In the beginning…
The first thing I think anyone should know when starting out playing guitar is, there are no shortcuts for practice. There are ways to achieve goals faster, but no way to get out of practice. You must practice every day, (or at least most days) to be a great player. Also, you must have an outline of things to work on. For instance, a beginner would want to focus on learning all the notes and how to find them on the fretboard. Then learning basic open chords and which notes make up each chord. Next would be which notes fall into the different scales for each chord.
My idea of teaching is first, build the foundation. The way I see it, the foundation for any musical instrument is notes. I, myself went the wrong way when I was learning. I chose to ignore the music theory stuff and go right into playing songs. This was good because it got me playing some basic stuff really fast, but it was bad because I never knew what I was playing. Plus, when it came time for me to learn the theory part, I struggled to associate the notes with the shapes and patterns of the scales. I think it will be easier to learn it all at the same time. So the way I will structure this blog will be a clean combination of the theory as well as things to practice right away and get you playing some songs. So, within every post I make, I will be sure to include both theory and some things to play that will help you “get” the theory.
With that said, here is the first lesson…
I want to get this out of the way first, so as not to confuse anyone…
# = Sharp
b = Flat
As we go through these lessons you will commonly see these symbols and I want you to clearly understand what they mean. The notes go from A through G. Most of these notes also have a sharp or flat note associated with it. So here’s the complete list of notes, and after you look at this, I will explain the sharps and flats.
A – [A#/Bb] – B – C – [C#/Db] – D – [D#/Eb] – E – F – [F#/Gb] – G – [G#/Ab] – A
If you notice, we go from A – G, but in between some of them it looks like two notes. For example, in between the A and the B we have A#/Bb. What this means is that an A# is the same note as a Bb. Now you will call it according to what key you are playing in (most likely). So if I am playing in the key of A, I will call that note an A#. But if I’m playing in the key of B, I will call it Bb. There will be times when you might be playing in the key of A# or Bb. In these cases, I think it is just your preference to which one you want to call it.
Notice that there is no B#/Cb and also no E#/Fb. This holds true in all of music. It just so happens that to get from B to C, there is only a half step, or a half tone difference. In guitar, a half step is equal to one fret.
Learning these notes, and the order they are in is extremely important. You must get this memorized and be able to repeat it backward, forward, and starting from any note, like this; let’s say we start with a C…
C – [C#/Db] – D – [D#/Eb] – E – F – [F#/Gb] – G – [G#/Ab] – A – [A#/Bb] – B – C
Another thing, there are only 12 notes. I know that it looks like there are a lot more when you look at your guitar, but that’s really all there is. When the notes start repeating, you are reaching other octaves. We will cover octaves in a later post, so for now, just know there are only 12. As you can see I started with a C and also ended with a C. The C at the end is the 13th note, or the next octave.
Memorize these as soon as you can, and I guarantee that you will have a better understanding of what is happening as we get deeper into these lessons.
Today’s practice is easy. I want you to look at the diagram below and use it to help you learn each not on the fretboard. Start with the fattest string, the one at the top of your guitar’s neck, (illustrated as the 6th string)The smallest string, or the one at the bottom is the 1st string. As you play the notes going up the fretboard, I want you to name each note. Even better, try to find the note vocally and sing it as you play it. I cannot sing very well, but I still try my best to hit the note vocally as I play it with this excersize.
Just keep the notes in order, starting from the note that each string is tuned to. So, if the string is tuned to E (1st and 6th strings), the first fret is F, then F# and so on….
E |—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–| 1st String
B |—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–| 2nd String
G |—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–| 3rd String
D |—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–| 4th String
A |—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–| 5th String
E |—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–| 6th String
Fret# 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
I cannot stress to you enough how important this part is. Like I said in the beginning of this article, there are no shortcuts to this part. You just have to practice it over and over until you get it.
Practice this for 10 minutes every day this week.
At the end of the week you should have most of it memorized.
Once you do, try testing yourself by closing your eyes and putting a finger on a random fret and string. When you open your eyes, see how long it takes you to call out the note you are on. As you progress, you will learn to recognize the notes by which fret and string it is on. This will greatly improve your ability to stay in key and improvise later on.
Alrighty then….that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed this lesson. Be sure to check back often for new lessons. I hope to be launching a newsletter soon to let people know when new lessons are added. Until then, keep checking back here and Happy Picking!