|On a keyboard, the white keys are the natural notes. On a guitar you have to learn
where the natural notes are. This exercise is in A minor natural and has the all
natural notes for a standard tuned guitar first position. We will be learning how to
play it in this lesson. It will play once. Click on the player once to activate it and
then on the play arrow to play it again.
Buying A Guitar
A inexpensive musical key board plays as easy as an expensive keyboard. The
difference is in the sounds and features. Inexpensive guitars are much harder to play
than expensive guitars. You want to have good action with the strings close to the fret
board. This makes them easier to press down to the frets. But you have to make sure
that when you press down against a fret that a string isn't hitting a higher fret and
buzzing or not playing the note all together. Expensive guitars come from the factory
fairly well adjusted. With inexpensive guitars they just don't bother. An inexpensive guitar
can be made easier to play. You need a jewelers file to deepen the grooves at the nut
and you might want to file the bridge a bit also. But if you go to far you'll need to replace
them. The guitar neck should be almost flat with a slight bow when the strings are tuned.
If it's too bowed and it's not an adjustable neck then it's hopeless. You have a finger
breaker. Get another guitar. I take inexpensive student guitars and make them playable
for my students. Maybe it's a service I could offer to the general public if there is an
interest. But for now when you get a guitar, make sure you try it. Try different ones to
see if they are playable and to learn the difference between a playable guitar and a
finger breaker. As a beginner you have to find someone experienced to adjust and tune
your guitar. As soon as possible learn to do this yourself. Buying a more expensive guitar
from a reputable vendor will help you get a playable instrument. Beware of non dealer
Internet sales. Some use the Internet to peddle junk to the inexperienced. It's happened
to some people who didn't find out they had been taken till they came to me as students
Guitar And Chord Diagrams
It's so easy to picture a musical key board that we didn't even talk about it. You're looking
down on it, so we just tilt it up toward you. It is not so easy to picture the guitar. When
you play a guitar, the front of the guitar and finger board are facing away from you. The
lowest sounding fattest string is on the top and the strings get thinner and thinner and
higher and higher in pitch as they get closer and closer to the floor. The strings are
numbered starting with the thinnest string as the 1st string, the next as the 2nd string
and so on up to the 6th string for the standard guitar. To show the finger board in a
picture, the guitar has to be rotated so that it faces you. One of the two orientation that is
used is shown below in both the actual picture and fret diagrams. This vertical orientation
puts the nut on top the bridge on the bottom, the low strings on the left and the high
strings on the right. The diagram in the middle shows the notes in first position. The
letters above the nut are the open string notes for standard tuning. The letters behind
each fret show the notes for that fret for standard tuning. The circled note is middle c.
The diagram, on the far left, is a chord diagram. The x indicates a string that is not
played. The o's indicate open strings. The black dots show which frets are fingered on
the fingered strings. The numbers show which fingers to use. On the guitar the thumb of
the left hand goes behind the neck, so the fingers are numbered 1 to 4 starting with the
index finger and ending with the pinkie.
Natural Guitar Notes
On a key board the natural notes are the white keys. On a guitar, it's just frets and you
have to learn where the natural notes are. Now let's learn the guitar notes for standard
tuning. In the picture of the guitar below, it's still facing us but we've tipped on it's side so
that the highest string is on top and the lowest string is on the bottom. Actually it's just
flipped from playing position with the fret board facing toward us instead of away from us.
Notice how the frets get closer together as we move away from the nut toward the bridge.
We don't decide where to put them. They are placed by a mathematical formula. This is a
classical guitar with 12 frets to the body 18 full frets and a partial 19th. Other guitar
types, which I will discuss later, have more frets to the body and more total frets. Below
the classical guitar picture is a fret board diagram for the classical guitar, in the same
orientation. The standard open string tuning is shown by the letters to the left of the nut.
Once we tune the strings then the notes have to fall where they do based on the spaces
between the natural tones. Make sure you have covered free music lessons one through
five starting with Music Is Easy and ending with Musics Great Secret. From that you will
understand how e to f and b to c have to be right next to each other, as they are only a
half step apart, with no room for a note in between. All the other notes are a whole step
apart and there is room for a sharp/flat note in between. Every time you go up a fret on a
guitar you are going up one half step. Look at the fret board below. See how if an open
string is e or b the next note is on the first fret. For any other open string note the next
note is on the second fret. For any fretted e or b, the next note is on the very next fret.
For any other natural note you skip a fret. Guitar players often use special nonstandard
tunings. If the open strings are tuned differently then all the notes are in different places.
If you know how music works, you can easily figure out where the notes are. Look at the
fret board below and make sure you understand why the notes are where they are.
