the speaker wire back on.  I had neglected to turn the amp off and when the iron hit a live wire it went bang.  Thankfully I survived.

This was replaced with a Carlsbro Cobra amplifier.  This was certainly a step up from my RSC as it had two gain controls and a parametric eq and would produce an almost respectable distortion.    It had one channel so a clean sound was produced by backing the guitars volume control off.  I kept this amp until I left music school and started getting some professional playing work when I replaced it with my first Mesa/Boogie.
My next guitar was a Washburn WP50 Les Paul purchased from spectre sound in Bingley.  This was a cool guitar.  I learned to play on this guitar by trying to figure out Mark Knopfler phrases off a old cassette recording of sultans of swing.  Even now my left shoulder is slightly lower than my right due to the hours stood practising with this heavy beast round my shoulder.

Next up came the Ibanez Jem which is still my mainstay.  We used to stand and stare at this Guitar in Peps music shop window in true Wayne’s world fashion.  I couldn’t believe that this guitar was mine after I had bought it.


The point of all this rambling is this.  For around £200 now you can have a starter guitar and amp of good quality compared to the beginners instruments of yesterday.  You no longer have to struggle learning to play on instruments with dubious action, low quality materials, and dodgy finishes.  If you are thinking of taking up the guitar, whatever age you are, get down the music shop or the online store and get yourself a starter pack.  Find a teacher or try some free online lessons and get on with it.  You wont regret it