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Guitar Lesson Two


Begin by tuning your guitar using your electronic tuner. Check for accuracy by comparing the pitch of each string to tuning.mid.

As you work on this lesson, try tuning to the MIDI file by ear and then double checking for accuracy with your electronic tuner.


This lesson is divided into four parts:


It's very important to know what notes you are playing at any given time. With practice, you will eventually reach a point where you can identify any note on any string at a glance. This may seem like a mammoth undertaking but, it is a lot easier than it may first appear.

The notes on the fingerboard are laid out in a very logical and consistent manner with only one exception. This exception is the B-string.

We will look at this inconsistency in greater detail in a moment. But first, let me show you something about the fingerboard.

In lesson one, we discussed how the notes are named and practiced playing up and down one string at a time while naming the notes. We also learned the term OCTAVE.

If you put these two pieces of information together, you will find that if you start on a given pitch and play up the string until you reach the OCTAVE, you will be exactly 12 frets higher than where you started. This means that 12 frets above any note on any string is a note with the same name ( It's important, at this point to make a distinction between NOTE and PITCH. NOTE refers strictly to the name of a given PITCH. If you play A, for example, and then play A an OCTAVE higher or lower, you are playing the same NOTE [ it has the same name] Even though, "technically", you are playing two different PITCHES.). The fact that the two notes have the same NAME and that the ear can have trouble distinguishing the difference in PITCH makes these two notes interchangeable. To a certain extent, If you are required to play a given note, it makes little difference which OCTAVE you play.

Now, take a look at the fingerboard on your guitar. You will notice that the 12th fret is clearly marked with two "fret dots" ( "Fret dots" is slang for the position markers that are inlaid into the wood of the fingerboard and along the edge of the neck at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, and 21st fret.) The 12th is the only fret that is given the distinction of two dots (On guitars that have 24 frets, the 24th fret will also have two dots.).

The distinct marking of the 12th fret provides us with an important visual reference point. This is the point at which the notes on the fingerboard begin to repeat.

Recall that the open strings are tuned E, A, D, G, B, E, low to high. If you follow the above statements, you should now see that the notes at the 12th fret are also E, A, D, G, B, E.

This means that you don't have to learn separate information to apply above the 12th fret. Anything you learn below the 12th fret will simply repeat itself above. This is true for chords, scales, licks, patterns and anything else you could imagine.

The above information can also make it easier to identify the notes below the 12th fret. Let's say that you want to find F on the A-string. One method is to start with the open A and make your way up the fingerboard until you arrive at F (a distance of 8 frets!). If instead, you were to start at the 12th fret and work your way down the string, you will find the note much faster (5 frets).

Now, let's say that you are playing the note at the 10th fret on the B-string and I ask you to tell me the name of the note you are playing. It should be obvious that the note you are playing is much closer to the 12th fret than it is to the open string. Therefore, it is an easy task to start at the 12th fret and work down the neck to the 10th fret and identify the note (E-MAIL the answer to me).

Here are two more tools that will help you get the notes down:

The first should be painfully obvious. The highest and the lowest string are both tuned to E. This means that the notes are laid out exactly the same on both strings. At any given fret, you will find the same note on either of the two E-strings.

The second is a powerful tool for learning to see the notes across the fingerboard as opposed to up and down a single string.

In the diagram below, I have placed a square on the C note at the 8th fret of the Low E-string (It is common practice to refer to the two E-strings as Low E and High E). I have also placed a square on the OCTAVE C on the D-string:



From this diagram we can see that the octave of C at the 8th fret of the low E is two strings over (towards the floor) and two frets up (towards the 12th fret).

Watch what happens if we start with C at the 3rd fret of the A-string:



Again, we see the same pattern - two strings over, two frets up.

Now understand, we could have used any note we wanted to and this relationship would be the same. I just picked C for the hell of it.

Now lets take a look at the B-string.

The strings of the guitar are tuned in such a way that if you play the note at the 5th fret of any string (except the G-string) you will get the same note (and PITCH) as the next OPEN string. For example, if you play the note at the 5th fret of the low E-string you are playing A which of course is the note of the open A-string. If you play the note at the 5th fret of the A-string you get D. If you play the 5th fret of the D-string you get G.

But, if you play the 5th fret of the G-string you get C instead of B. To get the B note you have to play the 4th fret instead. Yet, if you play the 5th fret of the B-string you DO get E, but because the B-string is "funny" it makes the E-string "funny" as well.

What this means, for now, is that whenever the octave lands on the B-string or the E-string, It will be one fret higher ( the B-string is tuned one fret lower than all the strings before it and, since the E-string is tuned off of the B-string, the E-string is one fret lower as well).

Observe what happens if we plot the octave of the C at the 10th fret of the D-string as well as, the C at the 5th fret of the G-string:



This tuning discrepancy is necessary for playing chords. If you were to tune the B and E-strings up one fret so that they match the rest of the strings, all of the chords that you learned in the last lesson would be very hard to play.

Now, all you have to remember is 2 strings over, two frets up except when the octave falls on the B-string or the E-string where you get 2 strings over and 3 frets up.

Your assignment is to locate and memorize every C note on the guitar below and above the 12th fret. Use the tools I have given you and don't be afraid to cue off of the fret dots. That's why they're on the neck in the first place!


This lesson is divided into four parts:

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