I have seen many users post and demonstrate little to no knowledge about how to learn the notes on the neck of the guitar or their musical alphabet. The following is a stripped down summary of how I teach people the Musical Alphabet in my Academy.

This will give you just one idea of the simplified, yet understandable approach to teach students the guitar, at the Academy, in teaching theory to someone that:

Is fearful of theory
Gets lost easily or confused of theory
Has little to no background in Music

First of all, friends, when it comes to music, the music starts at the alphabet.

We have A B C D E F G ... back to A again and it repeats the process (no H)

These notes are known as Natural. Natural means no #'s or 'bs - Put it even simpler, if its in the ALPHABET, its natural.

Is A in the Alphabet? Yes? A is a natural note.

Is D in the Alphabet? Yes? D is a natural note.

Is C# in the Alphabet? No? C# is NOT a natural note.

Half Steps - Half steps on the guitar are a distance of 1 fret apart. In the alphabet, there are only 2 pairs of letters that are NATURAL and a half step apart. Memorize them, they are the only ones. You will never see any others in your entire life.

E-F and B-C

Every other letter in the alphabet is a whole step (2 frets) from the next one.

ef g a bc d e

See the gaps in the example between the letters, except e-f and b-c? This is how it looks on the guitar. Those gaps between the NATURAL letters are notes too. They are called Enharmonics.

Now, an enharmonic is a funny sounding word that basically means that one note can have 2 possible names for it. What's your Dad's name? What do you call him? Same person, two names, right? Of course, its depending on how its used and who's using it.

ef g a bc d e

If I go to the gap between f and g, looking at the diagram above, I am on that enharmonic. It gets its name from the F - going up, gives it the name F# (F sharp).

ef . f# . g a bc d e

But it also gets its name from the G after it, Gb (G flat). So that gap would have a note that looks like F#/Gb which we could call F# OR Gb, because one note has two possible names (enharmonic).

ef . f#/gb . g a bc d e

Use the same principle to figure out the other notes and gaps and you should come up with ------> G#/Ab A#/Bb C#/Db and D#/Eb

Remember, e-f are together as are b-c. The rest, have gaps between them that are filled by notes called "Enharmonics".

I hope this helps those lost and confused by the musical alphabet to feel a little more encouraged to start their journey of learning Theory for the Guitar. By the way though we used the guitar, once you understand the letters and how they go in the same order It's the same letter order for Music Theory in general, nothing changes.

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Dec 19, 2009,
I've learned and just accepted that its only a half step between b-c and e-f when I played guitar. We really didn't even have to learn it for violin, since there were no frets, we just learned positions for fingers and how you can change positions to get minor/major.

But it all made complete sense after looking at a keyboard. Like there's no note (no black bar) between b-c and e-f, which is why they are half step and thus there's no such thing as an e# etc.

This might be pure speculation but I think that written music was based off of keyed instruments.
try posting this somewere else, like on the lessons part
Quote by GiveItAll
I've learned and just accepted that its only a half step between b-c and e-f when I played guitar. We really didn't even have to learn it for violin, since there were no frets, we just learned positions for fingers and how you can change positions to get minor/major.

But it all made complete sense after looking at a keyboard. Like there's no note (no black bar) between b-c and e-f, which is why they are half step and thus there's no such thing as an e# etc.

This might be pure speculation but I think that written music was based off of keyed instruments.

Be careful my friend - its an advanced concept that has only rare application, but there IS such a thing as an E#, (but its rare and depends upon the context)

C# major = C# E# G#
Quote by Sean0913
Be careful my friend - its an advanced concept that has only rare application, but there IS such a thing as an E#, (but its rare and depends upon the context)

I don't know how "advanced" it is. Why the semitone separation between E/F and B/C should be a hang up is beyond me. Any note can be sharpened or flattened; deal with it.
Quote by Dodeka
I don't know how "advanced" it is. Why the semitone separation between E/F and B/C should be a hang up is beyond me. Any note can be sharpened or flattened; deal with it.

It's okay if its beyond you, I can live with that I use this approach to streamline the basics of alphabetical notes, and save the others for a time when they have the basics down. It's advanced, because that's how I see it and categorize the data in my own determination of how I present the material. When we get to triad theory, I teach the student the remainder.

Where is this comment relevant to the presentation of the alphabetical notes lesson aimed towards people who get lost, confused or have no theory exposure whatsoever?

Deal with it? Tone and intent are hard to determine over the internet.
I fail to see what is so hard to understand about B#/Cb and E#/Fb. It isn't hard to remember that B#=C , Cb=B and E#=F , Fb=E.
Quote by Tyler Durden
It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

Erowid
Quote by Sean0913
Where is this comment relevant to the presentation of the alphabetical notes lesson aimed towards people who get lost, confused or have no theory exposure whatsoever?

