Naming Notes In The Open Position

Naming And Finding Notes On The Guitar

Here is the third piece of the puzzle to this course in reading music. As I have said before, music reading can be thought of as three smaller and separate skills: naming notes on the musical staff, planning the correct rhythm of those notes and finding those notes on the guitar. In the popular and store-bought method books of our day, the approach is to teach all three of these separate, fundamental skills in tiny little dribs and drabs at the same time. As a guitar student and later as a guitar teacher, the results this approach got me were far less than satisfactory. When I got to music school, I really needed to step my reading up in a hurry so that’s when I developed my theory of the ‘three easy pieces’. I developed a three-step process I use for practicing for practicing every new piece of music I received. First, I would go through the piece and quickly gave a letter name to all of the notes. Next, it came to sounding out the rhythms with my voice using a simple single syllable such as ‘LA’. Finally, I went through the piece once just by naming the notes and simultaneously finding them on my guitar, not even worrying about the rhythm. After you develop the habit of performing this three-step process your music reading ability will improve in great leaps and bounds.

Our focus here is quickly and accurately naming notes on the staff and then finding the corresponding note on your guitar. There will be no counting of time or rhythmic constraints of any kind in this lesson, just naming notes and finding notes. At the core of this lesson is one simple idea, memorizing eight easy facts: the names of any natural notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, and G) on the first three strings of your guitar and the locations of those notes on the musical staff. Most people discovered that finding the correct note on the guitar is by far the most difficult aspect of learning to read music. I have found however that if you think about things in the way I am suggesting here, you will give yourself a fighting chance to learn well, and learn quickly, a very elusive and demanding skill. Below you see a graphic organizer, studying this illustration until you are comfortable playing and naming each and every one of the notes you see in the musical staff and TAB staff.


After you have studied the diagram above, having carefully gone through everything with your guitar in hand, study the interactive illustration below. Learning any difficult skill such as reading music requires repetition and drill on the fundamental points.