All The Guitar Notes
The strings on the guitar are tuned only a few notes apart. So except for the first string,
after a few frets you are going to repeat notes that are on other strings. We saw that with
the relative tuning above. With standard tuning, the fretted 5th fret of an open string
gives you then same note as the next higher open string. That is except for the g open
string, where it is the fourth fret. After that all the higher notes on a string are repeats of
notes on other strings. You will have the same notes in multiple locations. You will learn
how to take advantage of this in advanced position playing. I've repeated the picture of
the classical fret board with the natural notes below. Looking at the low e string, you can
see that starting at the fifth fret, we are repeating the notes on the next string the open a
string. On both the fifth of the open a string and the 10th fret of the open low e string, we
are repeating notes on the open d string. You can study this out for yourself on the other
Fingering Guitar Notes
On the guitar you only have the four fingers of your left hand to finger the notes. Your
thumb goes behind the guitar neck so that you can press your fingers to the fret board
with a clamping action. The finger are numbered from the index to the pinkie, one, two,
three and four. When you play in the guitar using open strings and the first three frets of
the guitar, it's called first or open position. For playing melody notes in first or open
position, it's pretty simple. The finger that you use is the same number as the fret. Of
course if a string is open you don't use a finger. So on an e string it's no finger, first
finger on the first fret, and third finger on the third fret for e,f, and g. On the a string it's
no finger for a, second finger on the second fret for b and the third finger on the third fret
for c. Look at the fret diagram up above. You get the best sound and easiest fingering by
pressing just behind the fret. Figure out the fingering for the other natural notes. Notice
every string has three notes except for the g string, as there is only one note a, between
g and b. For the C chord you have to hold down all the notes at once. Instead of playing
one note at a time, you strum across the whole thing.
Plucking The Strings
You can finger the notes on a string all you want with the left hand but you won't get a
sound unless you pluck that string with the a guitar pick or the fingers and thumb of your
right hand. There are so many ways to sound the strings, that we will have to save an in
depth covering of that topic for later. We talk about using a pick next in this lesson.
Without a pick use your thumb for low strings and your index and middle finger for high
strings. Classical Guitarist actually use the thumb and three fingers. Play the chord by
brushing or strumming across all the strings. I will be talking about other ways to sound
the strings in the folk guitar lessons. They are not yet available.
Playing The Guitar
The next lesson continues to teach you how to play the guitar in first position. We will
learn about tab with time, musical notation and a combination of tab and musical
notation. The combination of tab with musical notation is the best way to get the time
information that you need to play a song. There will be an introduction to playing rhythm
guitar and bass.
©2004 - 2007
Using The Lessons
People that come to these pages through search engines enter on different pages. I
would recommend that to get the full benefit of these music lessons, especially if you are
a beginner, you visit every page at least once. This is a totally new approach to learning
music. The focus is on "How Music Works". That page that you miss could be the one
that contains the key information, that you need. These pages are full of music tips and
music info that you probably won't find anywhere else. For these beginning guitar
lessons, you should at least have reviewed free music lessons one through five, starting
with Music Is Easy and ending with Musics Great Secret. These five lessons reveal the
great secret about music that makes learning to play any instrument easy. These pages
focus on keyboards as a teaching tool. However even if you want to focus on guitar, you
should become familiar with keyboards.
Keyboards VS Guitars
A key board is a interface. The keys are more like switches. They can activate valves for
a pipe organ, contact strings through a mechanical linkage for a piano or actually be
switches that control tone generators for an electronic keyboard. The white keys play
natural tones and the shorter black keys play sharps and flats. We could make the
keyboard different. We could for instance use buttons instead of keys. We can make the
keys a different size. With a guitar you are playing the strings directly. The location of the
frets that select the notes is determined by the mathematics of music. That is why the
frets get closer as we go up the neck. We can change the overall length of the strings
and make a guitar bigger or smaller. But once the length is fixed, we can't put the frets
where we like. We have to put them where the formula tells us. We can't design it
differently. When it comes to representing music without using musical notation, the
guitar has the advantage. It is difficult to represent music for a keyboard without music
notation. In the free music lessons 1 through 5, we worked out a way to do it. But when
we look at the fret board of a guitar, we will see that it is very graphical. A system called
tablature makes it very easy to represent songs for the guitar without using music. As a
matter of fact,because the guitar has the same note in more than one place, tablature is
almost necessary. We will study the tablature system in this and future lessons.
