Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 11

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Learn the notes on the fretboard – some examples

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

As we saw previously in the above table, many notes have more than one name – let’s first look at some name 1 examples, then at some name 2 examples.

In the next post we’ll think about the third name and when to correctly use the various names.

Some Name 1 Examples

Below is a diagram of the first 6 frets of a standard tuned guitar fretboard with the notes using the name 1 name

E (1)
F F# G G# A A#
B (2)
C C# D D# E F
G (3)
G# A A# B C C#
D (4)
D# E F F# G G#
A (5)
A# B C C# D D#
E (6)
F F# G G# A A#
Open String
Fret 1 Fret 2 Fret 3 Fret 4 Fret 5 Fret 6

Here’s some examples of how you’d work out some notes:

Example 1:

  • Q: What’s the note of the 2nd fret on the B string?
  • A: Start at the open B and go up 2 frets. Remembering that there’s no sharp between B and C, you know that the note is a C#

Example 2:

  • Q: What’s the note of the 5th fret on the bottom E string?
  • A: Start at the open E and go up 5 frets. Remembering that there’s no sharp between E and F, you know that the note is an A

Example 3:

  • Q: Thinking outside the diagram, what’s the note on the 10th fret on the G string?
  • A: Since you know there are 12 notes and therefore the note names repeat from the 12th fret on the guitar fretboard, in this case, it’s going to be quicker to start at the 12th fret and work backwards rather than start at the open string and count up
    This yields the answer of F.

Some Name 2 Examples

Just for completeness, here’s a piano keyboard with the notes of 3 octaves labelled as their flat names.

Here’s the first 6 frets of the guitar fretboard with notes labelled by their flat name

E (1)
F Gb G Ab A Bb
B (2)
C Db D Eb E F
G (3)
Ab A Bb B C Db
D (4)
Eb E F Gb G Ab
A (5)
Bb B C Db D Eb
E (6)
F Gb G Ab A Bb
Open String
Fret 1 Fret 2 Fret 3 Fret 4 Fret 5 Fret 6

Example 1:

  • Q: What’s the note of the 2nd fret on the B string?
  • A: Start at the open B and go up 2 frets. Remembering that there’s no sharp between B and C, you know that the note is a Db

Example 2:

  • Q: What’s the note of the 4th fret on the bottom E string?
  • A: Start at the open E and go up 4 frets. Remembering that there’s no sharp between E and F, you know that the note is an Ab

Example 3:

  • Q: Thinking outside the diagram, what’s the note of the 11th fret on the G string?
  • A: It’s going to be quicker to start at the 12th fret and work backwards rather than start at the open string and count up. This yields the answer of Gb.

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Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 10

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Learn the notes on the fretboard – a starting note

If you currently don’t know any of the notes anywhere on the fretboard, let’s start by learning one note on each string.

We might as well start with the open (unfretted) strings.

If you’re using standard tuning then your guitar is tuned as followed:

Note Gravity String No. Pitch
E Top 1 Highest
B 2
G 3
D 4
A 5
E Bottom 6 Lowest

Examining the remaining columns in this table:

  • Gravity – Looking down at a guitar when you’ve got it strapped on you, the bottom string is the one closest to you – bottom meaning it is lowest in pitch, not physically at the bottom of the guitar.
  • String No: The bottom string is the 6th string and the top string is the 1st string.
  • Pitch: The string which is lowest in pitch (the bottom E) is also called the lowest string and the string which is highest in pitch (the top E) is called the highest string.

The note names in the order from bottom to top

  • E, A, D, G, B, E

Say this many times, think of an acronym, or just remember them.

Whichever way works best for you, get the names of the open strings firmly fixed in your head.

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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

Piano_SharpNames

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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Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 8

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Learn the notes on the fretboard

The first major learning step you’re going to need to undertake is to learn the names of all the notes on the guitar fretboard.

Here’s a few reasons why you actually need to do this:

  • To communicate effectively with other musicians – especially non-guitarists who may not know what note the 7th fret on the G string is
  • To build chords anywhere on the fretboard – as you go through this blog, you’re gonna learn the notes that make up a chord. In order to construct that chord on the fretboard, you’re gonna need to be able to find the notes that make up the chord
  • To expand your knowledge – if for no other reason, learn the notes because it’s new knowledge and you’ll feel good when you’re learnt them; you never know when something you spent the time learning will become useful in life

This isn’t to say you can’t progress to learn other things without first knowing the note names, it just means that you need to start learning now so that you can get to the stage where you can answer the questions:

  • What’s the note on the 9th fret on the B string?” (Ans: “G#”)
  • What’s another name for that note?” (Ans: “Ab”)

Learning the notes on the fretboard is the basis for the first of my mobile apps.

