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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:

musical alphabet

And below are music notes on the fretboard and on the lowest string:

Music notes on guitar

And below are music notes on a piano keyboard (you can see that the alphabet is repeating):

notes names on a piano keyboard


Read more: Note names

Whole steps & half steps united states of america (tones & semitones united kingdom) on a guitar

Another essential point in music theory is the notion of whole steps & half steps united states of america (tones & semitones united kingdom):

Theoretically:

one whole step = two half steps united states of america
one tones = two semitones united kingdom).

And the distance between two frets is one half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom)

Half step (semitones) on guitar

Below is a example written in treble clef, on a piano keyboard:

Tones and semitones in the C Major scale

In other words, there is only one half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom) 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:

Guitar tablature

And here is an example of tablature:

tablature example

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:


With the classic pitch notation (5 lines) you notice taht there is a clef, and in this case it is a treble clef.

Read more: The staff (stave), Treble clef (G-clef)

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 united states of america (semitone united kingdom).

A flat (♭) is an accidental that lowers the note by a half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom).

A natural (♮) is an accidental that cancels the previous accidentals.

Sharp

Sharp

Flat

Flat

Natural

Natural

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 united states of america (semitones united kingdom) 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:

Em diagram chord for the guitarEm chord guitar

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)

Am minor chord guitar

And one last example with th Cm chord (C minor):
Cm chord guitar

- 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

Extract article from the site: https://www.apprendrelesolfege.com/lire-les-accords

Note and rest values

In music theory, notes have a pitch but also a duration in order to play rhythms.

SignsNames
double-whole note (breve)united states of america Double-whole note
united kingdom Breve
whole note (semibreve)united states of america Whole note
united kingdom Semibreve
half note (minim)united states of america Half note
united kingdom Minim
quarter note (crotchet)united states of america Quarter note
united kingdom Crotchet
Eighth note (Quaver)united states of america Eighth note
united kingdom Quaver
sixteenth note (semiquaver)united states of america Sixteenth note
united kingdom Semiquaver
thirty-second note (demisemiquaver)united states of america Thirty-second note
united kingdom Demisemiquaver
sixty-fourth note (hemidemisemiquaver)united states of america Sixty-fourth note
united kingdom Hemidemisemiquaver
one hundred and twenty-eighth note (semihemidemisemiquaver)united states of america One hundred and twenty-eighth note
united kingdom Semihemidemisemiquaver


And below are note signs equivalences

Note signs equivalences

And when music use silences, weuse rest value:

SignsNames
double-whole rest (breve rest)united states of america Double-whole rest
United kingdom Breve rest
whole rest (semibreve rest)united states of america Whole rest
United kingdom Semibreve rest
half rest (minim rest)united states of america Half rest
United kingdom Minim rest
quarter rest (crotchet rest) or quarter rest (crotchet rest)united states of america Quarter rest
United kingdom Crotchet rest
eighth rest (quaver rest)united states of america Eighth rest
United kingdom Quaver rest
sixteenth rest (semiquaver rest)united states of america Sixteenth rest
United kingdom Semiquaver rest
thirty-second rest (demisemiquaver rest)united states of america Thirty-second rest
United kingdom Demisemiquaver rest
sixty-fourth rest (hemidemisemiquaver rest)united states of america Sixty-fourth rest
United kingdom Hemidemisemiquaver rest
one hundred and twenty-eighth rest (semihemidemisemiquaver rest)united states of america One hundred and twenty-eighth rest
United kingdom Semihemidemisemiquaver rest


Read more about: Note values, Rest values, Relations between note and rest values

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)


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.

Examples:

Dotted Whole Note (Dotted semibreve)


united states of america A dotted whole note is equivalent to a whole note and a half note.
united kingdom A dotted semibreve is equivalent to a semibreve and a minim.

Dotted eighth rest (dotted quaver rest)


united states of america A dotted eighth rest is equivalent to a eighth rest and a sixteenth rest.
united kingdom A dotted quaver rest is equivalent to a quaver rest and a semiquaver rest.

Ties


Tie

Ties merge multiple notes of the same pitch:

Tie examples

Ties can be used across bars united states of america (barlines united kingdom) :

Tie example

Fermata


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 united states of america (barline united kingdom). The fermata indicates that the note (or rest) should be prolonged beyond the normal duration.

Examples:


Read more: Dots and Ties

Tempo


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 united states of america (bar united kingdom)


Below is an example of empty measures united states of america (bars united kingdom)

measures (bars)

Time signatures

Bellow are some common time signatures:

time signature 4/4 means that there are 4 beats per measure and that one beat has for value quarter note (crotchet ) (quarter note united states of america / crotchet united kingdom)

time signature 3/4 means that there are 3 beats per measure and that one beat has for value quarter note (crotchet ) (quarter note united states of america / crotchet united kingdom)

time signature 2/4 means that there are 2 beats per measure and that one beat has for value quarter note (crotchet ) (quarter note united states of america / crotchet united kingdom)

time signature 4/4 is the is the abbreviation of time signature 4/4

time signature cut time is the is the abbreviation of time signature 2/2 and means that there are 2 beats per measure and that one beat has for value half note (minim) (half note united states of america / minim united kingdom)

Read more: Time signature

Repeat bars united states of america (Repeat barlines united kingdom)


Repeat bars are used to repeat a segment of the score:

Repeat bars (repeat barlines)

Repeat signs with first and second endings:

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:



All music practice games: Let's play to our free games
All music practice games


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