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eBook- Essential Basics for Guitar (5 Lessons, 60 pages.)


Lesson 1: Technique

Lesson 2: Fretboard Logic

Lesson 3: Standard Music Notation for the Guitar

Lesson 4: Minor Pentatonic Scale Theory

Lesson 5: Major Scale Theory


Most beginning guitar players almost NEVER learn the most essential basics (this includes people who've been trying to learn for many years!!)  about proper playing techniques, knowing the notes on the fretboard, standard music notation/sight reading, all 5 patterns of the Pentatonic scale; to jam and improvise with, and the 12 keys of music and the Major scale, to understand how all scales are built.  These 5 lessons will give you the ESSENTIAL BASICS all guitarists NEED in order to evolve, and develop quickly to become an accomplished guitarist and musician........not just someone strumming a few chords, or a lick a two.






1. Proper Body Position

2. Right Hand Technique

3. Left Hand Technique



Be it a soccer coach or a music educator, any instructor will tell you that the key to success in any activity is a solid foundation of fundamentals. This is why Guitar technique is the topic of this first section. 


Every guitar student will benefit tremendously from reviewing and applying the suggestions set forth in this lesson.



I’ve had several students complain about cramping and fatigue in the left hand when they are playing. Other students have complained about stiffness and lack of speed in the right hand. I have compiled this list of basic do’s and don’ts which should help you avoid these same problems.


The descriptions on this page are for players who grip the pick with the right hand. If you play in a left-handed style, reverse the descriptions as adequate.




“You have to learn to walk before you learn how to run.”   





Proper body position is part of guitar technique and is essential to prevent premature fatigue and possible injury. Relaxation is the key sticking point. If you maintain a stiff posture, you will tire quickly and it will hinder your speed. Proper guitar technique will vastly improve your sound quality, comfort level and  confidence.


Playing in a seated position


  • Plant both feet firmly on the floor in front of you. (For right handed players, the left foot should be slightly ahead of the right. )


  • Pull the guitar in close to your body with the bottom edge of the instrument as close to your belly as is comfortable. 


  • Position the neck of the guitar so that the peghead is over the left knee. 


  • The entire weight of the right arm should be supported by the body of the guitar. All the muscles of the right arm should be completely relaxed and limp. The bulge of the forearm muscle should be resting over the top edge of the body, thus placing the right hand as close to the strings as possible. 


Sitting and holding the guitar in this manner will help you to avoid back and neck strain. Of course, some people are more prone to physical discomfort than others, but you’ll find that you are in a more optimal position overall.





  • Relax all muscles from the shoulder down to the wrist.


  • Keep your shoulders down.


  • The entire weight of the right arm should be supported by the body of the guitar.


  • The bulge of the forearm muscle should be resting over the top edge of the body.


  • Do not tense any muscles in the shoulder or arm while playing guitar. Tense muscles will slow you down considerably.


  • Do not slouch. Keep your back straight. Straight does not mean overarched or that your back must be tense and erect.


  • Avoid resting your left arm on your left leg. (Right handed players the opposite is true for left-handed players.)


  • Do not rest elbow of your left arm against your body. Keep the elbow at a comfortable distance from your body, no more than 2 or 3 inches.


  • RELAX!!! RELAX!!! RELAX!!!
























Right hand technique is the most overlooked and neglected aspect of guitar playing. 


Think about it! Since the first time you picked up the guitar almost all your attention has been focused on your left hand (if you’re a right handed player) and almost no attention on your right hand. How do I play this chord form? What about this scale pattern? How does “Stairway To Heaven” go? I see this with just about every student/player I meet. Guitar players are notorious for just strumming away with no attention paid to accurate or appropriate rhythm or time. For many players, the right hand is just simply a means of setting the strings in motion. Effective right hand technique is extremely important and useful for better overall control, dynamics, variety of tonal color and texture and speed.



So many of the greatest players in history have had the most unconventional methods of playing the guitar and using the right hand in general. Wes Montgomery used his thumb, Pat Metheney holds the pick almost vertically straight up, and Jimi Hendrix used his teeth. This raises the question, “Is there really one standardized perfect method for holding the pick?”.


The truth is that there is no one perfect or “right” way to hold the pick. Many guitar teachers, guitar instruction books, videos and even music schools have attempted to create the idea that there is only one correct and proper way to hold the pick. In my humble opinion, the only criteria one should use to determine whether a technique is “right” or not is:


      • Does it feel natural and comfortable?


      • Are you getting the best sound quality and tone?


      • Is the technique you are using holding you back at all, inhibiting

control, speed and versatility?


Although I personally don’t believe that there is only one “right” way to hold the pick, I have evolved a right hand technique for the positioning of the right hand in general. This technique seems to work very well for my students, and their overall playing skills have improved rapidly as a result of using it.
