It is a quiz based app which will speed you through the learning process. It will also get you thinking about and visualising the guitar fretboard when you’re away from your guitar – a great step forward in mental mapping.

Find out more about the app here.

If you don’t have an Android smart phone or tablet to run this app, then the next best way to do this would be to quiz yourself by running through questions in your head both when you’re at the guitar and when you’re away from your instrument.

Note, that when you’re away from your instrument, you may find visualisation difficult at first, but stick with it and you will reap the rewards.

Let’s move onto the next post which explains how to start going about learning the notes on the fretboard.

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Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 7

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The 12 Notes in Western Music

In western music, there are 12 named notes which are named using the first 7 letters of the alphabet.

  • A, B, C, D, E, F, G

But 7 letters doesn’t make 12 notes!

The additional notes are named using sharps and flats.

Sharps (#) & Flats (b)

The ‘#’ sign is pronounced sharp and the ‘b’ sign is pronounced flat.

Sharp can be thought of as going upwards and flat can be thought of as going downwards.

The table below shows the names of the twelve notes.

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

You’ll notice that most notes have more than one name.

eg. The note above A can be referred to as A# or as Bb, the note below F can be referred to as E or Fb

Later in this blog, we’ll understand the circumstances under which it is appropriate to use to each name.

Tones and Semi-tones

Each of the notes is one semi-tone apart.

eg. D# is one semi-tone above D which is one semi-tone above C#.

A Tone means 2 notes apart:

  • 2 Semi-Tones = 1 Tone

Eg: The note B is one tone above A. The note F# is one tone above E

On the guitar fretboard, 1 fret corresponds to 1 semi-tone and hence 2 frets correspond to 1 tone.

Octaves

When you get to G#, the next note up is again an A. However, this A is an octave above your initial A, meaning that it is higher in pitch than your first A.

If you’re going down then when you get to A, the next note down is a G# one octave below your previous G#, meaning that it is lower in pitch than your first G#.

Since there are 12 notes in western music, the note repetition occurs after the 12th note:

  • 12 semi-tones = 1 Octave

On a guitar fretboard, this means there is repetition after 12 frets. This’ll be why (for most of you) there are double dots on your fretboard at the 12th fret and the 24th fret (if your fretboard goes that high).

Check out an example of an octave on your guitar by first playing the open 5th string of your guitar (the open A) and then playing the 12th fret on the same string. Both notes are an A, but the second one is an octave above the first.

If you’re interested in some physics behind this, if a note is an octave above another note then its value in the frequency range is double that of the first note.

For example, let’s take Concert A. Concert A is the reference note that the World tunes to.

Through the years, the actual frequency of Concert A has varied but these days we’re more or less standardised on 440 Hz.

Concert A is the note we just played – the open A string on a standard tuned guitar – 440Hz. The second note we just played – the 12th fret on the A string is the A note 12 semi-tones, 1 octave, above and has a frequency of 880Hz.

If you have an electric guitar tuner which has a frequency scale on it as well as some pretty lights, and you feel the inclination, you can figure out the frequency range of your instrument.

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Index

Theory Blog

Blog Post 1 – Welcome
Blog Post 2 – Should I learn theory?
Blog Post 3 – Mental Mapping
Blog Post 4 – What the Pros say
Blog Post 5 – Other learning material out there
Blog Post 6 – Intermission
Blog Post 7 – The 12 Notes in Western Music
Blog Post 8 – Learn the notes on the fretboard
Blog Post 9 – The Piano – a visual instrument
Blog Post 10 – Learn the notes on the fretboard – a starting note
Blog Post 11 – Learn the notes on the fretboard – some examples

FriendlySanj Mobile Apps

Why I wrote these apps

Notes App

Notes – Theory
Notes – Instructions

Intervals App

Intervals – Theory
Intervals – Instructions

Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 6

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Intermission

Ok, I’ve done a lot of talking about the background. Now it’s time to get down to some learning.

I’m hoping you’re inspired to start learning and I’ll try to keep you inspired by giving you examples of how you can use the things you learn today.

Hopefully, you’ll start building a mental fretboard map right away which you’ll keep adding to throughout your guitar playing life.

The clearer your map becomes, the more accurate your destination.

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