How to Read Guitar Notes

Knowing how to read guitar notes is the basic need for anyone wanting to play songs on the guitar. It is very frustrating to be gazing at these dots on the page knowing that they are the key to making guitar music. If you have ever looked at the musical notes in a book you have possibly seen two sets of parallel lines with the notes on them. They are called leger lines. The top lines are the treble or high notes, the bottom lines are the home for the bass notes. In guitar music only the top set of lines is used.

If you want to learn how to read guitar notes the three things you will need are a few minutes every day, a diagram showing the notes on the guitar fretboard and a basic music theory primer. The fretboard diagram and the music theory book can be bought at a music store or online. The other alternative is to make use of the many free guitar lesson sites where you can download or bookmark your guitar note pages. The few minutes a day are often very hard to find but it just takes a little effort to step outside your daily routine and see where you can make time to learn the guitar notes.

The simplest way to start making sense of the guitar notes is to learn the names of the notes of the open guitar strings. If you hold the guitar in playing position, the string closest to the top side of the guitar – the thickest of the six strings – is the E. The next string, the fifth is the A string, the fourth is D, the third G, the second is B, and the thinnest string is E again, only one octave higher than the E on the sixth string.

If you look at your guitar fretboard diagram you will be able to see how the notes progress in steps. You will see that some notes have a whole fret between them. Your music theory book will tell you that these spaces hold notes called “sharps” and “flats”, collectively known as “accidentals”. The note at the first fret on the sixth string is F, the next note is not G as you might expect, but F sharp which is written as F#. The note can also be called G flat or Gb, because it is the note below G as well as being the note above F. You will see that there are no accidentals between the notes B and C or E and F.

So you can see the notes progressing in scales along each individual string and also between strings. For instance you can play the notes on the sixth string and instead of going from the G at the third fret to A on the fifth fret, you can go from the G at the third fret to the A played on the open fifth string. As you learn to play the guitar you will hear the difference in sound you can get from playing the same notes at different places on the guitar.

Learning where the guitar notes are on the fretboard will best be done while you are holding the guitar and playing the notes you can see on your fretboard chart. Learning which notes are which on the sheet music is a different kind of learning. If you find the notes of the guitar on the ledger lines, you will see that each note looks different according to its position on the fretboard. The way to begin to learn which note is which is by using the word F A C E to remember the notes in the spaces between the leger lines and the phrase Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit to remember the notes E G B D F which are drawn directly on the lines. If the prospect of learning the guitar notes in this way gives you a feeling of rising panic, remember to take it in only in small steps. It really is not rocket science. Once you have gotten over the feeling of unfamiliarity, the little dots on the page will begin to have meaning.