Music theory for guitar
This article is about basic notions of music theory for guitar
7 letters, 7 music note names
In music theory, the first notion is the naming convention of music notes, and the beginning of the alphabet is used:
And below are music notes on the fretboard and on the lowest string:
And below are music notes on a piano keyboard (you can see that the alphabet is repeating):
Read more: Note names
Whole steps & half steps (tones & semitones ) on a guitar
Another essential point in music theory is the notion of whole steps & half steps (tones & semitones ):
one whole step = two half steps
one tones = two semitones ).
And the distance between two frets is one half steps (semitones )
Below is a example written in treble clef, on a piano keyboard:
In other words, there is only one half steps (semitones ) between E and F, and only one half steps between B and C
Read more: Whole steps & half steps (Tones & semitones)
Tablature, the pitch Notation
Folk and rock guitars use a tablature to indicate which string will be played. Each line of the tablature (TAB) is a string of the guitar:
And here is an example of tablature:
The lines of the TAB correspond to the lines of the guitar, and the numbers indicates which fret to press. 0 (zero) means that no fret is pressed, it is an open string. 1 mean you had to press the first fret, and so on...
And below, the same tablature with the classic guitar notation:
Accidentals: Sharps, Flats, and Naturals
Music theory says this:
An accidental is a sign to raise or to lower the pitch of a note, and they are always written before the note.
A sharp (♯) is an accidental that raises the note by a half step (semitone ).
A flat (♭) is an accidental that lowers the note by a half step (semitone ).
A natural (♮) is an accidental that cancels the previous accidentals.
Below is a A natural (natural because without accidental)
Below is a A sharp (A♯)
Below is a A flat (A♭)
And below are a A flat (A♭) and a A natural (A♮). The natural symbol (♮) cancel the flat symbol (♭)
Remember that there is only one half steps (semitones ) between E and F, and only one half steps between B and C, so:
E♯ is played with the same fret as F
F♭ is played with the same fret as E
B♯ is played with the same fret as C
C♭ is played with the same fret as B
Guitar chords and music theory
Music theory for guitar provides us chords diagrams, and bellow is a very common diagram chord:
- The vertical line on the left is the biggest string of the guitar (low E string)
- The vertical line on the right is the smallest string (high E string)
- 0 (zeros) mean empty strings (no finger pressed on it)
- The numbers 1 and 2 indicate the fingers of the left hand (from 1 for the index to 4 for the little finger)
- Em means E minor in Anglo-Saxon notation
so here is to play this chord:
Another example with the chord Am (A minor):
- The X symbolizes a string that should not be played by the rigth hand
- The O means empty strings (no finger pressed on it)
- The numbers 1, 2, and 3 indicate the fingers of the left hand (from 1 for the index up to 4 for the little finger)
And her is how to play the chord diagram (Am = A minor)
And one last example with th Cm chord (C minor):
- The number 8 indicates the eighth fret of the neck (always starting from the head of the guitar)
- The bar with the number 1 indicates that your first finger (index) covers all the strings
- The number 3 indicates the position of your 3rd finger
- The number 4 indicates the position of your 4th finger
Note and rest values
In music theory, notes have a pitch but also a duration in order to play rhythms.
| Double-whole note|
| Whole note|
| Half note|
| Quarter note|
| Eighth note|
| Sixteenth note|
| Thirty-second note|
| Sixty-fourth note|
| One hundred and twenty-eighth note|
And below are note signs equivalences
And when music use silences, weuse rest value:
| Double-whole rest|
| Whole rest|
| Half rest|
|or|| Quarter rest|
| Eighth rest|
| Sixteenth rest|
| Thirty-second rest|
| Sixty-fourth rest|
| One hundred and twenty-eighth rest|
Increase the duration of a note
In music theory, the ways to increase the duration of a sound or of a rest are: Dots, ties and fermata:
Dots (augmentation dost)
A dot placed to the right of the note-head or to the right of a rest, increases its time-value by half.
A dotted whole note is equivalent to a whole note and a half note.
A dotted semibreve is equivalent to a semibreve and a minim.
A dotted eighth rest is equivalent to a eighth rest and a sixteenth rest.
A dotted quaver rest is equivalent to a quaver rest and a semiquaver rest.
Ties merge multiple notes of the same pitch:
Ties can be used across bars (barlines ) :
The fermata, also called hold or bird's eye, is a semicircle containing a dot which may lie above or below a note or rest or over a bar (barline ). The fermata indicates that the note (or rest) should be prolonged beyond the normal duration.
Read more: Dots and Ties
Tempo refers to the speed at which a piece of music will be played.
The tempo is always perfectly regular like a clock, and a beat is a regular pulse which may be dictated by a metronome.
Measure (bar )
Below is an example of empty measures (bars )
Bellow are some common time signatures:
means that there are 4 beats per measure and that one beat has for value (quarter note / crotchet )
means that there are 3 beats per measure and that one beat has for value (quarter note / crotchet )
means that there are 2 beats per measure and that one beat has for value (quarter note / crotchet )
is the is the abbreviation of
is the is the abbreviation of and means that there are 2 beats per measure and that one beat has for value (half note / minim )
Read more: Time signature
Repeat bars (Repeat barlines )
Repeat bars are used to repeat a segment of the score:
Repeat signs with first and second endings:
- First ending is used the first time
- Second ending is used the second time (after you go back to the start repeat)
Read more: Measure (Bar), Repeat signs
A famous example to recap all this
Because you came here as you were, here is an example to recap all music theory needed to play guitar:
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