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.

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