I don't see why the simple fact that a sharp or flat can be tacked on to any note letter can't be explained to a beginner. Anything else only adds to confusion and fosters common misconceptions.

Quote by Sean0913
Deal with it? Tone and intent are hard to determine over the internet.

Ah, I apologize. "Deal with it" was just a piece of advice for anyone having an issue with a sharp or flat note being enharmonic to a natural. I meant it jokingly, not recommending it actually be said to a student.
There is an H too if you're German!

Might be worth mentioning that enharmionic basically just means that the pitch is the same but the name is different, so it can apply to natural notes too - F is enharmonic to E# and to Gbb
Quote by Dodeka
I don't see why the simple fact that a sharp or flat can be tacked on to any note letter can't be explained to a beginner. Anything else only adds to confusion and fosters common misconceptions.

No it doesn't. The guitarists aren't "there" yet. They are going to run across that concept very rarely, and I'm establishing an E-F B-C foundation, so that when they come to their Enharmonics, it provides a framework for them. I understand that any note can be enharmonic, but since that is not a common note to find (even in musical flash cards for beginners) I take an "as needed" approach.

When brought to the guitar at that point we are calling notes E's E and not Fb - This keeps the process linear if that option is off the table, and they learn everything easier. Later on in the Academy Program, it takes all of two minutes to round out their knowledge. Works like a charm.

Quote by Dodeka
Ah, I apologize. "Deal with it" was just a piece of advice for anyone having an issue with a sharp or flat note being enharmonic to a natural. I meant it jokingly, not recommending it actually be said to a student.

All good

Quote by zhilla

There is an H too if you're German!

Absolutely true - I believe it's our Bb if Im not mistaken
Last edited by Sean0913 at Dec 20, 2009,
Quote by Sean0913
No it doesn't. The guitarists aren't "there" yet. They are going to run across that concept very rarely, and I'm establishing an E-F B-C foundation, so that when they come to their Enharmonics, it provides a framework for them. I understand that any note can be enharmonic, but since that is not a common note to find (even in musical flash cards for beginners) I take an "as needed" approach.

I still maintain it's an incredibly simple concept that shouldn't give even a rank novice too much trouble.

I just happened to be looking through my old beginning piano book (the Alfred's one), and on page 33, with the introduction of the sharp sign, it states, "The SHARP SIGN before a note means play the next key to the RIGHT, whether black or white!"

Aspiring guitar players can just as easily be taught in a similar manner. It might save them some trouble later on.
Quote by Sean0913
Absolutely true - I believe it's our Bb if Im not mistaken

Their H is our B.
Their B is our B♭.
Quote by Dodeka
I don't know how "advanced" it is. Why the semitone separation between E/F and B/C should be a hang up is beyond me. Any note can be sharpened or flattened; deal with it.

That’s for not having a chromatic or better to say enharmonic (hmm not sure I forgot the name in English) scale.. Ie not to have a C and C# in the key of C# which is C#D#E#F#G#A#B# you say it B# not to have two C's! not C#D#E#F#G#A#CC# got what I mean?? It's theoretically the same it's just a manner of writing and stuff..

Plus talking about writing it's better that way on sheet music if youd write with C and C# it'd be a bloody mess
Last edited by vigenharutyunya at Dec 20, 2009,
Quote by vigenharutyunya
That’s for not having a chromatic or better to say enharmonic (hmm not sure I forgot the name in English) scale.. Ie not to have a C and C# in the key of C# which is C#D#E#F#G#A#B# you say it B# not to have two C's! not C#D#E#F#G#A#CC# got what I mean?? It's theoretically the same it's just a manner of writing and stuff..

Plus talking about writing it's better that way on sheet music if youd write with C and C# it'd be a bloody mess

I think he/she is aware of what it is. He/she is saying that he/she doesn't get what is so difficult about it.
Quote by Tyler Durden
It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

Erowid
I agree with Dodeka.

I can even say that it's far easier logic and less confusing.

It's linear logic if u learn # is half step up, and flat is half step down, and just add a side reference to add that it also counts for e's and b's.

It's not a very rare concept once you get into the keys.

All in all, I found this lesson to be slight pretentious.

The IQ required to memorise the notes is of such low standard, that if u can't memorise it, then u probably can't bake an egg either.

The "Re-incarnation of Plato" Award 2009
(most intelligent)
The "Good Samaritan" Award 2009 (most helpful)

[font="Palatino Linotype
Who's Andy Timmons??
Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Dec 20, 2009,
Quote by Sean0913
Be careful my friend - its an advanced concept that has only rare application, but there IS such a thing as an E#, (but its rare and depends upon the context)

C# major = C# E# G#

In that same vein, you should note that F# and Gb are, in many cases, not the same. They sound the same and they're played the same way but they aren't exactly the same. It's not even a rare situation; this shows up in intervals, chords, and scales all the time so it's worth noting.
Don't forget to actually point out that they can start on the low E and the first fret will be F and the 3rd G etc...

