[Last week we started in on the fun way to learn the names of the notes on your guitar. If you missed that, check it out here–otherwise what follows won’t make a damn bit of sense.]
By now you’ve learned all the natural notes on each string. But what about the notes in between those natural notes?
Five Tiny Things You Need To Know
- The notes between the natural notes are called accidentals.
- The accidental note one fret higher than a natural note is a “sharp.”
- The accidental note one fret lower than a natural is a “flat.”
- The symbol for sharp is #.
- The symbol for flat is b.
Here’s The Confusing Part
Find F on your first string. Go up one fret. That note is F SHARP.
Now find the G on the first string. Go down one fret. That note is G FLAT.
But Josh, Those Are The Same Note!
That’s right, accidentals have two names.
Just like your friend is “Michael” on his birth certificate and “Mike” when he’s hanging out with you, you can call that note either F SHARP OR G FLAT, and everyone will know what you’re talking about.
Now, which name you’re supposed to use changes depending on the situation.
“Supposed to” because, in the real world, very few people will look down their nose at you for using the wrong one. Later on, when you’re a high-falutin’ music theory snob, you can use the technically correct name for every possible scenario, but for now it doesn’t matter which one you use.
What To Do With This
For now, I want you to go up and down each string, playing each accidental note.
On the way up the neck, call them by their sharp names: F#, G#, A#, C#, D#. On the way down, call them by their flat names: Eb, Db, Bb, Ab, Gb. Say the names out loud.
Ok. Because going up and down each string and saying the sharp and flat names of each note only takes a couple of minutes, I want you to repeat this each day for the next week, longer if you need to.
Again, the goal is to look at your fretboard and see note names instead of fret/string number combinations.
Once you’ve really internalized this, then we can start talking about the next thing, which involves installing a new OS inside your head. Meet back here next Friday and we’ll work on that?
This is also a good time to talk about scheduling your practice materials.
Make short lists on a sheet of paper with what needs to be practiced each day.
For example, this little accidental-memorizing bit would go on seven successive lists. As you complete things, cross them off the list. It feels good. Here on Fretboard Anatomy we call this a Guitar To-Do List, or GTDL for short. Read more about the GTDL here.