PHIL KEAGGY - Grammy nominated and seven-time Dove Award winner, is one of the world’s great guitar players and a pioneer in contemporary Christian music.
- March 6, 2017
- Guitar 101
Looking at the guitar neck is very confusing at ﬁrst. It’s not quite like piano where you can see the white notes and the black notes. The low E string is the lowest note of a standard tuned guitar and you pretty much max out 4 octaves later at high C, depending on how many frets your guitar has. Basically from the C1 on the 2nd string, ﬁrst fret (which is middle C on the guitar), you have 2 octaves up and almost 2 octaves down. It stops short of the full scale at the low E note. Guitar notes that you need to know? We suggest you get to know as many guitar notes as you can, but let’s try to compact things for you.
The C Scale
The C scale is a nice and easy place to start because there are no sharps or ﬂats. The C Scale starts with C and ends with B. C, D, E, F, G, A, and B are the notes of this scale. You need to remember the formula for a major scale is W W 1/2 W W W 1/2 (or Whole step, Whole step, Half Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step). Move a note one fret up or down and that’s a half step. Move a note 2 frets up or down and that’s a whole step. So for C Major, it’s as follows: C to D is a whole step, D to E is a whole step, E to F is a 1/2 step, F to G is a whole step, G to A is a whole step, and A to B is a whole step. Finally, B back to C is a half step.
You can experiment with this best by doing it horizontally from C1 on the second string. It will go as follows: C1 to D3 is a whole step. D3 to E5 is a whole step. E5 to F6 is a 1/2 step. F6 to G8 is a whole step. G8 to A10 is a whole step. A10 to B12 is a whole step and ﬁnally B12 to C13 is a 1/2 step. You remain on the second string the whole time and just work your way from C1 to C13. This is a complete octave from middle C.
The Vertical C Scale
The vertical C Major scale is a little trickier because from the ﬁrst position it involves open strings. It goes C1 on the 2nd string, then B Open on the 2nd string, A2 on the 3rd string, G open on the 3rd string, F3 on the 4th string, E2 on the 4th string, D Open on the 4th string, then C3 on the 5th string. For beginners, open just means you play the string itself without a ﬁnger noting the fretboard.
You might want to identify all the natural notes on the fretboard ﬁrst before you start adding in the sharps and ﬂats. You can create a fretboard like the one below and ﬁll in the guitar notes you need to know by penciling in and learning all the natural notes on each string.
Notice how the Es and Fs and Bs and Cs are all a 1/2 step apart. This will help you to start getting a grip on the guitar fretboard. Also notice that the high “e” string, or 1st string, and the low “E” string, or 6th string, are exactly the same except that they are 2 octaves apart. All the blank frets that you see in the diagram above are all the ﬂats or sharps that are missing. Without getting overly complicated, just think of the space between F1 and G3 on the 1st or 6th string as F# if you’re going up in pitch or Gb if you’re coming down in pitch. So G4 would be G# or A4 would be Ab. Another quick tip for the new guys, # means sharp and b means ﬂat. You should take the time to ﬁll in the entire fretboard by penciling in the sharps and ﬂats.
Mastering the Naturals of Guitar Notes
We advise you to master each string’s natural guitar notes. “Natural” meaning no sharps (#) or ﬂats (b). Just take the diagram above and play from the open string given and each note all the way up to the 13th fret. Focus on where the spaces are and memorize all the natural notes on each prospective string. This might take a while, but it will make a good warm up and give you a balanced perspective of the guitar fretboard.
The G Major Scale
The G major scale adds one sharp, or F#. This is a good next step for learning the guitar notes you need to know. A G Major scale looks like this: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, and G. You can see that the 7th scale degree gets a sharp in order make it a half step from the tonic, or root. G to A is a whole step. A to B is a whole step. B to C is a 1/2 Step. C to D is a whole step. D to E is a whole step. E to F# is a whole step and ﬁnally F# to G is a 1/2 Step. You can best see this from the 3rd string and playing the scale horizontally.
Hopefully you can see the concept and then add the other major scales to completely ﬁll up the fretboard. There are plenty of diagrams online to help with this process. Mastering the guitar fretboard will open your eyes and ears to endless possibilities. Learn the order of sharps and ﬂats next. Take one key signature at a time and master it. There are only 12 key signatures plus 3 that repeat or double as another key, like B Major or C Flat. One is 5 sharps and the other is 7 Flats, but they sound exactly the same and are played the same. This will all make sense as you develop your musical and guitar fretboard skills.
When it comes to understanding the ins and outs of music theory, you should take time to chill and simply enjoy playing. The academic side of guitar notes is important, but don’t bury yourself in homework. This is supposed to be fun after all.
Since learning guitar notes can be difficult at times, you might want to consider enrolling in guitar lessons to help with your education. At Pro Lessons, we offer online guitar lessons taught by professional instructors. With affordable rates and the ease of learning guitar online, we can be a great asset for players of every skill level. Find out how you can be our next student by clicking below.