Naming Notes On The Staff
Question: How do you get a guitar player to turn down the volume??
Answer: Put music in front of him!!

Three Easy Pieces

Probably every serious guitar player has heard that corny old joke, and I really don’t think many of those serious guitar players think that it is very funny. As you certainly have guessed, reading music on the guitar is no small feat, and it has always been the Achilles heel of guitarists. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s difficult and there is a lot of serious work involved here. This course will take the daunting and often mystifying process of learning to read music on the guitar and make it a much easier ride for you.

When I was a student, reading music always fascinated me because I was learning how to translate visual characters and images to sound, it amazed and delighted me! As much as sight reading amazed me it also defeated me at every turn. I quickly realized that the individual skill of reading music was actually three smaller ‘sub’ skills;

  1. Learning to name notes on the musical staff.
  2. Finding those notes on the guitar.
  3. Playing the notes in time, correctly interpreting the rhythms.
I firmly believe that it is impossible to learn how to do three things at once, so in my journey as a guitarist and in my daily life as a teacher I study, practice and teach these three individual skills separately. Up to this point, the results this approach has consistently yielded excellent results.

The cheap little guitar books I bought at the corner music store tried to teach me all three of these skills at the same time. If you’ve ever learned Anything on your own or taught someone you know how ridiculous this sounds. The truth is people can only learn one thing at a time. This course will teach you how to develop the Three Easy Pieces separately. Having done that, music reading ability will come to you in more of an easy and natural way.

Of course, no reading of music will take place until you can give letter names to the notes which you see in the lines and spaces of the traditional musical staff. Having said that, we have identified a small area of focus; the review, study and mastery of this simple ability, naming notes on the musical staff and nothing more.

Every Good Boy Does Fine, Space Face!

Just below you see an illustration of the grand staff. As you study and play the interactive diagram below make sure you are absolutely clear on three points:

The Treble Clef.
The Bass Clef.
Middle C.-

If that was your first excursion into the world of musical theory and literacy, it wasn’t so bad was it? As learning anything involves quite a bit of basic, rote memorization it’s a good idea to meet those tasks head on. In the illustration above, you’ll notice that the two clips are made up of horizontal lines some notes appear directly on the line. The area in between the lines are called the spaces, some notes are in a space. The time-honored method of learning to name and remember the notes, whether they are on lines or spaces, is probably the best. Who hasn’t heard “Every Good Boy Does Fine” at some point? Play throught the interactive animation just below to continue.

Pencil And Paper Practice

Now we need a way to put our new knowledge into action, the easiest and smartest way to refine and develop the skill is simply by taking pencil to paper. Just below you will see an exercise that is designed for you to print out and fill in the names of the notes just as I have done below and a large red letters. At first this may seem a little daunting and confusing but just remember: “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and F – A – C – E and you will do just fine.

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Don’t Phone It In…..

To “phone something in” is to give it a weak and halfhearted effort. This is one lesson you definitely do not want to ‘phone in’, even though it may seem easy at first, you will need to be extremely and extraordinarily good at naming notes in the wink of an eye. Do the writing exercises in this lesson several times and also practice with any old sheet music you may have laying around. You will be done with this lesson when you can instantly and automatically name any note you see in the treble clef. Just below you’ll see some extra practicing for good measure, I suggest you print these pages out and put some serious effort into this exercise before continuing with the rest of the course.

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Guitarists Numbering System

Before you conclude the first lesson there are s key bits of information, or nomenclature you will need to solid on;

  • The fingers of the left hand, the hand that presses the down on the strings and frets, are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 with finger number one being the index finger
  • The frets are numbered with roman numerals.
  • The strings are numbered 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 with regular arabic numerals in circles. The fat string, low “E” is string 6.

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End Of Lesson 1

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“My first experience with the guitar was taking lessons from Karl Aranjo as a high school student. His lessons were more than just a collection of tips and riffs: they were a method. As I look through GuitarU.com, I get to take a trip back through those lessons and am reminded about I loved about them. His strong focus on the fundamentals quickly draws a connection between general music theory and the particulars of how that theory can be applied to the guitar, even allowing us as guitarists to use our instrument as an abacus-like tool to enhance our musical insight. In high school, Karl’s lessons got me up to speed to jam with my friends and in the school band almost immediately. In the almost 20 years since I left high school and had my last lesson with Karl, the things he taught me have continued to serve me well; I’ve played almost continuously in a variety of styles (jazz, rock, funk, folk), both as a hobby and as a part-time professional (currently playing with San Francisco’s Smash-Up Derby). If I hadn’t grown up in the same town as where Karl taught, I might have missed out on a lifetime of fun playing the guitar. With GuitarU.com, wherever you are, you can benefit from the same quality instruction that I had!

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