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Guitar - The 12 notes in music

Western music uses a 12 tone (note) system. That means there are only 12 possible notes we can use.

The 12 notes each have their own note-name; using the letters A through G.

Some notes use sharps. Have you ever heard of a sharp?

A sharp looks like this: #

like a tic-tac-toe or a pound sign.

For example, when you see F# that means “F sharp” which is a different note than F.

We can list the 12 notes in music starting on any note;

The lowest note on the guitar is your low E string. So why don't we start there?

Let's start at E and list the 12 notes in music.

E   F   F#   G   G#   A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   … back to E

let's count them...

1   2    3     4    5     6     7     8    9    10    11   12 …

Look at the list of notes... do you see any patterns?

E   F   F#   G   G#   A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   … back to E

Notice how between E and F there is no sharp note? So there is no E#.

(If a musician tells you E# they mean play an F.)

Also notice how between B and C there is no sharp note. So there is no B# either.

(B# would be played as C.)

Let's list those notes again;

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

Do you notice how once you get to G# it “resets” back to A; and just keeps going in alphabetical order, on and on...

That's almost all... one more thing.

Ever heard of a flat? It looks like a lowercase b.

Each sharp note (like F#) has another name. Yes, that's two names for the same thing.

The fancy name for that is enharmonic; which means two names for the same sound/note.

The other name for F# is G flat. It is written as Gb. (That's G with the flat sign next to it.)

So here is the complete list of notes, with the flat names listed underneath the sharp names.

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

E   F   Gb   G   Ab   A   Bb   B   C   Db   D   Eb

So you could call that F# a Gb or vice versa; it will sound the same when you play it.

(hint: in a song, call all the chords either by their flat name or by their sharp name, it will be easier that way.)

Take a minute to read each sharp name and look below at the flat name. Make sure you are comfortable with calling the note by either name.

Wondering why there are two names? It has to do with the way music is written (in sheet music.)

How am I going to use this?

In many ways. Here is an introduction;

Different instruments / play with other musicians:

You could play the 12 notes in music on most western instruments; on a guitar, bass guitar, piano, trumpet, banjo, accordion, etc...

Guitar: For the guitar that means a lot of things. For example, that means there 12 different notes you could start a chord on.
So there will be an E chord, an F chord, an F# chord; and so on. And on each string there will be an E note, an F note, etc...

While it might be overwhelming at first, the 12 notes in music aren't that hard to memorize.

It just goes in alphabetical order, and there is a sharp after every note except after E and B

so no E# and no B#.

Don't get overwhelmed if you just read through this once! Through repetition (playing) musicians memorize this stuff in no time.

This list of the 12 notes in music has a name; it's called the Chromatic Scale.

Chromatic basically means “all notes” and a scale is when you play one note after another in a certain order.
So if you play those notes in order (you can start on any note) you'd be playing the “all-note” or chromatic scale.

Now that you read this; can you name the 12 notes in music?

Next: Intervals: the spaces between notes.