  • Any awkwardness should go away in time.


  • Don’t rest the fingers of the pick hand on the guitar for support.


  • Use a firm grip, but not a tight one.


  • Very little of the tip of the pick should be exposed.


  • The pick should be at a 90 degree angle from the strings.


  • Glide the pick across the strings, not through them.


  • Strike the strings 4 inches from the fretboard, or directly over the sound hole for an acoustic guitar.


  • Strum and pick from the wrist. DO NOT USE THE ENTIRE ARM. Keep wrist loose and flexible! Keep your muscles relaxed at all times!


  • RELAX!!! RELAX!!! RELAX!!!

















As with the other techniques described in this section, relaxation is critical for the left hand. 


The thumb of the left hand (for right-handed players) should be placed parallel to the frets and perpendicular to the neck. Do not rest the thumb parallel to the neck. 

Grip the neck of the guitar lightly, not like you are gripping a rope for dear life. 


The thumb is used primarily as a brace. Space should be left between the back of the neck and the palm of the hand. Finger pressure should come from the fingers and the muscles just below the knuckles. 


Pressure should not come from the palm of the hand or any part of the arm. Use enough pressure to allow the strings to make adequate contact with the fret(s), but no more than that. Excessive pressure will cause fatigue, cramping, soreness, and limit ability to move around the neck with speed and accuracy.




The upper center of the fingertip is where the finger should make contact with the string. Playing with proper guitar technique means the fingers should be arched, not straight. The fingernails of the left hand should be kept short. They should not prevent proper finger contact with the strings. 


You do not want the fingernails to scrape or dig into the fingerboard. (Let the fingernails on the right hand grow if you intend to use your fingers to pluck the strings.) 


Keep fingers positioned as close as possible to the strings and fretboard surface at all times. Do not lift the fingers away from the fretboard or you’ll just waste time and energy bringing them back again.



Real physical distance equals real time.





  • The left hand thumb should be parallel to the frets and perpendicular with the neck.


  • Grip the neck lightly.


  • Maintain space between the back of the guitar neck and the palf of the left hand.


  • Finger pressure should come from the finger muscles, not the palm or the wrist.


  • Use enough pressure to allow clean string contact with the frets, nothing more.


  • The upper center of the finger tip should make contact with the string. (Like pressing a key on your keyboard.)


  • Keep the left hand fingernails short.


  • Keep fingers close to the fretboard at all times. Lifting them up will slow down your playing.























1. Physics of the Guitar

2. The 12 Tone System of Western Music

3. The Grid Method (Learning the notes of the fretboard.)

4. Tuning the Guitar

5. Single Note Identification Chart


The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize you with the fretboard and train you to quickly and accurately recognize any note on any string. This lessons includes essential knowledge that forms the foundation of good guitar playing.








Electric Guitar

Parts of the Electric Guitar (click on the image to enlarge)














Acoustic Guitar

Parts of the Electric Guitar (click on the image to enlarge)


The guitar can be thought of as six separate instruments, with each string being viewed as an individual instrument. Each string is said to be monophonic, or capable of producing only one note at a time. Since the guitar contains six strings, it is called a polyphonic instrument, capable of producing multiple tones at the same time.


A string produces a tone when it is vibrating. The pitch (frequency) of the tone is determined by the length of the vibrating portion of the string, the thickness of the string and the tension applied to the string (by the tuning pegs). Varying any of these parameters will change the pitch of the string when it is played. Tuning the guitar changes the tension on the strings, and thus the base pitch that the open (unfretted) strings create. 


You will also notice that the lower sounding strings are thicker than the higher sounding strings. This is so that all the strings can have about the same tension on them, but still sound at different pitches, even though they are all the same length.


When you press down on a string in the process of playing a note on the guitar, the string makes contact with the fret directly to the right of the finger pressing down on the string (for right handed players). This changes the length of the portion of the string that is vibrating, thus changing the tone the string produces. Fretting a string closer to the bridge shortens the “length” of the string and the pitch gets higher. Fretting a string closer to the nut increases the “length” of the string and the pitch gets lower.





    • The Guitar can be thought of as six separate instruments – each string can

       be viewed as an individual instrument.


    • Each string is monophonic – capable of producing only one note at a time.


    • Since the guitar consists of six separate strings, it is

       a polyphonic instrument – capable of producing multiple notes at a time.


    • The tone produced by a vibrating string depends on the length of the

       vibrating portion of the string, the thickness of the string, and the tension

  placed on the string.


    • Tuning the guitar is accomplished by adjusting the tension placed on each

       of the strings.


    • When you fret a string (press down on it), you shorten the vibrating portion

       of the string, producing a higher tone.






