As an active musician and student of guitar, I had to start with the basics, just like everyone else!
My confidence as a musician grew when I learned about guitar notes and how to play them on my new guitar properly. I got started with playing a few songs by ear, but learning about guitar notes opened new possibilities for me.
I’d like to help you do the same with this beginners guide to guitar notes.
Anatomy of The Guitar
When you think of a guitar, many see a box with strings. The truth is far more complicated! Guitars are meticulously crafted instruments that act in many ways, like a tool. You'll become a more crafty guitar player when you understand how the instrument you’re playing creates and manipulates sound.
Guitars have six strings, a base with a hole leading to a cavity, a neck, and a headstock. On the neck, you will notice ridges or frets.
There is usually an inch from one fret to the next, and this range increases as you get closer to the neck of the guitar. Why have frets and six strings? Understanding guitar notes can help you understand the anatomy of your instrument better.
What Are Guitar Notes?
When tuned to the most common tuning—E-A-D-G-B-E starting from the top string—each string played without any fingers on the frets or individual strings will produce a note that corresponds to the tuning of the guitar string played.
For example, if you hold your guitar and pluck the very top string, you will hear an E note.
If you play each string individually, you will be playing six different individual guitar notes. You're already playing the guitar!
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What About the Frets?
I am glad you didn't forget! Though you're already beginning to understand how guitar notes work, there are many more notes to learn once you know about the standard tuning of each string.
Along the guitar's neck, the frets act as a roadmap for the guitarist when playing different notes. When you pluck a string, you create vibration and subsequent sound that align with a guitar note when you tune the guitar's strings accurately.
When you press your finger on a string in between any frets, you hear a slightly different note from the sound you hear when you play the string without your finger on the neck of the guitar.
Why is this? By applying pressure on the string, the vibrations against the instrument's body and cavity adjust ever so slightly, therefore producing a different sound. This single sound is yet another guitar note!
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How Many Guitar Notes Are There?
A lot! Each fret on the guitar, and each string, represent a different representation of a guitar note. On an average guitar, there will be twelve frets and six strings.
The guitar uses a chromatic scale of twelve notes. Chromatic means that two or more notes are only a half step away from each other. What does this mean? On the guitar it’s rather simple!
Each fret is a half-step up from the previous fret. You can play one of the twelve notes on various parts of the neck by following the chromatic scale. By moving down a single fret on any note, you will produce a sharp note, and by moving up towards the headstock, you’ll create a flat note.
You can use guitar charts to help you learn where each note is on the fretboard and see how moving up and down the fretboard will create flat or sharp versions of the notes.
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Why Do I Need to Know Guitar Notes?
Guitar notes make up the building blocks to all guitar chords and songs. Guitar chords are a combination of at least three guitar notes that come together to create a new song. Playing a succession of chords (such as the G chord, followed by the D chord) and following a specific strumming pattern is what makes a song come to life.
Think of guitar notes as words. Music is a language that you can speak once you know enough words and have figured out how to put words together to make sentences. Once you have a solid understanding of guitar notes, you can play any song you want and even write original music.
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Putting it All Together
Learning your guitar notes is the first step to making beautiful music. All great guitar players start their musical education through beginner's guides to guitar notes. Master the notes, and in time, you'll master the guitar!
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.