Those gaps between the NATURAL letters are notes too. They are called Enharmonics.

I've never heard of "enharmonic" being used as a noun?

This should be submitted through your profile to the lessons section of the site btw.
Quote by xxdarrenxx

All in all, I found this lesson to be slight pretentious.

Said the gentleman with "Re-incarnation of Plato" in his sig.

Oh, and shouldn't it be slighty pretentious? *puffs on pipe*

just kiddin......i'm just bored
Quote by Freepower
I've never heard of "enharmonic" being used as a noun?

It seems to me like Sean is just using it as that way to refer to notes that cannot be expressed as natural notes. He's never taken any formal music theory, so its understandable if he uses terms incorrectly.
Quote by isaac_bandits
It seems to me like Sean is just using it as that way to refer to notes that cannot be expressed as natural notes. He's never taken any formal music theory, so its understandable if he uses terms incorrectly.

He's calling them enharmonics because they can be expressed by # and b. While that's not really the right term, the thought is there. Can't really tell if he's taken any formal music theory courses, though.
Quote by iforgot120
He's calling them enharmonics because they can be expressed by # and b. While that's not really the right term, the thought is there. Can't really tell if he's taken any formal music theory courses, though.

I know why he's calling them enharmonics. That's not what enharmonic means though (its not even a noun), but we can live with it.

He's said in other threads that he hasn't taken any formal theory, and that all that he knows is what he's figured out on his own.
Quote by Dodeka
I still maintain it's an incredibly simple concept that shouldn't give even a rank novice too much trouble.

I just happened to be looking through my old beginning piano book (the Alfred's one), and on page 33, with the introduction of the sharp sign, it states, "The SHARP SIGN before a note means play the next key to the RIGHT, whether black or white!"

Aspiring guitar players can just as easily be taught in a similar manner. It might save them some trouble later on.

There haven't been any troubles at all. You have your approach, and I have mine. Keep in mind, I'm teaching theory integrated for the guitar, so this is in keeping with a standard fretboard note chart.

Quote by xxdarrenxx
I agree with Dodeka.

I can even say that it's far easier logic and less confusing.

It's linear logic if u learn # is half step up, and flat is half step down, and just add a side reference to add that it also counts for e's and b's.

It's not a very rare concept once you get into the keys.

All in all, I found this lesson to be slight pretentious.

The IQ required to memorise the notes is of such low standard, that if u can't memorize it, then u probably can't bake an egg either.

You can say anything you like.

The lesson is geared towards those trying to learn the notes on the neck of the guitar. The only thing you are debating is whether or not it should be taught at the start. This is irrelevant in my opinion. I teach it later, rather than at the beginning when we get to Keys and Triads. The outcome is the same.

Pretentious? Then Ive been pretentious for about 400 students!

I'm not presuming to have been formally trained I am self taught, however, if you need to draw issue that enharmonic is a condition or state, that's fine, I call them enharmonic for simplicity sake and teaching. Simplified. Take issue where you will.

I found your comments to be pretentious, superfluous and ancillary to the point of the post (which wasn't to be proofread or to open up debate amongst the rest of you). This is to learn the notes on the neck, and help someone understand the musical alphabet.

Function before form, the outcome works.
Last edited by Sean0913 at Dec 20, 2009,
Quote by Sean0913

There haven't been any troubles at all. You have your approach, and I have mine. Keep in mind, I'm teaching theory integrated for the guitar, so this is in keeping with a standard fretboard note chart.

You can say anything you like.

The lesson is geared towards those trying to learn the notes on the neck of the guitar. The only thing you are debating is whether or not it should be taught at the start. This is irrelevant in my opinion. I teach it later, rather than at the beginning when we get to Keys and Triads. The outcome is the same.

Pretentious? Then Ive been pretentious for about 400 students!

I'm not presuming to have been formally trained I am self taught, however, if you need to draw issue that enharmonic is a condition or state, that's fine, I call them enharmonic for simplicity sake and teaching. Simplified. Take issue where you will.

I found your comments to be pretentious, superfluous and ancillary to the point of the post (which wasn't to be proofread or to open up debate amongst the rest of you). This is to learn the notes on the neck, and help someone understand the musical alphabet.

Function before form, the outcome works.

I just stated that u wrote an entire story around it for something that (if I remember correct) learned at highschool at the age of 14 in one week together with the rest of my classmates.

My point was, that this potentially uses more brain capacity and room for ambiguity in one's mind then just telling people to memorise it.

And I also saw no guitar related diagrams.