There are seven natural notes in the western system of music. These notes are represented by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. In addition to the seven natural notes, there five other notes, designated either by sharps or flats, which occur between the seven natural notes. The seven natural notes and the five intermediate tones make up the twelve tones of the western system of music.

These concepts are illustrated in the following two tables. As you can see, sharps are designated with a “#” and represent a note that is a half step higher. For example, A# is a half step higher than A. Conversely, flats are represented by a “b” and represent a note that is a half step lower, so Bb is a half step lower than B. As the table shows, A# and Bb both correspond to the same note. These notes are said to be enharmonic equivalents.


Seven natural notes: A B C D E F G


Chromatic Series (12 tones of Western Music)





    • There are only seven “natural” notes in the Western system of music.


    • There are only twelve tones altogether [including the sharps (#’s) and flats (b’s)] in the Western system of music.


    • These twelve tones consist of seven natural notes and five sharps/flats.


    • The sharps/flats are said to be enharmonic equivalents. The Enharmonic

       equivalents are shown above as follows; A# = Bb, C# = Db, D# = Eb, F# = Gb, G# =Ab.





The Grid Method© is a system I have developed which will help you memorize the name and the location of every note on the fretboard. Every note – Every string – Every fret. It can be done, and this method shows you how to do it! It is critical for any guitarist to be able to quickly locate or identify any note on the guitar fretboard in order to develop the following skills:


  1. Reading music


  1. Constructing and identifying chords, scales and arpeggios


  1. Improvising


  1. Transcribing music (writing down music as you hear it performed)


  1. Composing music


The task of memorizing the notes on the fretboard sounds daunting. Trust me. Hundreds of my students have successfully used this method to accomplish this. Just follow the directions as I have laid them out here. Soon you to will know the fretboard inside and out.













Step 1: Draw a Blank Fretboard Diagram


Although asking someone to draw a blank fretboard may seem like a waste of time, the process of creating a diagram of the fretboard from scratch is a useful visual tool. It leads to a better conceptual understanding of the guitar. 


There are many points in this series of lessons where I will ask you to draw a blank fretboard diagram. You should ALWAYS follow this standard procedure when drawing these diagrams. 




If you do so, you are cheating yourself. Your knowledge of the instrument will suffer and your progress will be slower. Years of teaching experience has taught me this. Trust me. Use a straight-edge so that your lines will be neat and orderly.


  1. Indicate where the strings will appear on the page – mark six equidistant points

approximating the actual distance between the strings at the nut of the guitar.


  1. Draw vertical lines from these points to the bottom of the page.


  1. Label each string with it’s proper letter name and string number.


  1. Indicate where the frets will appear – mark twelve equidistant points down the

length of the low E/6th string. Draw the frets in at these points.


  1. Number only the following frets to the left of the strings: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 12.

We will refer to these particular frets as the “grid frets”©.


 Step 2: Label The Grid Frets ©


The frets that you labeled on the blank fretboard diagram you have just drawn (draw it now if you haven’t!) are known as the “Grid Frets©”. These are the frets that you will memorize for the Grid Method©. Take the time now to fill in the note names on the appropriate frets. When you are done, your diagram should look like the one to the right.




Step 3: Memorize The Grid Frets ©


The last step in the grid method is to actually memorize the Grid Frets©. This will not be as difficult as it seems. First of all, you only have to memorize 12 frets because the notes repeat themselves starting with the 12th fret, ie. the notes of the 12th fret are the same as the open strings, the 13th fret is the same as the 1st fret, the 14th fret is the same as the 2nd fret, etc, etc…

“12 Frets!!!” You exclaim. Don’t worry. 



It’s even easier than that. The beauty of the Grid Method© is that you only need to memorize every other fret. The others can be inferred as being a half step above or below a fret you will memorize. For example, you won’t memorize the 6th fret, but you will be able to quickly name a note on the 6th fret since you will know the notes on both the 5th and 7th frets. It’s easy! You only need to memorize the open strings (EADGBE), and 6 more frets. You can use the following mnemonics to help you with the memorization. Note that two-syllable words represent sharped notes.:


Fret 3: Great CatFish Always Dive Good


Fret 5: And Dave’s Gray Cat Eats Ants


Fret 7: Bill Eats Al’s Dog Feeling Bad (note the word BEAD)


Fret 8: Carl Feels Awful Driving Gray Cars


Fret 10: Deb Grabs Carl For A Day




    • You only need to memorize the first twelve frets. The fretboard repeats

  itself after that.


    • You only have the open strings and 6 more frets to memorize: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 



    • Raising each of the open string tones by one half step gives the tones of the

       first fret.


    • Use the mnemonics if you need to. Two-syllable words are for sharps.


    • Tuning the guitar is accomplished by adjusting the tension placed on each

       of the strings.


