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Archive for January 2011

Lesson 3 - Reading Standard Notation - Recognizing Notes

Standard Notation vs. Tablature

     Most Guitarists are accustomed to "tabs". Tabs are a system of identifying the specific placement of a note (or set of notes for a chord) on the guitar neck. Tab notation expresses no rhythm, nor does it tell the name of the note. 
Standard notation is able to express both notes, and rhythm. These notes can be played in many places on the guitar neck, thus the usefulness of a combination of tabs and standard notation.

Why Learn Standard Notation?

     Learning to read standard notation can be very difficult, and time consuming. In fact, it is not necessary for playing the instrument, or even for learning the theory that you would actually use. Remember that music has been around long before any form of notation, and thus the ability to read is not required to create effective music. Many professional guitarists have thrived without having ever having read a note of standard notation - guitarists including the likes of Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix etc.

While it is not necessary in learning actual music theory, learning standard notation is very valuable in composing your own music, and playing the compositions of others. The lessons on this site will have standard notation in them, but those sections can be ignored and the theory still learned. A basic understanding of standard notation can go a long way however.

Please visit this link and read it's contents. It will be very valuable in you making your decision in whether or not to read standard notation. To sum that link up really shortly, you shouldn't be learning songs off of tabs, yet you shouldn't rely on standard notation. You should just "play", and tabs should be used for fingering. Now, Lets get Started!

Reading Standard Notation

Recall the various notes in the musical alphabet. In standard notation, these notes are placed on the staff. The staff consists of five lines and four spaces. See the diagram below:
The Musical Staff

The higher the note is placed on the staff, the higher the note's pitch is. 
In order to account for the low vs. high range of pitches (for example the Low E string, and the high E string), a clef sign is used to differentiate pitch. 
The treble clef is used for higher-pitched sounds.
The bass clef  is used for lower-pitched sounds.
The treble clef is that "swirly symbol" from the diagram above. The bass clef is the symbol in the diagram below:
The Bass Clef

*Don't fret, in standard guitar, the Bass Clef is not (or rarely is) used.

The Notes on the Treble Clef

The Diagram Below shows the notes on the treble clef:
The Notes on the Musical Staff
In order to memorize these notes, sentences can be used. For the Lines:
E - Every
G- Good
B- Boy
D- Deserves
F- Fudge

For the Spaces in between, the notes spell the word "F A C E".

Supplemental Resources

Treble Clef Note Game - A very simple yet effective flash game, displays a note then you must find it on the treble clef. The game will also give hints if you are having trouble locating the note.

Treble Clef Word Warrior - A very interesting approach to learning the treble clef. This game displays a set of notes on the the treble clef, then gives you 3 choices of what word the notes spell. It's recommended you already have a hang of the treble clef before playing this game.

Below is a useful video found on YouTube, describing even more information about reading standard notation:

Paid Resources

Harmony and Theory: A Comprehensive Source for All Musicians - This workbook is the one I used. It is independent of instrument, meaning it doesn't teach guitar or piano, but instead music theory. Therefore it teaches standard notation, and closely links the music theory with it.

Lesson 2 - Memorizing the Fretboard

Memorizing the Guitar Fretboard can seem like a daunting task. The trick is to take the task in gradual steps. Just a little practice every day, and you can easily memorize the fretboard. Before we get into Training Exercises/Drills, please look at the following Diagram:

  1. Look at the notes on the twelfth fret, they are the same as the open notes. This is because the notes on the twelfth fret are and octave higher than the open notes. The notes on the 24th fret (if your guitar goes that high), would be 2 octaves higher than the open notes.
  2. The 2 E strings are identical. That means the lowest string, and the highest string, have the exact same note placement. If you know one of them, you know both of them!

Seeing patterns will help in memorizing the fretboard. Here :

Placement of A's and E's on the Fretboard

Placement of A's and E's on the Fretboard

Using the placements of A's and E's can help by being a placeholder for finding other notes. And if you memorize the note placements of A's and E's, then you will have 2/8 of the notes you need, already memorized!

Now Some Memorization Tips and Exercises

    Click on this link, and print out some sheets. Each set of 6 lines represents a fretboard. Now simply fill out the blank fretboard with different notes. For each fretboard, start a different note, on a different string, at a different fret. Do this atleast once a day, or when you're waiting in line for something. It is an invaluable method in learning the notes.

     Close your eyes, and randomly play a note. Open your eyes, and figure out what note you just played. Now, try to find all other placements of that same note, and play it. When doing this, it helps to focus on one note per day. *If the note you land on is a flat or a sharp, simply move up to the nearest real note. Make sure you're doing a different note everyday! This is by far the simplest and best way to remember your notes.

     Look at the following image:   This is tablature of all of the positions of the note E. This will help in placing the notes. (If you can't read tablature, look at the learning supplements at the end of the lesson) There is no need to work on frets 12-24, because they are identical to 0-12
E Note Fretboard Placement
E Note Placements

F Note Fretboard Placement
F Note Placements

      A Note Fretboard Placement
      A Note Placements

        B Note Fretboard Placement
        B Note Placements

          G Note Fretboard Placement
          C Note Placements

            D Note Fretboard Placement
            D Note Placements

            • When playing notes, try saying the notes you are playing out loud. This will greatly aid in memorization.

            Now, I have gathered many resources in the lesson supplements section, to aid in memorizing the fretboard.

            Please, if this lesson is missing anything, or if you have suggestions to make it better, leave them in the comments and I will work on them.

            Supplemental Resources

            If you don't know how to read tabs, I found a quick guide for beginners. Click Here to access it.

