Intro To Reading And Playing Sheet Music

An introduction to reading sheet music.

12
I have been a long time member of ug.com, but this is my first lesson. I have noticed that in most of the "basics" lessons posted on this site, no one explains how to read the sheet music. Now, you are probably thinking that it is a major waste of time to be learning something like thet. Well, you're WRONG. Reading the music and knowing what note it stands for can be a valuable asset when it comes to writing songs and transposing from one instrument to another. Did you know that over 90% of popular musicians CAN NOT read sheet music. Imagine what they could do if they could read and write sheet music. Let's start with the basic notes.
F---------------------------------------
D---------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------
That is what it will look like on the sheet. The four spaces between the lines are labeled as so.
________________________________________
                                         E
________________________________________
                                         C
________________________________________
                                         A
________________________________________
                                         F
You're thinking, "That's all very well, but how do I play these notes on guitar?" Standard tuning goes like this (lowest to highest) E A D G B E For learning purposes, I ave extended the score to contain all of the basic notes.
                                         G
F--------------------------------------- 
                                         E  
D---------------------------------------
                                         C
B---------------------------------------
                                         A
G---------------------------------------
                                         F
E---------------------------------------
                                         D
C---------------------------------------
                                         B
A---------------------------------------
                                         G
F---------------------------------------
                                         E
A pattern has emerged. The lines and spaces go upward in alphabetical order (E F G A B C D E F)(bottom, up)and so on. However, in the regular alphabet, there are 26 letters. In the musical alphabet, they only go from A through G and then they repeat themselves. Basic notes of the first string (bottom string): A pick without any fretting is the E in the space under the F line. A pick with the first fret held is the F line at the top. A pick with the third fret held, is the G above the F line. Congrats, you have just learned the basic notes of the first string. I will proceed in the same format as above.
                                         G
F--------------------------------------- 
                                         E  
D---------------------------------------
                                         C
B---------------------------------------
                                         A
G---------------------------------------
                                         F
E---------------------------------------
                                         D
C---------------------------------------
                                         B
A---------------------------------------
                                         G
F---------------------------------------
                                         E
Basic notes of the second string: A pick without any fretting is the B line. A pick with the first fret held is the C in the space above the B line. A pick with the third fret held, is the D line.
                                         G
F--------------------------------------- 
                                         E  
D---------------------------------------
                                         C
B---------------------------------------
                                         A
G---------------------------------------
                                         F
E---------------------------------------
                                         D
C---------------------------------------
                                         B
A---------------------------------------
                                         G
F---------------------------------------
                                         E
Basic notes of the third string: A pick without any fretting is the G line. A pick with the second fret held is the A in the space above the G line. Careful here, the frets change, and there are only 2 notes.
                                         G
F--------------------------------------- 
                                         E  
D---------------------------------------
                                         C
B---------------------------------------
                                         A
G---------------------------------------
                                         F
E---------------------------------------
                                         D
C---------------------------------------
                                         B
A---------------------------------------
                                         G
F---------------------------------------
                                         E
Basic notes of the fourth string: A pick without any fretting is the D in the space under the E line. A pick with the first fret held is the E line at the bottom. A pick with the third fret held, is the F above the E line.
                                         G
F--------------------------------------- 
                                         E  
D---------------------------------------
                                         C
B---------------------------------------
                                         A
G---------------------------------------
                                         F
E---------------------------------------
                                         D
C---------------------------------------
                                         B
A---------------------------------------
                                         G
F---------------------------------------
                                         E
Basic notes of the fifth string: A pick without any fretting is the A line near the bottom. A pick with the first fret held is the B in the space above the A line. A pick with the third fret held, is the C line.
                                         G
F--------------------------------------- 
                                         E  
D---------------------------------------
                                         C
B---------------------------------------
                                         A
G---------------------------------------
                                         F
E---------------------------------------
                                         D
C---------------------------------------
                                         B
A---------------------------------------
                                         G
F---------------------------------------
                                         E
Basic notes of the sixth string: A pick without any fretting is the E in the space at the bottom. A pick with the first fret held is the F line at the bottom. A pick with the third fret held, is the G in the space above the bottom F line. Congratulations. You can now read basic sheet music. In my follow-up lesson, I will show you how they fit together to make basic chords and I will provide some simple songs for you to practice with your new-found skills. Enjoy this new talent and PLEASE post your comments, positive :-), negative :-(, or otherwise:-|.

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    avngd7xfan
    ashley xoxo wrote: thats very helpful but what i want to know is how to read stuff like this E ---x---1--3---- A ---1---1--2---- D -1-3---2--4---- G ---0---x--0---- B ---x---3--2---- E -----
    That would be tablature (tabs), not sheet music. not trying to be a smarta**, just tryin to help
    HappyL
    thanks for ur effort. I'm a beginner and your lesson helped me a lot
    ashley xoxo
    thats very helpful but what i want to know is how to read stuff like this E ---x---1--3---- A ---1---1--2---- D -1-3---2--4---- G ---0---x--0---- B ---x---3--2---- E -----
    eddycaneup777
    Thanks for posting this. You were able to explain to me how to actually read sheet music. All the book did was make it more complicated then it actually is
    michael.bourgeo
    umm u may wanna take another try at that rember everything gets a halfstep higher every fret on each string
    eddycaneup777
    Thanks for posting this. I'm new to the whole playing the guitar and all that but you were able to explain it to where i could understand the sheet music.
    shredder1982
    I've been wanting to learn the song freedom voice. I told a friend of mine and they gave me the sheet music. It looked like Latin or something. This post is very helpful.
    Frostking73
    im new but i have a suggestion, i may be wrong but i think you might want to review 4th and 5th string comment (4th=d, a pick with second 2nd fret held is e, 3rd fret f) (5th=d, a pick with second 2nd fret held is b, 3rd fret c)
    PurpleBear102
    Awesome lesson man, would've liked it more if you wrote it two years ago, cause it took me some time figuring out how to start learning to read sheet music... but alas I can do it now. Anyway just wanted to say good job! PS unfortunately 'popular musicians' these days have their songs written for them so it wouldn't help
    JacobTheMe
    Great job. I hope that this will make it easier to talk music with other folks. Its hard when I talk sheet.
    Jack Bevan
    this lesson is amazin so far. you should make a part 2 going into more detail explaing how to read sharps and flats like this: !E!-----! !B!-----! !G!---4---0-1-5-----! !D!-2- --2-----3-2-! !A!-----! !E!-----! in sheet music it would be: ----- ----- O ---O----- Ob -----O----- O -O---O-----O----- legend %=sharp(actual sharp key isnt on my keyboard) b=flat
    a0kalittlema0n
    great lesson, i suggest an intro to reading chords, which i find more difficult. that would be awesome
    hollywise14
    Frostking73 wrote: im new but i have a suggestion, i may be wrong but i think you might want to review 4th and 5th string comment (4th=d, a pick with second 2nd fret held is e, 3rd fret f) (5th=d, a pick with second 2nd fret held is b, 3rd fret c)
    ...Umm... ...That's what I wrote... Mabye you looked at the wrong strings? Anyway, thanks for the effort.