Learn to Play the Guitar: Learn to Read Music Notation and Understand How to Read Music.

Learn To Play The Guitar - Notation Examples

Find out how to read musical notation, easy explanations for notes, timing, rests and theory

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Learn To Play The Guitar - Notation Definitions

Now, let's learn to play some notation, showing you how notes are represented on the staff. There are 7 total notes, those being A B C D E F G. This is known as one octave. 

Once you play through an Octave, you start over again and repeat the notes for the second octave, also known as being one octave higher. When we place the notes on the staff, they look like this:


Learn to Play The Guitar - Basic Notation

Learn to Play The Guitar

Note Are Placed In or On A Line:

Notice in the example above, that the notes are either placed on the line or the line divides the note in half as you progress up the "scale". An easy way to remember the space notes is that they are FACE or spell the word "face". An acronym for remembering the line notes or EGBDF is "Every Good Boy Does Fine".

When you put them together you have all the notes in the scale as indicated on the top staff.

Notation Definitions

Learn to Play the Guitar - Basic Notes

Here Are The Notes On Each String

In the above diagram, I have divided the staff into 3 lines with 2 measures in each staff. The top staff contains the 1st and 2nd strings, the second staff contains the 3rd and 4th strings and the bottom staff contains the 5th and 6th strings.

Note that all of these notes are naturals - no sharps, no flats. This is the "C Scale", except we don't start with "C", we start with an "E", or open 6th string. Try not to let this mix you up - typically if someone would ask you to play the "C" scale you would start with a "C" note and end on a "C" note.

What I am doing here is showing you the complete range of notes that you have available on the guitar. In order to do this we start with the lowest note or an open "E".

Also of importance, you see the number next to the notes. You will often see these numbers to guide you as to what finger of your left hand you should use to finger these notes. Often, this is done just in difficult passages or for beginning students, to guide them in proper fingering of frets.

In the diagram also note that the number indicates the finger to be used AND it also corresponds to the fret to be fingered. You will often find a correlation between these two and they will often be the same.

We have mentioned it before that the first finger plays the first fret, second finger plays the second fret and so on....

Let's Look At The A Scale Next

Next, we will look at the scale, only this time it will be the Key of "A". So if you look up the Key of A you will find that we have (3) accidentals in this key. They are F#, C# and G# - They are indicated in the Key Signature and any F, C or G note placed on the staff shall be played as sharp without an additional documentation.

Here is the "A" Scale:
Learn to Play The Guitar - A Scale Notes

Learn to Play The Guitar

Take note that the notes on the staff do not look any different than than the notes for the C scale? The reasoning is that the three sharp notes in the "A" scale, being F#, C# and G# are handled by default, as part of the key signature.

In other words you have to remember to play them sharp as they will not show as sharp in the staff. Look at the note designations I placed below the notes and you will see what I mean. Also pay attention to the different fret positioning and fingers used for the "A" scale.

The above is a hard and fast rule and it is never varied. OK so how do we deal with a note that is sharp or flat per the key signature but we want to play it natural or without an accidental? The short answer is by placing a natural next to the note.

Another rule is that once you use an accidental in a measure, that accidental is effective for that entire measure.

I.E if you have an F note and it has a flat placed next to it, if another F is played in that measure, you would play that with a flat too, even though you will not see a flat by the note.

Once you reach the next measure, the accidental is automatically reverted back to it's original default value.

Learn to Play Guitar - Chords in Notation

Learn to Play Guitar - Chords in Notation

What About Chords?

How do we show chords in notation?

Simple - all the notes in the chord are shown on one stem. As indicated in the above example.

In the illustration above we have two staffs. The top one is regular notation and the bottom is tab, indicated by the vertical word TAB at the beginning of the staff.

There are 2 chords indicated here. They are the C Major and F Major, with each having a chord diagram located above to show you graphically how the chords are fingered. There also is fingering noted directly below the chord diagram.

For additional clarification the chord is shown in tabulation format in the lower staff. This is a bit different to read as each line represents a string and the number indicates the fret position. Relate this to the chord diagram and you see what I mean.

Go To: Learn To Play The Guitar: Chord Inversions