            Resources for this lesson include a webpage, flash games, computer software, and video. Remember, they are great for learning, but can't replace learning the placement of notes on an actual guitar! Note: I own none of these games, softwares, or videos. These are simply links to invaluable resources, created by other hardworking guitarists!

            Fretboard Master - This is a great flash game for learning the fretboard, and will really test if you know you stuff. If you think you have your fretboard memorized, use this game to test your knowledge.

            Fretboard Warrior - This free software is similar to Fretboard Master, but also includes sound of the notes, which helps in ear training.

            Fretboard Game - Another Flash Game like Fretboard Master, except much simpler and easier to use.

            Cirqueduguitar video lesson. Below are embed three lessons by Cirqueduguitar, which I find  are good, effective, lessons.

            Paid Supplemental Resources

            If the free resources above are not enough for you, or if you do not have the time to make the most out of them, you can buy these effective resources listed below. The only benefit to the paid resources is that they will save you time that you may not be able to spare learning things yourself.

             Guitar Fretboard and Chord Chart Instructional Poster - Simply put, this is a poster of the guitar fretboard and some basic chords. Personally, when starting out, I made something like this myself and stuck it onto a wall, near of where I play guitar. If you aren't good with making posters or don't have the time, buy this.

            Guitar Theory Poster: 22 inch. x 34 inch.This theory poster is like the above, except you get more value for your dollar. It provides reference to future music theory that you will learn, and will be useful for many years.

            Guitar Fretboard Workbook - Navigate the guitar neck better than ever before with this easy-to-use book! Designed from Musicians Institute core curriculum programs, it covers essential concepts for players of every level, acoustic or electric. A hands-on guide to theory, it will help you learn to build any scale or chord on your own and unleash creativity. No music reading is required.

            Lesson One - Notes

            Part 1- Know the Notes

            The first lesson! Let's begin, with the basis of all songs, the foundation of all melodies- the musical notes!
            We'll start by listing them. Don't be intimidated, I will explain everything after.

            A- A#/Bb - B - C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A

            #= "sharp"        b= "flat"

            Now that we have our notes listed, I will colour code them, because I've found things are easier to understand when they're colour-coded!

            A- A#/Bb - B - C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A

            Let`s look at our red notes. They are red because each pair of red notes represents the same note. A# (A Sharp), is the same as Bb (B flat), C#(C Sharp) is the same as Eb (E flat), etc.

            Feel free to call them either way.

            Now, lets look at our purple notes. They tend to trick most people. There are no notes between B and C, and between E and F. Remember this!

            And the blue notes... they're just regular ol' notes!

            Now I shall explain half-steps and whole-steps. If you start at a note, and move 2 notes over from it, you've made a whole-step. 1 note over is a half-step.

            Because there are no notes between E/F, and B/C, they are a half-step distance between eachother!

            A- A#/Bb - B - C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A

            Using the "A" note as an example, each red note represents a whole step from it.

            Now look:

            A- A#/BbBC C#/DbDD#/EbEFF#/GbG - G#/AbA

            Each Blue note represents a half-step. A half step is simply moving one note over, so all the half-steps would be all the notes!

            Now, let's use the "C" note as an example of a whole step.

            C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A- A#/Bb

            The whole steps for C are different than the whole steps for A. This is because there are 11 notes in the musical alphabet.

            If you keep playing notes up the scale, you will eventually run into the same note, except this note is called an octave higher. If you keep playing notes down the scale, you will eventually hit the same note, which will be an octave lower. Basically, the note vibrates twice as fast (octave higher), and twice as slow (octave lower).

            This may all seem a bit too much at first, but at this point it's just a good idea to reread all of this, think about it, and let it all sink in. The bottom of the page will have resources pertaining to this lesson.

            Part 2- Notes Applied to the Guitar

                 Now that we have the notes down, half-steps, whole-steps, and octaves, let's move onto the note positions on the guitar.

            Look at the diagram below:
            Guitar Fretboard
            Notes on the Guitar Fretboard

                 The diagram above shows all the note placement on the guitar, in standard tuning. Standard Tuning is, starting from the lowest string, the tuning of (EADGBE). An easy way to remember standard tuning is by using an acronym, for example:

            Elephants And Dogs Got Big Ears

            Now, looking at the note chart, it`s a lot of notes! But, you have to remember them all, so that your brain automatically knows where they are. Sounds hard? It is! But I will give you tips to memorize all these notes. Firstly, when starting, don't worry about the sharps and the flats, once you know the notes well, you can easily place the sharps and flats.

            Use this diagram instead:

            Notes on the Fretboard, Excluding Sharps and Flats

                 All these notes must be memorized, and I will introduce techniques into helping you do this. Just remember- don't expect to get all the notes down in one day! Knowing the note placements on the fretboard is best learned as a gradual process, and should be worked on everyday. As long as you are working on it everyday, you can continue onto other lessons without mastering note placement.

            I've Decided to make Memorization of the Fretboard it's own lesson, as I have many resources and tips for that.

            To go to the next lesson, Memorizing the Fretboard, Click here

            Supplemental Resources

            Here are various resources related to this lesson, to aid in your learning, such as webpages and games.

            The Guitar Notes

            Discover the Notes - This webpage shows another way of looking at the musical notes.

            Know Your Notes - This page offers a very good explanation of the musical notes, diagrams from this lesson were borrowed from this page

            Guitar Notation Introduction - If you also want to learn music notation, this page had a good introduction to it that relates to this lesson.

            Music Note Shooter- Great, simple, game that doesn't help memorizing the notes, but instead memorizing the sounds of the notes.