Hey guys I'm an electric guitar player/classical. I've just gotten into to classical not too long ago and am learning theory so of course I'm trying to apply it to the guitar.

1. I have learned that the bottom 3 strings (EAD) are the bass strings while GBD are the treble. Now, I've learned that the bass range is E2 to E4. I'm kind of confused because you can technically play bass notes or bass range notes on the treble. I mean middle C can be played on the 5th fret of the G string OR the first fret of B string. So it's like you can play bass notes on treble strings. This really confuses me because I thought treble include part of the tenor voice along with alto and soprano. You don't really hit those notes until the B string really or on higher frets on the G string. Is it because there are multiple meanings of bass and treble? compared to back then?

2. I understand that guitar is transcribed. C3 is played as C4 when reading the music. So if someone asked you to play a C4 on guitar, would you play the 3rd fret of A(which is technically C3), or would you play the first fret on B(which is actually the real C4). Like in guitar is our C4 actually C3 or do you only think like that when looking at sheet music transcribed? So like is our C4 the same sound as piano C4? or is a guitar C4 different? Not talking about written down, just in general.

3. I understand bass has multiple meanings and a lot of people think of it as the lowest pitch. With a bass guitar though, Their low E is E1 so I'm pretty confused , especially with ranges. The bass range is E2 to E4 and since low E string on a bass is an E1, how does this makes sense? it's out of bass range. Since bass is transcribes and it's low e string is written as an E2 on the stave, it is still technically an E1 note correct?

4. Say I play a chord on my electric guitar. It's an F power chord beginning on the first fret on low E string. All of the 3 notes I'd play are in bass range, so would all be bass notes? Like I'd be playing an F2, C3, F3 so what is the bass of note of that chord? they are aall within bass voice range. If they all wouldn't be labeled as bass notes, what notes would they be? tenor or something? thanks.
There are three separate issues here. 1/ how to name a given pitch (regardless of instrument), 2/ how to locate a given pitch, and 3/ what we mean by the bass note of a chord.

In Western music, we have 12 named pitches, that occur over and over again in different octaves. See http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/notes.html. You'll see that the number following the pitch name selects one particular pitch.

On piano, there is only one piano key that can produce a given pitch (e.g. C3 only occurs at one place on the piano (see above link). But on string instruments, the exact same pitch can be played at more than one instrument location, as you've said. So, on 6 string guitar there are up to 6 different locations to produce the exact same pitch. A4 on guitar (440 Hz) is at 5th fret, 1st string, but also at 10th fret 2nd string, 14th fret 3rd string, etc.

So the problem becomes one of ease of reach, physically ... which one to use.

Then, there is the convention for SATB, as used in classical 4 part writing, where composers have typically limited each part to a given range of pitches. Again, physically where the pitches are found depends on instrument. Convention sets soprano, for instance, in range C3 to A5.

On written music for guitar, the pitch C4 (middle C ... the first leger line below the stave, using treble clef, for piano) is notated as C5 (between the 3rd and 4th stave line). Here is where written music diverges from the actual pitches involved.

Finally, in a chord, the bass note is always the deepest pitched note. If the chord isn't inverted, then the root and the bass are the same. If inverted, the bass is still the lowest note, and the chord root is one of the higher pitches.

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 10, 2014,
Just because the strings are called "bass strings" doesn't mean you are playing bass on them. I wouldn't even call the D string a bass string. I think the name "bass string" may come from solo guitar playing where the guitarist plays both the melody and a bassline. And the bassline is always played on the lowest strings and that's why they are called "bass strings". I never use that term. They have nothing to do with bass/baritone/tenor range.

Oh, and of course the lowest chord tone is called the bass note. And you usually play the lowest chord tone on your lowest string.

So forget about that name. It's nothing but a name for the thickest strings. It doesn't matter what strings you use to play your songs. They are only called "bass strings" because of their use in solo guitar playing (where there is no other instruments playing). Your guitar is the whole "orchestra" so to speak.

Or think about country guitar playing. You usually play the root, fifth bassline. And if you play country on guitar, you play the root, fifth bassline on your two lowest strings. And because you play the bassline on the two lowest strings, they are called the bass strings of your guitar. Because they are used for bassline playing.

Bassline is just your lowest "voice". It doesn't matter what strings you use to play it. It doesn't matter how high or how low it's played, as long as it's the lowest "voice". Sometimes the bassline uses higher notes, but it's still a bassline.

I wouldn't think guitar in terms of bass/baritone/tenor, unless you are playing many "voices" (ie parts) at the same time (then your voices are called bass, tenor, alto and soprano).

I would say guitar is a "tenor instrument". I mean, there's the regular guitar, then there's the baritone guitar that has a longer scale and is tuned lower than a regular guitar. Then there is the bass guitar that is tuned an octave lower than the regular guitar.

If you play an F5 chord, only the lowest note of the chord is called the bass note. If there are other instruments playing at the same time, it may be that you aren't even playing the bass note. Again, bass note is the lowest note of the chord. And again, don't think about vocal ranges or anything like that. It doesn't matter. Call the other notes (C and F) the fifth and the octave/root.
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Nov 10, 2014,
I think you're really over thinking all of this.

1. Where you play a particular note on the guitar (for instance middle C) is usually determined by where you are playing the other notes. On the guitar, the terms "bass" and "treble" don't really have a meaning outside of what clef you are playing on. the SATB that you are thinking of don't really have an application on the guitar.

2. Technically, the guitar is transposed, not transcribed. Either way, C4 is C4, regardless of what instrument you are playing it on. Middle C will sound the same on any instrument that has middle C in its range. To actually play a middle C on the guitar, you would need to play at the second fret on the second string. What is written as middle C for the guitar actually sounds an octave lower. The only reason it is written an octave above the sounding pitch is (as far as I know) just for convenience for writing.

3. It makes sense because the bass guitar is also a transposing instrument. Its transposition is the same as the guitar. What ever note is written for the bass, the sounding note is actually one octave below that.

4. The bass note for the chord is just the lowest note of the chord. Unless the chord is inverted (I guess that's what you would call a chord inversion), then the bass note and the root note is the same. Again, vocal ranges only apply to voice, not to the guitar. Don't even think about them while you're playing.