    • Go up or down a half step to identify the notes in non-Grid Frets©.


Just to Put It In Perspective


When the student cannot recognize notes on the fretboard instantly, the guitar simply appears to be a series of metal wires. Often, guitar students do not appreciate the full benefit of really knowing the entire fretboard. Surprisingly, many of my most advanced students, even graduates of music schools, still didn’t have the fretboard memorized to the point where they could perform the above mentioned skills rapidly or adequately. You now have a skill that even some advanced musicians do not! Congratulations!


Suggested Practice Routine:


Practice Memorizing the Grid Method© as follows:


    1. With guitar in hand and your Grid Method© diagram in view, finger the notes

  on each string. Do this on one string at a time in sequence (from the 6th. to

  the 1st. string) for one given fret (i.e.: the first fret), and say them out loud as

  you play each one.


    1. With the guitar only – do not look at the Grid Method© diagram, call out each

  note, on each string, in sequence for each fret.


    1. Use the Grid Method© diagram only and say each note aloud as described



    1. Do the Grid Method© in your head while visualizing the fretboard. Do not

  look at the guitar or the Grid Method© diagram while doing this step.


Total Practice time per day: 5-7 mins. daily. 


(approximately 2 mins per step.)






Developing and having a good ear is very important to a musician. Practicing the act of tuning your instrument will aid the development of your ears. A tuned instrument is also essential for practicing and playing. Tune your guitar every time you play it.


 All you need to tune your guitar is a single, stable reference tone.

A stable reference tone can come from one of many different sources. Some common sources for this tone are a tuning fork (preferable an A 440, meaning 440 Hz in frequency), a keyboard or piano, another guitar known to be in tune, or a pitch pipe. It is also possible to tune without a stable tone if you have an electronic tuner. It can tell you if a note you are playing is correct.




Personally, I prefer to use a tuning fork for my stable reference tone because it forces me to use my ear with more sharpness (awareness). I don’t like to use electronic tuners unless I’m at a live “gig” and then I’m forced to tune electronically because I can’t hear the guitar. Follow the following instructions to tune your guitar:


Find a stable tuning tone. Let’s assume you are using an A 440 tuning fork. If you are using something else, adapt this technique to the tone you are using.



  1. Compare and tune the open A sting (5th string) to the tuning fork.


  1. Press the 5th fret of the A string (5th string) to produce a D note. Compare and tune the open D string (4th string) to this note.


  1. Press the 5th fret of the D string (4th string) to produce a G note. Compare and tune the open G string (3rd string) to this note.


  1. Press the 4th fret of the G string (3rd string) to produce a B note. Compare and tune the open B string (2nd string) to this note.


  1. Press the 5th fret of the B string (2nd string) to produce a E note. Compare and tune the open high E string (1st string) to this note.


  1. Compare and tune the open low-E (6th. string) with the fretted E note on the 2nd string also. Note that the two tones will be two octaves apart. Alternatively, you can tune the low E string by fretting the low E string on the 5th fret and comparing it to the open A string (5th string). Be sure to adjust the low E string and not the A string here!


Important note – If you can’t hear the string sounding, then don’t turn the tuning key for the string because the only way you know when to stop turning, or which direction to tune, is by hearing the string you are trying to tune.












This is an extremely useful tool for rapidly locating and duplicating:


  1. any individual note on the entire fretboard

  2. the roots of chords

  3. different potential starting points for scale patterns on the fretboard, riffs, licks, arpeggios, etc.


This is also useful to help visualize the geometric pattern of note displacement from string to string – meaning the intervalic distance between strings because of the guitar’s standard tuning. This diagram applies to any and all of the twelve tones in music. The pattern remains constant.


This particular diagram shows the C note on each individual string. This diagram is also useful to help you visualize how you actually move a finger from one particular note (let’s say C for example) to the same note on the next string. Then repeating this process going from the next adjacent string over to the next adjacent string and so on. 










Click here to go back to Lesson 1 – Technique







  1. Why Learn to Sightread?

  2. The Musical Staff

  3. The Grand Staff

  4. Accidentals

  5. Key Signatures

  6. Time Values of Notes in Music

  7. Time Signatures

  8. Right Hand String Picking Techniques

  9. Working with a Metronome

  10. Tips for Sightreading

  11. Sightreading Exercises



The purpose of this lesson is to help you build basic rudimentary skills for reading and playing music on the guitar. Do all sections of this chapter in sequence.




