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Beginner Lesson 1: The Fret Board

In the beginning there was void and darkness and no shape upon the land. And then there was Light. Yeeeeeeeeah, you know the rest… blah blah blah some dude shagged some chick and here we are, woop-dee-FRIGGIN-doo
!

Ahem, well… Somewhere along the line “…there was music…” and some time after that… there was guitar! When? Where? How? BAH!!! I don’t care, and between you and I, neither do you ^_^ so there!

As promised, the suckiest of the Insane Guitarists has FINALLY gotten a load of… “stuff” delt with for the IG store and finally has time to post yet another beginners course. This indeed will be the foundation for which nearly all the other lessons will draw for a reference. That said, welcome to Music Theory 101: The notes on the fretboard!

Let us begin with a diagram of a guitar neck as you’ll see it when put into a TAB format. Ready? Really? On your mark… get set…. ….. …. …… BANANA!!!

SUCKER
*just kiddin!*

							The Fret Board
N
U
T
                                    **
|0|1 |2 |3 |4 |5 |6 |7 |8 |9 |10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|21|22|23|24|
 _________________________________________________________________________
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|e|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|
| |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|
| |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|
| |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|
| |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|
| |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|
| |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |
 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

That my friends is a fully tabbed out fret board with note names. Swanky eh?

Now you guys are probably looking at this thing and thinking… “so… crack is bad for ya Tachi…” – and indeed that is a correct assumption! However my fledglings, there is method in the madness! As you can see it’s an exact copy of your fretboard fret for fret string for string. If you hold your your guitar up to the screen with the head stock pointed to your left and the pickups facing you – this is how your fret board should look! Granted it’s longer, slimmer and ofcourse, drop dead sexy, but in the alphanumerical sense, this is correct.

MEMORIZE THIS… theres a quiz next thursday ^_^

Alright, now everyones sitting there going “hey! jackoff! you got two notes on the same fret! The hells all that hippy crap about!” Well it’s simple! They’re the same note!!! “Nuh-uh!!!” Oh yeah? BAH! “Yuh-huh!” ^_^ Why?

Simple – depending upon the path of travel you’re playing with, and what key and scale/mode you happen to be using it’ll be much easier for you to associate a SHARP note, meaning one half step UP from the base note — from a FLAT note, which is one half step DOWN from the base note. Groovy? So how do you tell if it’s a sharp or a flat when you’re reading the music? A SHARP note has a pound sign by it and it looks like this “#”. Rightly so, a FLAT note is a flat sign next to it. Now of course, most computers won’t make the actual flat symbol so we’ll fake it as best we can with a lower case B and that looks like this “b”. When someone writes a peice of music, they’ll put in whats called a Key Signature, this will have the various lines of music with a sharp or flat on them. There is a formula that’ll help you figure out what key a song is in by looking at the Key Signature, and you will learn that later on when we cover the Circle of 5ths. All a flat or sharp does is tell you when you see that base note on the music, if it’s marked at the beginning of that line of music to automatically sharp or flat it as you play, instead of writing it in for each note.

Groovy? Groovy!

Now, as the insanity begins to sink in, lets take a look at this here fret board again and ANALize it… *cough cough* I mean analize… ^_^

Notice the top string – the cute little one that loves to snap, and the bottom one – the big fatty that loves to warp your neck, – are indeed BOTH in the pitch of “E”. You will however notice on the NUT of the guitar, I’ve labeled one in lowercase and one in uppercase. Why do you suppose this is? Because my dumpling – they are 2 octaves apart – so there!

Now – for your veiwing pleasure we’ll copy that big smelly fret board down here and… look at it again! Just so you don’t have to scroll up or open two lessons. As you’ll notice there is a very distinct pattern to each string and if you look at two strings in a time you’ll see that each pattern is off a certain number of frets. That my friends is what we in the musical langauge call an interval. Magic? No… Far far from it – MATH!

						************
						****SLAP****
						************

Awake again? Good ^_^ sorry I had to say the… “M” word, but Music is the “M” word… well atleast oh… *gulp* um…. 99.9% of it? Whats the other 0.1%? Magic? The stuff on the bottom of your shoes? Whatever they put in twinkies? Who knows!? But! Nearly EVERYHING including Intervals, transposing, arranging, rhythms, melodical movment, and a Webster’s DICtionary full of other words that are mostly in latin can almost all be explained with numbers.

Now – with standard WESTERN MUSICAL NOTATION – there are -12- notes per octave. Got it? “But Tachi… ‘octa’ is the root word for eight you -bean- -head-… whats this 12 notes per octave thing all about?” – Wise observation Grasshopper, wise indeed. Ready? A conventional scale/mode will have 7 notes in it. “what!? 7? thought there were 12 notes? only 7 now? YOU SUCK! And where does this bloody 8/octave thing fit in!?”

Suck Indeed I do, like a hoover vacuum ^_^ however, the statement is true! There are 7 notes in a conventional scale, like the “C Major Scale”…. only 7 notes, but theres this 12 notes in each octave thing to deal with, and octa means 8 so what the BLEEP is going on!?

