Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 9

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The Piano – a visual instrument

Here’s that table again of the twelve notes in Western music.

Note: Name 1: Name 2: Name 3:
1 A
2 A# Bb
3 B Cb
4 C B#
5 C# Db
6 D
7 D# Eb
8 E Fb
9 F E#
10 F# Gb
11 G
12 G# Ab

Here’s a piano keyboard with the notes of 3 octaves labelled


If you’re not familiar with the piano, then take a moment and you’ll notice that there is a pattern to the layout – there are two black notes sat amidst three white notes, then three black notes sat amidst 4 white notes and the pattern then repeats.

Generally speaking, the black notes are the sharps and flats and the white notes are the non-sharps and non-flats.

Another thing to notice is that two white notes are next to each other between

  • E and F
  • B and C

You can correlate this back to the table of notes where you can see there is no sharp between E and F and the B and C.

The piano is a visual instrument – it’s simple to see where the notes are.

The Guitar – a non-visual instrument

The guitar fretboard is not a visual instrument – it offers no immediate clues as to the notes it harbours.

To find a note, you either have to work out your note each time by learning one note on each string and counting up or down from there or you’ve gotta learn all the notes on the fretboard and be able to recall them at will.

Starting at a note you know and working out the note you require unfortunately isn’t quick enough for a real life playing situation, but this is the way you to go about getting the notes into your head.

As you continue to practice naming notes, more and more notes will sink in, meaning you’ll have more options of notes to start on and pretty soon it’ll all become one joined up map and you’ll be able to name the notes instantly.

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