Learning the Notes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Usul, May 14, 2001.

  1. Well,I have been practicing my scales but I think it is high time I start learning the notes of the differant strings/frets.

    The back of my scale book, has a nice fretboard diagram(going from 1st fret to 12th fret on all strings)with the notes,and #/b`s(semitones?) listed.

    My question is this? What note do I assign to the open(unfretted strings).Since it shows the E string as 1st fret "F",second fret F#/Gb,thrid G,etc....You see I would like to write the note under the scale in my book....help me to memorize them a bit faster.

    Any advice/info would be very helpful to me!

  2. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    E, A, D & G, from top string (closest to your chin) to bottom string (closest to...the floor).
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I'm confused. How have you been playing scales if you don't know the names of the notes on the strings and frets? Have you just been playing a pattern without saying the name of the note or number of the interval to yourself as you finger the pattern?

    Now that you know the name of the open strings and have your fretboard chart as a guide, be sure to always say to yourself the name of the note you are fretting.
  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I agree! Don't put anything in front of you except the sheet music. Play notes as you see them and call them outloud as you see them and play them. That's the best exercize, because it'll force you to use the fretboard AND the staff to learn the notes!:D

    But, keep it fun! Try doing the same exercize with your favorite songs for practice to break up the monotony;)
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    And another good drill is to test yourself by singing the scale first, then play it to see how close you came to knowing how the notes will sound.

    But I agree with Ram, try to keep it fun somehow. You sound very enthusiastic and dedicated. You are learning scales. We get posters here from time to time who don't want to learn scales. Those traits will take you far as a musician. Keep up the effort and interest you have already shown by asking for help.

    I really like it when a poster comes here asking for information and not asking for the "quickest way" or for a "shortcut." You came here asking for information and ways to improve. That's the attitude that will take you far with your music. Any more questions? Don't hesitate to come back. Plenty of folks here will be glad to help out.
  6. Steve S

    Steve S

    Jul 26, 2000
    I've been playing with a guitarist for the past 15 years who doesn't know his scales. At a jam several weeks ago, he yelled out "B#" to tell us the key. The other two players don't want to play with him anymore because of his lack of improvement. Learning this basic fundamental will take you far as a player.
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    That story is amazing but I know it is true because I played with two guitarists who could not tell you the name of the notes they were playing or the chord or the key and all they could do was point to the frets and strings.

    One was a gifted guitarist who composed his own music, but with absolutely no concept of music theory. Anyway, one time a very sucessful heavy metal band offered him a position as a rhythm guitarist. He had great respect for them and was thrilled to accept a position with a proven touring and recording band. It meant a great step up and lots more income--no more living hand to mouth.

    He lasted one...I repeat...one rehearsal. See, he hadn't composed the music himself, so he had to play catchup, but he couldn't read their charts or understand when they called the key or named a chord for him to play. It would have just taken too long for him to sit down and sort out all the music by ear. They needed someone ready to go Now, not in a month. So he was finished. Caput. Good bye. End of story.

    Sad to say, thsi happened to him not once, but twice! You'd think he'd take the hint and hit the woodshed to learn enough to make it in a top band. But no...he was too proud or stubborn or what.

    Now, several years later he is still struggling in his band that is still opening for bigger names. Too bad. He has such talent, but will probably be underappreciated because he didn't take the next step that would have allowed him to achieve what he was truly capable of.
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Hmmph. I once had a guitarist tell me "You need to quit thinking eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and eighteenth notes. Just play the song!" I looked at him very funny.

    Another thing which I think is good to do at first, even when warming up, is to find one note every place it's located on the fingerboard.

    Take one of the 12 notes:

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

    Choose one at random, like E. And just play every E on every string at any point on the neck. Just concentrate on finding them. Once you've found every E, the next step, later on, could be to make sure you're playing them from highest to lowest, or lowest to highest.

    And you don't have to spend a ton of time on this. Just spend 5 minutes a day, and you'll be amazed at how quickly the fingerboard starts to come together.

    Good luck USUL! I really commend your approach to learning and appreciate the questions you've asked in the past. They definitely show that you're on the right path! :)
  9. Thanks for all the advice guys.It`s great to know that ppl will take a struggling beginner under their wings.

    One other question though: concerning the sharps and flats?e.g.F#/Gb...which do you all find easier to memorize them by,the sharp of the preceeding note or the flat of upcoming note?I

    So a sharp and a flat can be the same?Is`nt their some tonal differance,albeit however small between them?Seems to me I read a post way back when on this....

    Anyways,one of my goals is to learn to read notation but (at this point)it is really daunting.I have been trying to watch/compare the tabs to the notation when doing my scales...only time will tell I guess!
  10. Steve S

    Steve S

    Jul 26, 2000
  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    This is how I do it. If I am ascending, I use the sharp of the note mentally. If I am descending I think of the flat of the note. So if I am playing a chromatic run, let's say, of C, C#, D, I call that center note C #. But if I am playing that run, D, D flat, C, well, I call it D flat.

