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.
A to the next A is an octave
B to the next B is an octave
C to the next C is an octave
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
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.
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.