Why Learn to Sightread? Guitarists are notoriously poor at reading music. There very well may be several reasons for this, but the most significant reason is that the guitar factually enjoys more popularity now than at any other point in history. The last five or so decades have generated some of the most exciting and rich popular music in history (rock, jazz, pop, folk, blues, r&b, etc.). The guitar is such a physical and visual instrument and has been relatively easy for people to pick up and make pleasant sounds using only a few simple chord forms and a lick or two. However, the vast majority of this music did not require a great degree of technical skill or sight-reading ability. Thus, guitar-wielding masses formed without any appreciation of why it might be beneficial to learn to read music. There are, in fact, several ways that reading music can prove to be helpful. 


Good sight-reading skills allow you to learn new pieces from printed music and to learn music at a faster rate. A knowledge of written music will make it easier for you to communicate your own ideas to other musicians and for you to better understand their ideas. It will also make it easier for you to understand and analyze a piece of music. This will enable you to figure out how to vary a piece or improvise a part to make that piece your own. It is true that there have been virtuoso guitarists who never learned to read music, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The study of sight-reading can open up a whole new world of music for you and provide a valuable tool for improving your guitar playing and general musicianship.







The musical staff consists of five equidistant, horizontal lines upon which we write musical notes (symbols) that represent musical sounds or events. The placement of the note on the staff determines the pitch (how high or low the note sounds). The staff has both an x(vertical) and y(horizontal) axis. The x axis of the staff refers to how high or low the note is on the staff.





Bar Lines subdivide music on the staff into measures/measurements of time. The y axis represents the time element of music (left to right).



Combining the x and y axis creates music. The exact pitch is determined by where the note is placed on the staff. Notes are written and read from left to right to show time duration. The x axis allows you to play more than one note at the same time, as in a chord. This illustration shows the horizontal aspect of the staff, and how music goes from left to right (analogous to forward motion in real time).




In standard western musical notation we use a clef sign to designate where the notes will actually appear on the staff. Musical notation for the guitar is written in what we call the treble or G clef. This symbol is actually an old european style letter G.



This clef is used to pinpoint exactly where the note G is located on the staff. Thus, the G clef determines the range of notes, and their location, for all instruments in the treble or G clef range.





Staff Visualization and Pitch Recognition Drills (x axis)



Example #1 Notes that are located on the LINES of the staff.






Example #2 Notes that are located on the SPACES of the staff.

As covered in lesson 2, there are only seven natural notes in western music. These are the first seven letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F, G).


1. The musical staff consists of 5 lines and 4 spaces.

2. The lines and spaces of the staff are numbered vertically from the bottom to the top.


Notice that the letter names of notes on the spaces spell the word “FACE” .


Notes on a Keyboard


  1. All the notes are arranged in alphabetical order on a piano keyboard (from left to right). The same is true for each string on the guitar.


  1. The white keys on a piano produce natural notes only, while the black keys produce the sharp/flat notes only.


  1. The piano keyboard illustration above is shown as a reference aid to make it easier for you to visualize the sequence of notes. Think of each string of the guitar as a piano keyboard.










Note identification drills




  1. Identify these notes and fill in the blanks. Note that these are just two examples provided for you. Take some blank staff paper and write in notes at random to create your own exercises.




  1. Simply visualize a musical staff in your mind.


  1. Call out the name of any one note at a time in random order, or in any sequence you prefer (just as long as you drill this repeatedly until you can identify any note on the staff quickly and easily.


  1. Pick up some sheet music (or any printed music book) and orally call out the names of the notes printed on the staff.














Now that you have some familiarity with the notes on the musical staff (for the treble clef), we can introduce the Grand Staff which uses a wider tonal range (with notes down into the bass clef). Observe the Grand Staff uses both treble and bass clefs bracketed together. The bass clef provides us with a method of representing a lower range of notes for various instruments that have lower tonal range than guitar (bass, trombone, left hand piano, tuba, etc). The Grand Staff is always used for piano. We will now look at how the notes on the staff relate to the notes on the guitar. This illustration shows how “Middle C” separates the treble and Bass clefs).



The treble clef symbol is actually an old European-style letter G. It pinpoints exactly where the G note is located (as seen earlier in this lesson) on the staff. The G clef, determines the range of notes, as well as their location, for all instuments in the treble or G clef range. Guitar music is always written using a single staff (not the grand staff) and the treble clef. The lower notes of the instrument are written using ledger lines.




The bass clef symbol is actually derived from the letter F (think of the two dots as lines and this should become apparent).

As was briefly explained at the beginning of this section, the bass clef pinpoints exactly where the F note is located on the staff. The F clef determines the range of notes, as well as their location, for all instruments in the bass or F clef range. This is the lower range of the Grand Staff and these notes correspond to the ledger lines written below the staff in guitar music.




The F notes shown here are the same pitch represented in both the treble and bass clefs.




The complete range of notes for the guitar. Ledger lines are used to help identify notes above or below the staff.