You know that for people with no experience on this subject will need to have a decent amount of visual perspective ability to take this text, and work that on the guitar.

I'm sure this works in person, but I have my doubts how this comes over on it's own.

A simple diagram with the notes and tips like learning the "dotted" fret marker notes first, and teaching about the 12th fret octave, is in my opinion a far less confusing.

Besides, I think I'm allowed to criticize, and I don't see how my points are that far-fetched?

The "Re-incarnation of Plato" Award 2009
(most intelligent)
The "Good Samaritan" Award 2009 (most helpful)

[font="Palatino Linotype
Who's Andy Timmons??
Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Dec 21, 2009,
Quote by xxdarrenxx
I just stated that u wrote an entire story around it for something that (if I remember correct) learned at highschool at the age of 14 in one week together with the rest of my classmates.

I think alot of guitarists already know the musical alphabet when they start playing. I started guitar, from drums, but just from having lived for 13 years at that time, I had already heard all of those notes.
Quote by isaac_bandits
I think alot of guitarists already know the musical alphabet when they start playing. I started guitar, from drums, but just from having lived for 13 years at that time, I had already heard all of those notes.

I disagree. Out of my guitarist friends I only know of one who knew of the the musical alphabet before (from playing piano).
Quote by xxdarrenxx
I just stated that u wrote an entire story around it for something that (if I remember correct) learned at highschool at the age of 14 in one week together with the rest of my classmates.

What does that have to do with anything? I didn't write it for you, I wrote it for people coming here lost and trying to help them get started at least with understanding how the Letters of The Music Alphabet are ordered.

Quote by xxdarrenxx

My point was, that this potentially uses more brain capacity and room for ambiguity in one's mind then just telling people to memorise it.

I think you missed that this is not directly teaching Notes on the Neck - it's more generally aimed at how to apply this memorization to the guitar, but its to teach the Musical Alphabet - that's why the diagrams are shown in a string form

Quote by xxdarrenxx

And I also saw no guitar related diagrams.

You saw a string of letters - this isn't just for guitar - its simply teaching Order of the Notes. Not the Neck - they can apply it how they wish, including to the guitar.

Quote by xxdarrenxx

You know that for people with no experience on this subject will need to have a decent amount of visual perspective ability to take this text, and work that on the guitar.

I'm sure this works in person, but I have my doubts how this comes over on it's own.

First they get the letters of the Alphabet understood. I teach it *with* the guitar, but here I am explaining it in a condensed version. They have to memorize it abstractly and then apply it elsewhere. I do guide them by explaining frets and half and whole steps.

Quote by xxdarrenxx

A simple diagram with the notes and tips like learning the "dotted" fret marker notes first, and teaching about the 12th fret octave, is in my opinion a far less confusing.

Besides, I think I'm allowed to criticize, and I don't see how my points are that far-fetched?

These points aren't far fetched, your prior ones were superfluous in my opinion.

Quote by isaac

I think alot of guitarists already know the musical alphabet when they start playing. I started guitar, from drums, but just from having lived for 13 years at that time, I had already heard all of those notes.

Some may, some may not. I would guess that those who don't need the help wouldn't need to worry about this lesson, but there are those who may be able to use this lesson.
Last edited by Sean0913 at Dec 21, 2009,
Quote by bolivardogman
I disagree. Out of my guitarist friends I only know of one who knew of the the musical alphabet before (from playing piano).

+1
My neighbor has been playing a little longer (25 + years) than I have and he still doesn't know or understand this. That goes for alot of my guitarists friends. I'm not sure why either. It seems like whenever i've brought up the concept to them, they look at me like i'm talking about something really complicated or act like it's something unimportant because not knowing it hasn't stopped them from playing all these years.

I also noticed that if you try to teach something to someone who isn't in a "learning, development" stage of their guitar playing lives, you might as well be trying to teach your dog.
Quote by Sean0913
There haven't been any troubles at all. You have your approach, and I have mine. Keep in mind, I'm teaching theory integrated for the guitar, so this is in keeping with a standard fretboard note chart.

Well, page 7 of the book I mentioned has a "standard" keyboard note chart. That didn't seem to be any reason for the introduction of the sharp sign to not include a mention that a sharpened note can lead you to a white key just as it can to a black one.
Quote by Sean0913
Keep in mind, I'm teaching theory integrated for the guitar, so this is in keeping with a standard fretboard note chart.

Quote by Sean0913
I think you missed that this is not directly teaching Notes on the Neck - it's more generally aimed at how to apply this memorization to the guitar, but its to teach the Musical Alphabet - that's why the diagrams are shown in a string form

You saw a string of letters - this isn't just for guitar - its simply teaching Order of the Notes. Not the Neck - they can apply it how they wish, including to the guitar.