3 Simple Rules For Naming Notes On Your Guitar (Part 2)

In the last post, we talked about Naming SHARPS on Strings 6 & 5 and I said that if you know a little bit about music, then you may be wondering: “Ok Steve, but what about FLATS? How do I name those?”.

Well, now that you’re naming SHARPS like a pro with that Note Spelling exercise I gave you, we can move on to naming their cousin – FLATS.

But before we do…

 

So Why Bother Naming Notes On Guitar (Again)?

To recap, if you’re NOT going to be learning how to sight read notes on a sheet of paper, then what’s the point of learning the names of the notes on the guitar?

Well, the answer is actually pretty simple.

Even though, naming notes isn’t the most exciting topic on the surface…

When you learn how to name notes on the guitar (specifically the 6th and 5th strings), then you will be able to know exactly where to play the chords that you see on song sheets and YouTube videos (ex. G Major, A minor, B5, etc.).

This includes:

…which also means you’ll be able to play pretty much any song that uses chords in it (and that’s a lot!).

 

Why Name FLATS If I Can Already Name SHARPS?

This is a good question and I will say that the concept of SHARPS and FLATS tends to confuse a lot of guitarists.

The simple answer is that most Songs & Riffs will only have chords and melodies with EITHER SHARPS OR FLATS in them.

I’ll say that again: most Songs & Riffs will only have chords and melodies with EITHER SHARPS OR FLATS in them.

So that means that when you’re playing Songs, sometimes you’ll see chords that are called F# Major (F sharp Major) or C# minor (C sharp minor) or sometimes you’ll see chords called Bb Major (B flat Major) or Eb minor (E flat minor).

You’ll rarely see both types of chords in one song.

GUITAR HACK: You can definitely get by for a while without naming FLATS (some famous guitarists don’t even know how to name ANY notes on their guitar), but eventually it will bite you in the $#@, so let’s take 5 minutes to learn FLATS and develop a reliable guitar toolbox to be prepared for any musical situation. Deal? 😀

 

Ok, So What Are FLATS?

The easiest way to describe FLATS is that they are the opposite of SHARPS.
(click here if you don’t know what SHARPS are)

SHARPS go up (think of a sharpened pencil pointing up).

wooden_pencil_vertical

SHARPS sound one note higher than your starting note.

FLATS go down (think of a flattened can of coke or a flat tire).

crushed-beer-can            flat_tire_

FLATS sound one note lower than your starting note.

 

QUICK EXAMPLE:

1) Play the 5th fret on the 6th string. This is A.

2) Next, move UP one fret (6th fret on the 6th string). This is A# (A sharp).

3) Now play the 5th fret on the 6th string again. This is A.

4) This time move BACK one fret (4th fret on the 6th string). This is Ab (A flat).

 

Even if you don’t fully understand the concept, now you know that the 4th fret on the 6th string is called Ab.

If this sounds a little confusing, then it’s totally cool. It was for me too.

I promise it will all make sense as you keep reading. Let’s sum it all up in 3 Simple Rules…

 

The 3 Simple Rules of Spelling Flats

  1. The Musical Alphabet is A, B, C, D, E, F, G…
  2. Every single letter has a FLAT (b) before it…
  3. Except for C and F (think “CauliFlower)

 

So instead of A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A  like last time with SHARPS,

we can start on G and move backwards from there in this order:

G, Gb, F, E, Eb, D, Db, C, B, Bb, A, Ab, G

Looking at the alphabet backwards like this might make your head spin, and you STILL might not know what the point of using FLATS is, so lets do a quick little exercise and it will make a lot more sense.

 

Backwards Alphabet Exercise

Before we play FLATS on the guitar, I highly recommend you practice saying the musical alphabet backwards a few times out loud WITHOUT the guitar:

1. Say the musical alphabet two times moving forward (A to G)

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G”

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G”

2. Now say the musical alphabet two times moving backwards (G to A)

“G, F, E, D, C, B, A”

“G, F, E, D, C, B, A”

Chances are, you’ve never done this before, so it’s time to really work that Rockstar Mind of yours. 😛

This might not be easy at first, but it will get easier every time you do it, so make sure to PRACTICE THIS SLOWLY. No need to rush this one.

Now it’s time to apply it to your guitar.

 

Grab Your Guitar And Let’s Spell FLATS!

Since most chords we play will be on the 6th String, let’s start with E and move backwards in this order:

E, Eb, D, Db, C, B, Bb, A, Ab, G, Gb, F, E

Place your index finger on the 12th Fret of the 6th String and follow the exact same pattern above, calling out each letter as you move down a fret each time from the 12th fret to the Open E String.

 

QUICK TIP: I gave you two little tools to use for remembering which notes don’t have SHARPS and FLATS (Breaking & Entering and CauliFlower)

Just think of it that if B goes directly to C and E goes directly to F when spelling SHARPS

B -> C

E -> F

then it only makes sense that C goes directly to B and F goes directly to E when spelling FLATS.

