Understanding notes

The purpose of this section is to give you a basic overview of the fundamentals of musical notes and the scale. There are a few key facts that you're going to want to know for when you start getting better at playing the guitar. Once you start to get a feel for playing, you'll notice that the fingerboard of the guitar has some recurring patterns. You can start using these patterns to branch out, learn new chords and eventually mature as an artist (or whatever you want to call yourself).

OK, first things first. There are a couple of symbols that you'll see all over the place. The first one is the symbol for "sharp," which is the pound sign, or "#". You've already seen this symbol on previous pages of this site, as I used it to describe various basic sharp chords — A sharp, F sharp and G sharp. The second symbol is likely completely new to you. It's the symbol for "flat," and it looks like a lowercase "b". Mind you, this isn't the exact symbol, but in the interest of typing instructions out, that's what most people use on the Internet. And it's what I'll use. Remember, these are symbols used to describe particular notes.

Now we will get into the basic progression of notes, and it is what's known as the chromatic scale. I'll go on and list them for you, and then I'll discuss them a bit more. They are as follows:

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

There are some important things to note about this progression. First, sharp notes can also be described as flat notes, and vice versa. You can describe all in terms of sharps, as I did here, or all in terms of flats. That is, A# is the same thing as Bb; C# is the same as Db; D# is the same as Eb; F# is the same as Gb; and G# is the same as Ab. While I'm at it, C can also be described as B#, and B can be described as Cb — you get the idea. This is the case because a sharp represents one semitone (or half-step) higher than a particular note, and a flat represents one half-step lower than a given note (I discuss steps in greater detail on the "Steps and the Capo" page). Thus, A# is a half-step higher than A, and it is the same pitch as Bb, which is a half-step below B. For simplicity, I simply avoided using flats altogether. Again, it really doesn't matter how you express them, as long as you don't confuse yourself.

Now that you have a very rudimentary understanding of the possible notes, we can move on to how this applies to the guitar itself.