And so the enlightenment begins. Take a look at the lower “big fatty neckwarping” E string at the 8th fret and tell me what note you see. Gasp! A “C”! Now, count up exactly 12 notes to the 20th fret…. another “C”. From C to C is one “octave”. Now this time, I want you to count reading only the WHOLE TONES. A WHOLE TONE has no SHARPS OR FLATS. That means no little “b” and no pound sign “#” If you’ve read and understood the above, and can do simple addition, you should read these, and in this order.

C – D – E – F – G – A – B- C

Now – from “C” to “B” is how many WHOLE TONES? 7! – from C to C is the C MAJOR SCALE. However there are only -7- acctual NOTES. “…oh move over rover! – and let Tachi take over!”

Now dig this, if you count from the 8th fret, C to the 20th Fret, also C – and count in WHOLE TONES, you will see (no pun intended ^_^) there are 5 extra notes that you counted over. These are the sharps/flats. Now then, some quick arithmatic (that means math foo’!)

Question:
7+5=x?
Answer:
7+5=12

An epihpany – there are 7 notes in a scale, and 12 notes in an octave, and two notes of the same tone at different pitches are called an octave. There now! It’s all starting to make sense… right?

				The Fret Board
N
U
T
                                    **
|0|1 |2 |3 |4 |5 |6 |7 |8 |9 |10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|21|22|23|24|
 _________________________________________________________________________
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|e|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|
| |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|
| |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|
| |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|
| |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|
| |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|
| |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |
 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well then, what have we now? How do we know which octave we’re in? Take a look at the low E again. At the 5th fret you see an “A”. When you move up one string you see that string is an “A” as well. Ready for a thundering shock of whit? Same note. Exact same ptich comes from them. Infact, most guitarists will tune their guitar off of the fifth fret.

Now keep on looking up, at each fifth fret the same note appears as the next string untill you get to your G string. – weird eh? I thought so at first, but it actually makes quite a bit of sense. The G string has to shift down one half step (SEMI TONE) so the next string can become an “E” instead of an “F”. Indeed it could go stright up in 5ths, but it would make it very difficult to form chords ^_^ which is the reason for the jogged pattern.

Now, also if you take a look, the open position on the high “e” string is the pitch of low E, but two octaves higher. But how do I know it’s 2 octaves? Well – follow the patterns.

Down from the high “e” string:

“e-0”:
“b-5”:
“g-9”:
“d-14”:
“a-19”:
“E-24” – and E-24 is the same as e-0

To prove this now follow the pattern up from the low e string:
“E-0”: “a-7”: and the next is “d-14”

Guess what – we passed the middle octave. It’s acctually “E-12”! Well, no… it’s in a lot of places acctually.

E-12, A-7, and D-2

Now check this out. I can play, E-12, and D-14, and in essence be playing E-12 and e-0 at the same time.

Similarly, I can play A-7 and G-9 at the same time, and yet still be playing E-12 and e-0.
Weird eh? So how do you play E-0, E-12, and e-0 all at the same time? Simple!

E-0
+
D-2 which is the sames as A-7 which is the same as E-12
+
e-0

Ya see how we have two octaves of space between three different pitched E notes? Confusing? Indeed! However, now that you understand just how these octaves are working, you can apply them to EVERY SINGLE NOTE because they’re all in a continuous repeating pattern on the fret board! Now take a look below at the fret board again, and tell me if you can see how the patterns jog string by string in the same order, string by string, octave by octave. You should be able to see atleast 3 ways to play an octave for any given not you see ^_^ Pretty cool eh? Basically, if you want to think about all the notes on a guitar, think about it like this. A 48 fret guitar with one E string – thats it – thats 5 octave notes, containing 4 octaves of space, on one string. Right in the middle of that string is the 24th fret, and that point is were “e-0” and “E-24” will meet! Now where the other strings come from, is just a shelving of that string in 5ths (intervals of 5, that means halfsteps or SEMITONES) thus making it easier to play because you have more than one string, and they’re pitched in such a way that you can easily cover two octaves with one hand using only 4 of your 5 fingers to hold down a potential 6 strings at a time! Pure geniues eh? If you count it out, again with the exception of the G string tuned to 4 halfsteps, you see exactly how they shelved it, and all the nifty little patterns it creates.

				The Fret Board
N
U
T
                                    **
|0|1 |2 |3 |4 |5 |6 |7 |8 |9 |10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|21|22|23|24|
 _________________________________________________________________________
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|e|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|
| |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|
| |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|
| |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|
| |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|
| |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |
|_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|
|E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|-F|F#|-G|G#|-A|A#|-B|-C|C#|-D|D#|-E|
| |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |  |Gb|  |Ab|  |Bb|  |  |Db|  |Eb|  |
 -------------------------------------------------------------------------


Well great, you understand octaves! You understand what a scale is, you understand how the guitars notes are arranged, and -why- (which will solve a million problems for you in the future!) and last but not least, you know the know all the notes on the fretboard! Next time, we’ll go over intervals. And after that, the recap on the modal lessons! And then onto the real work! Chord formation and progression!

See you all next time, I sincerely this will help all of you who’ve emailed with a request for a crash course to basic guitar theory for someone who’s never played before. It’s been a blast refreshing this stuff, and I hope to hear some positave feed back! ^_^ Take care!

— Tachi tachi@insaneguitar.net

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