This example shows the placement of notes with the same name on the staff. Observe that notes appearing on lines on the staff fall on spaces above and below the staff, and notes that appear on spaces on the staff fall on lines above and below the staff. Rather than learning the notes from left to right, examine each example vertically to view the note groups sharing the same letter name.


  1. Look at all of the E’s shown on the left side of the example.


  1. Memorize the location of each of these E’s (the E below the staff is 4 space below, the E above is actually in the top space of the staff, and the E on the staff is on the bottom line of the staff).


  1. Repeat the two steps above for the remaining note groups.




Ascending and Descending. The notes shown here have the same letter name on each of the staves.
















Accidentals are used in music to indicate notes that fall out of key. They are indicated as either being sharp or flat. A sharped note is one half step above the indicated note. Thus C would become a C# (pronounced “C sharp”).

Sharp (#): A symbol that raises a note by one half-step.

Flat (b): A symbol that lowers a note by one half-step.

Natural: A symbol that removes the effect of a sharp or flat sign, so that the note represents a pitch that is not, sharp or flat.




The key signature is a sequence of sharps and flats appearing just to the right of the treble clef or bass clef on a staff. Sharps or flats that appear in the key signature are valid throughout the entire piece of music, or until a new key signature appears in the music.



All F notes in this example are sharp.




Natural signs cancel the effect of the sharp found in the key signature, but only for the duration of the measure that they appear in. The next bar line cancels accidentals for all of the following measures.



This example is in the key of F which contains one flat (Bb). This does not alter the effect of the sharps or naturals included.


This example is in the key of G which contains one sharp (F#). This does not alter the effect of the flats included.




The time value of a note, or the duration for which the note should be played, is represented by the shape of the note. The most common notes used in music are whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes and triplets. The name of a note is derived from how much of a measure it takes up time-wise. Every numerical count falls on a downbeat, and every downbeat has an upbeat. In addition to notes, there are rests. Rests indicate time values for periods of silence.



Whole notes (so called because its duration is for the entire measure)


Half note (has the duration of two beats/half of the measure)


Quarter note (has the duration of one beat/quarter of the measure)


Eight Note (has the duration of half of one beat/eighth of the measure)


Triplet (is splitting each beat of the measure into three eighths)






Sixteenth Note (has the duration of one quarter of one beat/sixteenth of one measure)


Whole note rest


Half note rest


Quarter note rest


Eigth note rest


Sixteenth note rest








Music occurs in real time. Printed music illustrates the occurrence of musical events (sounds and periods of silence). In standard musical notation we use a system of dividing the written music into equal units of time known as measures.

Measure: a single group of beats in which the first beat is accented. A measure has a set number of beats, and usually this pattern recurs consistently throughout a piece of music. However, there are examples of music which do not utilize consistent measures (that is, the number of beats changes with each measure). Music is divided into units of time (measures) by drawing bar lines on the staff. Music is generally theme-like, or thematic in nature. Double bar lines are used to indicate the beginnings and endings of sections of a piece of music.

Immediately to the right of the key signature, one finds two numbers, one on top of the other. This tells you the meter that the music is written in, or in other words, it tells you how many beats there are in each measure (top number) and what type of notes lasts for the duration of one beat (bottom number). For example, in 4/4 (pronounced four four) time there are four beats in a measure and a quarter note lasts for one beat, while in 6/8 (pronounced six eight) time, there are six beats in a measure and an eighth note lasts for one beat.



4 beats per measure, quarter note gets the beat.


6 beats per measure, eighth note gets the beat





One of the most common barriers to playing written music is a lack of basic rudimentary right hand skills. When I say basic I mean the fundamental ability to hit the right string at the right time. Additionally, a player should not need to look at his right hand to ensure that the correct string is being played. The following is a list of steps to help you to develop basic right hand picking skills.


    1. Place the heel of the right hand palm over the strings very close to the bridge. You want to actually feel the strings against the heel of your palm.


    1. While actually looking at the right hand begin plucking the strings from the lowest or sixth string to the highest, in sequence (6,5,4,3,2,1). You want to actually feel the strings vibrating against your hand as you’re playing.Notice that you are working with a fixed distance from the low string to the high string of about 2 1/2 to 3 inches. The point here is that the tip of the pick, and thus the right hand itself, does not travel any great distance. Staying in tune with this idea, you want to follow a very zen approach to the right hand. This means maximum efficiency for minimum effort. In other words, you want the least amount of wasted right hand motion. This means no Pete Townsend windmills or glam-rock poser moves. At least not until you get some real control over your right hand.


    1. Pick the strings in different sequences (adjacent strings, alternating strings, etc). Challenge yourself by creating and playing as many different patterns as you can think of (1,3,6 – 2,5,3,6 – 3,1,5,2,4,6 – etc.). You want to keep working at this until you get to a point where you can create a pattern to play and then play it without looking at the guitar at all.