C -> B

F -> E

 

(To keep things simple, look at your fretting hand and ONLY use your index finger to move from fret to fret)

  • Play the 12th Fret and say “E” (you might see two dots on this fret).
  • Play the 11th Fret and say “E flat”.
  • Play the 10th Fret and say “D”.
  • Play the 9th Fret and say “D flat”.
  • Play the 8th Fret and say “C”.
  • Play the 7th Fret and say “B” (remember, C doesn’t have a flat).
  • Play the 6th Fret and say “B flat”.
  • Play the 5th Fret and say “A”.
  • Play the 4th Fret and say “A flat”.
  • Play the 3rd Fret and say “G”.
  • Play the 2nd Fret and say “G flat”.
  • Play the 1st Fret and say “F”.
  • Play the Open 6th String and say “E” (remember, F doesn’t have a flat).

 

 

Simple, right? (If not, then please contact us and we will walk you through it)

 

Brain Games

Did you notice that you were skipping over letters and messing up the alphabet when you did this exercise?

It’s actually pretty funny how when you’re so focused on your guitar, it’s easy to mess up something as simple as the alphabet and forget what letter comes next.

And this is only because the brain has never had to say the alphabet backwards and connect it to the guitar like this before.

So don’t worry if you accidentally say “G” after  “E” or draw a complete blank when looking for the next letter in the alphabet. It happens to the best of us. 😀

This is just a temporary hiccup and a reminder to take it slow. You’ll get this in no time!

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So how can you fit this into your practice?

Just like with Spelling SHARPS, the best way to practice FLATS is by doing this exercise 3 times (3 rounds) at the beginning of your practice session before you start working on whatever Song or Riff you’re playing that day.

Check out this video to see this simple exercise in action:

So now that you can spell both SHARPS and FLATS, you’re probably wondering how to practice both of them together.

 

Strategy for remembering SHARPS and FLATS

My advice is to incorporate the Note Spelling Exercises into your practice session in this order:

  1. Spend at least 3 days spelling SHARPS on the 6th string (3x in each session).
  2. Then when that feels comfortable, spend at least 3 days spelling FLATS on the 6th string (3x in each session).
  3. Take one day off for all the information to absorb.
  4. When you return to the guitar, spell SHARPS on the 6th string traveling up from the Open 6th string (E) to the 12th fret (E) and the spell FLATS on the 6th string traveling down from the 12th fret (E) to the Open 6th string (E).
  5. Notice which direction still needs work and work on that in your next practice session.

This schedule is just a suggestion. If you need more time to focus on SHARPS on the 6th string, then take it before moving onto FLATS.

 

Action Plan & Putting It All Together

I hope you enjoyed the 3 simple rules for naming FLATS on your guitar.

Now that you know how to name SHARPS and FLATS on your guitar, you have a powerful way to navigate the fretboard and easily find chords on your 6th and 5th strings.

If you would like to know more about EXACTLY how and when to put the SHARPS and FLATS in action as well as how to effortlessly build and understand Barre chords on your guitar, and how to know when to use SHARPS or FLATS, then you are absolutely going to love my upcoming online event called “Barre Chords Bootcamp”.

barreChordsBootcamp

If you’ve been struggling to make sense of Barre Chords and have been avoiding them at all costs up until now, then you definitely don’t want to miss this in depth online training.

I’ll show you everything you need to know about Barre Chords including:

  • building them without straining
  • naming them so you can find songs online and know exactly how to play them
  • how the Barre Chords work together to form a family of chords that you can use to jam with your buddies and write your own songs
  • easily moving from Barre Chord to Barre Chord (and Open Chord to Barre Chord)
  • and much more!

And you’ll be able to master all this even if you’ve never built a Barre Chord in your life!

To find out more info about Barre Chords Bootcamp, please click here.

Thanks for reading and talk soon,

signatureSteveakaVØID

About Steve (aka VØID)

Steve (aka VØID) is the owner and head Guitar Coach at Rockstar Mind. He is a self-taught guitarist for 20 years and a professional guitarist & Major label recording artist for 10 years (touring the world opening for and performing with big name acts such as KISS, Hinder, Finger Eleven, and Our Lady Peace). Most importantly, he has been coaching struggling guitarists for over 15 years to quickly overcome their playing obstacles and play their favourite songs on guitar. After his father was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer, Steve put his music career on hold to become his primary caregiver. He created a fundraising initiative called VØID Cancer where he uses proceeds from every sale to create new programs for patients and caregiver. All in his father's honour. Connect with Steve (aka VØID) on Facebook.
About The Author

Steve (aka VØID)

Steve (aka VØID) is the owner and head Guitar Coach at Rockstar Mind. He is a self-taught guitarist for 20 years and a professional guitarist & Major label recording artist for 10 years (touring the world opening for and performing with big name acts such as KISS, Hinder, Finger Eleven, and Our Lady Peace). Most importantly, he has been coaching struggling guitarists for over 15 years to quickly overcome their playing obstacles and play their favourite songs on guitar. After his father was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer, Steve put his music career on hold to become his primary caregiver. He created a fundraising initiative called VØID Cancer where he uses proceeds from every sale to create new programs for patients and caregiver. All in his father's honour. Connect with Steve (aka VØID) on Facebook.