Tablature is a graphic method used to show music on the guitar Guitar players have
shortened the name to tab and that's what I will call it from now on. Below we have part of
the tab for our natural guitar exercise. There are a couple of ways to write tab. This
simplest way does not show the timing. That is what we are showing below. We will get
the timing from listening to the sound sample. Later we will look at ways to show the
timing. The example to the left of the title has the tab lines numbered for the strings they
match up with. You have to learn this. They won't be numbered on regular tab. You can
see how this matches our guitar pictures and graphics above. The vertical lines divide
our tab staff into bars or measures, just like regular music notation. The numbers on the
tab lines tell you where to play the note on the guitar. The first bar or measure is open
5th string, 3rd fret on the 6th string, 1st fret on the 6th string, open 6th string. The
second bar or measure is 1st fret on the 6th string,3rd fret on the 6th string, open 5th
string. Notice in the second measure there are only three notes so one has to be longer.
When you listen to the midi example, you can hear that it's the third note. From this
example , you be should be able to see how tab works. Especially in the next section,
when you actually play it.
Tuning The Guitar
The midi players below will play classical guitar notes for standard guitar tuning. When you
first open a page, you have to click on the player once to activate the controls. Learning to
tune your own guitar is an important first step in learning to become a guitar player. You must
make sure you are tuning in the right octave. If you tune an octave higher than the pitch of
your tuning aid , your are going to break strings. I have given you a midi player for each string
below. There many guitar tuning aids available, from the low tech metal reed tuner that you
blow into, to a electronic tone generating tuner with a visual indicator to tell you when you are
in tune. Even if you use one of these you will finally need to learn to use your ear. Don't
depend on others to keep your guitar in tune. Learn to do it your self.
High E 1st String
B 2nd String
G 3rd String
D 4th String
A 5th String
Low E 6th String
You can tune a guitar so that the stings are in tune with each other but the guitar will not be at
standard pitch. You can tune a whole lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar combo with drums off
pitch and it will sound fine, as long as they are tuned to each other. But the minute they try to play
with a piano or keyboard or any other instrument that is tuned to standard pitch there will be a
problem. They won't be in tune with those instruments. This is called relative tuning. Fret the low
E string on the 5th fret. This is same A as the open 5th string so tune the open 5th string to that.
As the tuning gets close you will hear a beat between the two strings getting slower and slower as
the strings get closer and closer in tune. When they are in tune the beat will be gone. Fret the A
string on the 5th fret to tune the open D and then the D string on the 5th fret to tune the open G.
You have to fret the G string on the 4th fret to tune the open B as they are only a 3rd apart instead
of a 4th like the other strings. Finally you fret the B string on the 5th fret string to tune the open
high E string. The one caution is that if your low E string is too far above standard pitch, you
might break one of your higher strings. There is no danger if it is below standard pitch. The
picture below shows the fretted notes that are used to tune the next higher open string for relative
Now you will learn to play Natural Guitar. It is in A minor natural It teaches you all the
notes in open first position on the guitar. It will also continue to teach you how to use tab.
Below we have the exercise in tab and the midi sound sample that goes with it. Click on
the player once to activate it and then you can play it as many times as you like. In this
case the finger numbers for the left hand match up with the frets. Remember the thumb
goes in back of the guitar neck so the fingers are numbered 1 to 4, index to pinkie. I've
place the letter names of the notes above the tab. As you practice, say them aloud so
that you can learn where the natural notes are on your guitar. The sound sample will tell
you which notes to hold although that is not the most important thing for this exercise.
The important thing is to learn where your natural notes are. All the notes are in the first
four frets with the finger number the same as the fret except for the first string. There I
would play the 3rd fret g with the finger 2 and the 5th fret high a with the pinkie, finger 4.
Play the exercise as many times as necessary to learn where your natural notes are in
open first position on the guitar
Playing Natural Guitar
Playing C to C
The only keys with all natural notes are C major and it's relative minor, A minor natural.
For more practice with the natural notes, I have given you the exercise below in C major.
You have one note to a beat or tap of your foot in the measures that have four notes. In
the measures that have three notes, one of the notes is held for two beats. You can't tell
which ones from the tab. You have to listen to the midi. When you do you can hear that
it's the first note in the first bar and the last note in bars two and eight. Click on the
player once to activate it and then on the play arrow.
Using A Pick
There are two basic ways of holding a guitar pick. The first way,as shown in the first set
of pictures below, is to hold it between the thumb and the tip of the index finger. It can be
either on the face of the index finger or the index finger can be curled a bit to bring it
more to the side. This way causes you to arch your wrist quite a bit but lets you extend
your other fingers out to rest on the pick guard for stability. It also allows you to extend
the other fingers to pluck or brush the upper strings. For the second way, as shown in
the second set of pictures, the index finger is curved completely around as when you
make a fist. Here the pick is playing of the side of the index finger. Now alternate or up
and down picking can be very fast by using just a slight rotation of the wrist. The wrist
has no arch at all and movement of the whole arm is kept to a minimum. Of course it
doesn't allow you to extend your other fingers like the first method.