3 Simple Rules For Naming Notes On Your Guitar

Today we’re going to talk about naming notes on your guitar.

I know, I know….this is the BORING and SCARY topic that you’ve been avoiding this whole time.

And you’re probably thinking that I’m going to have you read those little black circles on the paper and try to make sense of it all (ex. “Mary Had A Little Lamb”).

Well, here’s the good news: THAT’S 100% NOT what we’re going to be doing and 100% NOT what you need to be learning right now.

No little black dots on the paper. No “Mary Had A Little Lamb”.

noMusicNotes

And as for the bad news….

Well, there is none! 🙂

So Why Bother Naming Notes On Guitar?

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 a sexy 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 (and that’s a lot!).

So with that said, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. What are the notes we’re going to be using?

I should say that most people make learning notes a really lengthy and boring topic with no real usable goal in mind (just knowledge for the sake of knowledge).

No wonder everyone hates learning this stuff!

Instead, I wanted to find the common threads and only show you what you need, so you can use notes RIGHT AWAY in your playing, rather than just having some list of notes and not knowing what do with it.

Let’s try a simpler approach. Let’s sum it up into 3 Simple Rules…

 

The 3 Simple Rules of Naming Notes on Guitar

Here are 3 simple rules to naming notes on the guitar. Read the rules a few times and if any rule is unclear, then follow the playing instructions below step by step and it should click:

  1. The Musical Alphabet consists of A, B, C, D, E, F, G…
  2. Every single letter has a SHARP (#) after it (ex. ‘A’ then ‘A sharp’ then ‘B’) …
  3. Except for B & E (think “Breaking & Entering”)

That’s it!

As long as you follow these 3 rules, then you’ll be able to name notes on your guitar. It’s just like saying the alphabet from A-G, adding a sharp (#) to each letter, except for B & E.

Here’s the complete pattern:

A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, and then we go back to A and it starts all over again.

So when we apply this to the 5th string on the guitar, which is conveniently named ‘A’, we just follow the exact same pattern above and call out each letter as we play each note, one fret at a time, from the Open 5th String to the 12th Fret.

(To keep things simple, look at your fretting hand and ONLY use your index finger to move from fret to fret. It will make the exercise easy to follow)

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

 

5th String - Sharps

Repeat this as many times as you need and as SLOWLY as you need to play it, so you can remember the pattern. Once you do that, see if you can play the whole thing without looking back and forth at the screen.

Notice how you started on ‘A’ and you finished on ‘A’?

This is because the musical alphabet repeats over and over.

The notes are both ‘A’ sound similar, but you can probably hear that one sounds lower than the other.

Sometimes it helps to compare musical notes to colours.

Imagine the open string ‘A’ as a dark red and the 12th Fret ‘A’ as a light red. They are the same note, but just different versions of each other.

Here’s a video example of Note Spelling on the 5th String:

Now that you’re getting the hang of spelling notes on string 5, we actually want to spend the majority of our time on the 6th string (E) because this will make it easier to use the letters to play and understand chords ASAP (we’re not just naming notes here).

The only difference between the 5th string and the 6th string is the letter we start from. Everything else remains the same…

So instead of A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A

we start on E and move forward from there in the exact same order:

E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E

So when we apply this to the 6th string on the guitar, we follow the exact same pattern above and call out each letter as we play each note from the Open 6th String to the 12th Fret.

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

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

 

6th String - Sharps

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

Now let’s put this into a quick exercise.

Imagine a race, where the open string ‘E’ is the starting line and the 12th Fret ‘E’ is the finish line.

Whenever you go from the starting line to the finish line and name all the notes from E – E on the 6th string, we’ll call this one ’round’.

IMPORTANT: The only difference from the race analogy is that this exercise is played SLOWLY. There’s no rush or steadiness required. Go at your own pace.

 

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So how can you fit this into your practice?

The best way to play this exercise is by doing it 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.

The whole thing will take about 40-60 SECONDS to complete and trust me, it’s worth it!

After about a week of this routine, I promise you will see your fretboard in a COMPLETELY different way. It will be so much easier to navigate to chords and to remember their locations because you will remember which notes go where.

It’s like moving to a new city and getting used to where everything is. At first it’s a bit tricky, but after a week or so, it becomes automatic.

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

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So that covers SHARPS, but if you know a little bit about music, then you may be wondering: “Ok Steve, but what about FLATS? How do I name those?”.

Great question!

To be honest, I usually have clients spell SHARPS for a minimum of a week and really get comfortable with spelling them on the 6th string and 5th string before introducing FLATS.

And trust me, you’ll be able to do plenty with just that to start!

So my advice is to incorporate the Note Spelling Exercise from the video 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 SHARPS on the 5th string (3x in each session).
  3. Take one day off for all the information to absorb.
  4. When you return to the guitar, spell the notes on the 6th string and 5th string. Notice which string still needs work and work on that in your next practice session.

This schedule is just a suggestion. If you need more time on the 6th string, then take it before moving onto the 5th string.

By the way, if you only have a few minutes to practice, then make sure you do this Note Spelling exercise if nothing else. It’s really that powerful (and you only have to do it for a minimum of 3 days in a row to really lock it in your mind and fingers).

Sound like a plan?

Ok cool. 😀

 

Action Plan

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

Now you have a easy, yet powerful way to navigate and find chords on your 6th and 5th strings.

If you would like to know more about EXACTLY how and when to put the Note Spelling in action as well as how to effortlessly build and understand Barre chords on your guitar, 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.