    1. The final step is to remove the palm of your hand from the strings. Once again, try playing the strings in different sequences and avoid looking at the strings. The previous steps outlined here should give you a good feel for the location of the strings. However, if you still find it too difficult to remove your palm from the strings and hit the correct string without looking at your guitar, then you must review the previous instructions and keep trying to wean yourself from dependence on having your palm to guide you. You may ask how you will know if you really are hitting the correct string if you can’t look at it. The answer is that you will develop sonic recognition for each string (high or low pitch) and you will began to recognize the way individual strings feel to your fingers (mass, tension, etc.).





Time and rhythm are truly the most important elements of music, however, they are most often overlooked and neglected by guitar players. The difference between a professional and an amateur can often be traced down to the element of time. Both players may be using the same equipment and even playing the same music, but the professional has rock solid timing. Every musician must develop a solid sense of time (even if your goal is simply to play for family and friends in your living room) to achieve a level of quality in their playing that they and anyone else will enjoy listening to.


A metronome is a time keeping device. They come in all shapes and sizes and a wide price range. I usually recommend the “pocket calculator” type because they are small, portable, inexpensive, and they do the job. The metronome provides a steady, stable pulse that you use as a reference when counting beats for a piece of music. A variety of settings (slow to fast) are provided. Start slow (in the range of 60 to 70 beats per minute)! It will take some effort to get used to working with a metronome. You will find that you will deviate from the pulse dictated by the metronome. As with any new skill, the more you work at it the easier it will be.






Sight-reading actually can and should be fun. A positive attitude is essential. Students generally do enjoy playing written music when they have the right material presented to them in an organized manner, and in the correct sequence.


I. Visual: Make sure that your music stand is in front of you at a comfortable viewing height and distance. Look at the music while sight-reading, not the guitar. The more you look at the guitar the longer you will be dependent on doing so. If you absolutely must look at your left hand, then you should just glance at it out of the corner of your eye. The less you rely on this the better. If you are still having difficulty with the right hand picking the correct strings, you should do the right hand string picking exercises.


II. Time: Generally, you should be using a metronome (see metronome setup under working with a metronome). You should tap your foot while counting and playing sight-reading exercises. In some circles this is a fairly controversial point. Some do feel that you should learn to develop a rhythmic sense in your head without relying on body movement, but I do feel that its easier to develop that sense if your body does have a reaction to the rhythmic pulse of the music (traditionally that means tapping your foot). Stay in time: do not stop and go back to the beginning if you make a mistake. Keep going forward. Follow the music and jump back in as soon as possible.


III. Oral Drills: To increase your speed of note recognition (rapidly identifying every note instantly), it is very helpful to just orally (without guitar in hand) call out the names of notes from sheet music. (See staff visualization exercises earlier in this chapter)






When first learning to sightread, the most important tool is your memory. The ability to rapidly identify a note on the staff, and to know what finger, fret, and string are to be used is essential. This process of rapid note identification and correct finger placement to play the desired note needs to be drilled regularly in order to strengthen your memory. Thus, the first section of this chapter is provided to greatly increase your memorization skills.


Important note: Once initial memorization is accomplished it is imperative that you do not try to perfect or memorize any one exercise. Sight-reading means just that, reading what you see. Memorizing any one exercise defeats this purpose. In order to really increase your ability, it is essential that you do not play the same exercise over and over again. Instead, play several exercises in sequence and then review the series in sequence.


Note: later on in these lessons you will be introduced to the patterns by which the various scales and modes used in Western music may be reproduced on the guitar. When you have reached that point in your studies you will begin to notice how you may use those patterns to allow you to more quickly find notes, and thus, ease the task of sight-reading.




Sight-Reading Key of C


C major Scale in First Position. Numbers above the staff represent fret number and finger number (zero represents an open string). The strings are represented by numbers below the staff.


The links below will take you to exercises you can use to practice sight reading. Try them all. Be sure to move on if you feel you are just memorizing an example and are not sight reading anymore.


You can print out these exercises by using the “print frame” or “print” option in your browsers menu.


The links below will take you to exercises you can use to practice sight-reading. 


Try them all. Be sure to move on if you feel you are just memorizing an example and are not sight-reading anymore.


  1. Lesson 3A – Exercises Using Half Notes


  1. Lesson 3B – Exercises Using Quarter Notes


  1. Lesson 3C – Exercises Using Half and Quarter Notes


  1. Lesson 3D – Exercises Using Eighth Notes


  1. Lesson 3E – Exercises Using Quarter and Eighth Notes


  1. Lesson 3F – Exercises Using Sixteenth Notes


  1. Lesson 3G – Exercises Using Triplets


  1. Lesson 3H – Exercises Using Sharps, Flats and Naturals


  1. Lesson 3I – Exercises Using Rests


 Lesson 3A – Exercises Using Half Notes

In 4/4 time, there are 4 quarter note beats per measure. Thus, the half note lasts for 2 beats.








