Notes in Music - Music Theory Made Simple

Often overlooked by teachers and self taught players is understanding the labels of notes used in music. This is valuable in finding notes on the fret board.

Ultimate Guitar
Music Theory is often a word that can make the most talented musicians cringe. Our music system though is not as complicated as you might think. To start the year I thought it is important to address a key element of our music system being the names of the notes. Notes are our tools as musicians. This explanation of the notes used in music is applicable to all instruments.

Notes are named after first seven letters that start the alphabet. So therefore we have notes named:


These names are simply a label. The label makes it easier to communicate between musicians as to which sound be played. This is all they stand for, a labelling system.

There are more than seven notes in our music system, there happens to be twelve note labels in total. We also have notes that are labelled as a sharp or as a flat. To show a sharp symbol we use a hash sign (#) and for a flat I will use a lower case B (b).

For the sake of clarity I will simply use sharp notes in the remainder of this lesson when required.

To find the sharp of a note you move the sound one higher. For example, on a guitar this would be moving one fret higher. On a piano you would move one key higher. In practice if you started on the note A and moved to the next fret of a guitar or key of a piano you would land at A#.

You may have noticed that with seven letters available and the fact there are 12 note labels that the maths will not add up to every letter having a sharp. Two of the letters in music do not have a sharp. Those notes are B and E. Think of Bacon and Eggs!!! No sharps for B or E

So with 7 letter names and 5 sharp names we arrive at our 12 note music system!! The 12 notes of music are:

A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#

These are the labels we use for the sounds created by instruments. These are the foundations of our music system. These are the tools that we create scales and chords with. See how fast you can memorise the order of the 12 note system of music. There is an easy trick (we tell ya in our lessons at my).

To apply this to the guitar you will need to know the names the strings are tuned too. I will cover this in my next lesson post.

About the Author:
By Rhys Lett. He run a music school in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. He have developed a method of making music theory very simple and easy to start using in your guitar playing. This system has been developed to help students, mostly because of how poorly theory is taught in schools. 
This is just the starting point of your musical journey and a brief introduction to music theory. We have more of these practical insights to music available to you on my website blog at we would be happy to help you further.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    You can find lessons on notes anywhere but not the very easy and simple way you've presented. Cheers. Was a great recap as I'll be learning my guitar over again from scratch. Looking forward to all your posts.
    Please post another lesson to come after Music Theory. I have always had a hard time understanding music in my 23 years, until now!! I read some other lessons on here, but I already got confused because I knew I was losing basic information a person needs to know. You explain it very simply without leaving anything out. I feel like I am finally learning step by step after reading your lesson. Please please, I would appreciate it so much! -Julie