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The Trials And Tribulations Of The Devil's Instrument.

Theory 101, the notes….

In our last music theory lesson, we concentrated on the basic definitions of music theory.  In this lesson, we’re going to go into a little more detail on pitch, and how it applies to the guitar. As we stated in our last article, pitch is a sound, and in music, the names for these sounds are called notes.  There are seven notes, and they are  A, B, C, D, E, F and G.  But where are these notes on the guitar?  And why should you care?


Notes are the basic building blocks of music.  They enable you to build chords, melody, harmony, songs, riffs, and solo’s.  Once you understand how the notes all fit together, you can play anything.  Suddenly, the world of music starts to open it’s doors and everything will make sense.

As we mentioned before, there are seven notes in music, and those are A, B, C, D, E, F and G.  And you already know where five of those notes are on the guitar.  They’re the names of the strings.  In case you didn’t know, here’s a diagram.

That’s right.  Each string is a note.  But where are the rest of the notes?  Well, rather than us pointing out where the notes are on the guitar and you having to memorize where they are, we’d rather point out how to figure out where the notes are.  It’s like that old saying, if you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll get really sick of fish after a while.  Anyways, let’s get on with it….

Those seven notes that we talked about?  Well, in between those notes are steps, or intervals.  Here’s a quick quide to those intervals.


Ok.  This isn’t as bad as it seems.  This is the way to tell where the seven notes are on the fretboard.  We know that our bottom string is the note E.    If we press our finger at first fret, we’ve gone up one fret, which is a half step.  If our starting note was E, then the note at first fret is F.  Now if we go from first fret to third fret, we’ve gone up a whole step, or two frets.  And from looking at the above chart, we can tell that a whole step from F is G, so that note at third fret is G.  And we can continue on and on.  But what about those in between notes?

That’s where the Sharp ( # ) and the flat ( b) come in.  Generally, the sharp or flat sign show up after the note name.  i.e. F# or Ab.  A sharp makes a note go up a half step ( or one fret ) and a flat makes a note go down a half step ( or one fret ).  So if we are playing the note F on the guitar, and we want to play a sharp, you just move your finger one fret up. If we’re playing a G on the guitar, and we want to play a Gb, we just move our finger down a half step.  Now in doing this, you’ll find certain notes are on the same fret, like F# and Gb.  These are called enharmonics, which is a fancy term for saying same note with a different name.

After all this is said and done, you know ( or can find out relatively quickly ) where all the notes are on the fretboard.  And here they all are, with direction arrow, sharps and flats, and all note names.



Written by

As a private guitar instructor, and as a performing musician, I’ve come across all types of guitar players. Some good, some bad, and some just plain out there phenomenal. Always curious into what makes some people more adept at playing guitar than others, I’ve done a lot of research into what it takes to be a great player. As I pass this information on, keep on mind that there’s no secret ingredient, no fast and sure way to get instantly better, and no substitute for putting in the time on the guitar.

1 Comments to “Theory 101, the notes….”

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