    Of course, that doesn't always work. On your sheet music, the "accidental" may be marked as a C#, even though you are descending. Still, for learning purposes or scale playing drills, I do what I described above.

    Also, learning the notes without sharps or flats as described by Steve S was how I originally started learning the fretboard. I did that until I worked out the system of sharps ascending and flats descending because I found it very hard to say mentally C sharp/D flat.
  12. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    This is not really my cup of tea, 'cuz I'm going from ear only to noted right now, like u, Usul.
    But,,,when I do scales, calling out the names of the notes, I call them as the scale tells them!
    E.g. the Gmajor scale has one #, F#, so I go G, E, F#, A... The Fmajor has one b, hence F, G, A, Bb, C...
    That way, I intend to learn: accidentals to a scale, position on fingerboard, pattern, arpeggios, chords, phuuui....;)

    Gosh, trumpet is much easier :D
  13. Usul, this is all great advice. I learned guitar by ear and tab in the 50's. I began to pick up a little music theory and really learned the fingerboard in the 60's playing in bar bands. But I stubbornly refused to learn to read music or really learn theory. In the 70's I blew an opportunity to take guitar lessons from jazz great Johnny Smith because I wouldn't learn to read music. Now I regret that stubborness and I am trying to make up for lost decades. A local music teacher and former big band guitarist recently told a friend of mine that with my skills I could have had a very successful jazz career if I had only learned theory and to read. I try to take that as a complement, but it is really not. God gave me the talent, I haven't developed it yet.
  14. Well, Usul, my advice on learning to read notation is to dive in. I'm struggling with re-learning to sight read and I find that if I have notation and TAB in front of me, I end up going to the TAB out of frustration. If I only have the notation, I am forced to learn what each note on the staff means.

    Also, if you use TAB to tell you where to play, I think you run the risk of limiting your options as to positions. For example, on the staff, the space above the center line is E. But there are 3 diferent places to play that same E on the bass. You could play it at the 12th fret of the E string, the 7th fret on the A, or the 2nd fret of the D. You see what I mean? If you just rely on the TAB to tell you what that space is, most likely you'll be confined to the first 5 frets for most of your playing.

    This is all just my opinion, take it with a grain of salt because I'm not exactly a stellar player. I'm just re-learning my instrument and trying to overcome some bad habits I learned a long time ago so I'm pretty much an absolute beginner myself.
  15. td1368


    Jan 9, 2001
    I appreciate the responses to the original post. I've been trying to learn theory for the last year and have been lazy about naming the notes when I play my scales. Thanks for the woodshedding.
  16. thayer182


    Oct 1, 2000
    I hope this helps anyone that reads this. I played bass for a year b4 I ever even considered learning what notes I was playing (tabs were much easier). but once I started having to read sheet music while doing praise and worship music, I quickly realized the importance of learning the fretboard. the way I did it was learn the regular notes (A,B,C,D,E,F,G)and where they're at first, don't worry about flats and sharps. and then all you have to do is learn maybe the first five frets on the top two strings and you pretty much have the entire chromatic scale (except for E-flat which is 6th fret A-string). then all you have to do to go higher is just learn how to do octaves. say you wanna do an octave of C. well there's many ways to do that. since C is on the 3rd fret A-string, one way is to slide up to 3 frets past the 12th fret (2 dots), and that would be the 15th fret. another way is to go down 2 strings and up 2 frets, this would take you to 5th fret G-string. there's maybe three or four other places where C is located on the fretboard, but you really just have to deal with the first five frets on each string.
    sharps and flats are easy, don't try to make them hard. they're just intervals in between notes. yes, A sharp and B flat are the same note. some people try to say that they look at it differently when they're descending or ascending, I look at it simply as the note in between A and B. all this musical theory stuff is a whole lot easier than everyone makes it out to be, just play and it'll come to you. don't feel overwhelmed or think that it's hard, because it's not.
  17. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    thayer, the other string/fret relationship that comes in handy is that the same note, at the same octave, appears one string lower (physically "higher") and 5 frets higher. So your C on the A string 3rd fret is found at the E string 8th fret.
  18. I do that too, not because of frustration though... it´s like movies with subtitles... I ALWAYS read the subtitle, even if it´s on the same language as the movie... it´s a habit.. and like-wise, when I´m reading notation with tab, I read the notation, and the tab... that´s why I always try to find notation without tab so I won´t "cheat". :)

    anyway, to usul and everybody trying to learn.. don´t give up! do something fun! and learn! :)
  19. Concerning the flat vs sharp issue, wouldn't it be effective to decide upon a key signature, then as notes are played name them accordingly? That way you could avoid calling Eb a D# when mentally being in the key of Bb.