Lesson 3B – Exercises Using Quarter Notes






Lesson 3C – Exercises Using Half and Quarter Notes








Lesson 3D – Exercises Using Eighth Notes








Lesson 3E – Exercises Using Quarter and Eighth Notes


The eight note is half the time value of the quarter note. Thus, the eight note lasts for half a beat in 4/4 time. You can keep time by tapping your foot and counting “one and two and three and four and, one and….”














Lesson 3F – Exercises Using Sixteenth Notes

The sixteenth note is half the time value of the eight note. Thus, the sixteenth note lasts for one quarter of a beat in 4/4 time. As you can see, you count sixteenth notes using “one e and a, two e and ah…”



















Lesson 3G – Exercises Using Triplets

The triplet is an irregular division of the beat. In 4/4 time, the eighth note triplet lasts for one beat. Triplets are counted by “one and a, two and a…” or “trip-el-let, trip-el-let…”







Lesson 3H – Exercises Using Sharps, Flats and Naturals




















Lesson 3I – Exercises Using Rests






Click here to go back to Lesson 2 – Fretboard Logic

Click here to move forward to Lesson 4 – Minor Pentatonic Scale Theory







  1. Minor Pentatonic Scale Patterns

  2. Interconnecting the Patterns


The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the student to the Minor Pentatonic scale patterns. The pentatonics are a wonderful tool as they form the basis of all blues and rock improvisation. Even a beginner can and should start practicing these patterns right away.





Pattern One 


There are five distinct fingering patterns. Since you can visually see the patterns and physically play them, it is relatively easy to memorize them almost immediately. You will memorize and be able to play the patterns fluidly. You need not be concerned with the theoretical aspect at this point, although we will cover a lot of the theory later in these lessons.


Pattern Two


  1. The word pentatonic means five tones.


2. All patterns shown are in the key of A. We are repeating the same five notes all over the fretboard. Each pattern consists of the same five tones: A, C, D, E and G (Formula: 1, b3, 4, 5, b7).


3. Pattern 2 is the key pattern – meaning it’s the only pattern starting on the root A.


4. All of the patterns are interconnected (meaning: the end of one pattern is the beginning of the next pattern).




Pattern Three


5. To change to another desired key, all patterns must move an equal distance. In other words, the basic arrangement of the patterns shown below will remain constant regardless of the starting note or key.





Pattern Four


For example, all five patterns as shown in the key of A. If you wanted to play in the key of G, you would move all five patterns down two frets, or one whole step. If you want or need to play in the key of B, then you would move them up two frets, or one whole step from the key of A (as shown above). The important thing to remember is that all 5 patterns are truly movable up and down the fretboard and the position in which you play the patterns is determined by the key.


6. Notice that in each pattern, two notes are played on each string.




Pattern Five


Playing the Patterns


  1. Use the 1st (index) and 4th (pinky) fingers for notes that are three frets apart on the same string. Use the 1st (index) and 3rd (ring) fingers for notes that are only two frets apart on same string.


2. Notice also that the higher set of notes of each pattern is the same as the lower set of notes of the previous pattern. In this way, the five individual patterns form a larger single interlocking scale which extends up the fretboard and then repeats itself again.









All five of the minor pentatonic patterns can be interconnected to form one large pattern that constitutes the minor pentatonic scale for the entire fretboard. This diagram represents how all five patterns interconnect. Initially, learn all five patterns as separate entities. Then, put the patterns together, and memorize them as one continuous pattern. This is how you eventually want to perceive this scale on the fretboard.



All Five Minor Pentatonic Patterns Shown Interconnected on the Fretboard


Suggested Practice Routine


  1. Practice each pattern for 1 – 2 mins.

  2. When you have achieved some level of fluidity and have truly memorized each pattern, play each pattern up and down the fretboard (one position at a time ). In other words, you repeat the same pattern starting on a different fret position each time.


Total Practice time: 15 -20 mins. per day or until scalding hot.


Click here to go back to Lesson 3 – Standard Music Notation For The Guitar

Click here to move forward to Lesson 5 – Major Scale Theory







  1. Major Scale Theory

  2. Major Scale Formula

  3. Cycle of Fifths

  4. Cycle of Fourths

  5. Key Signatures

  6. Circle of Fifths


The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize the student with major scale theory. Constructing the major scale will enable you to understand how any given key generates the particular sharps and flats that are in the given key. 


Your knowledge of Major Scale theory and the key signatures has a wide range of very necessary/vital applications, i.e.; chord construction, sight reading music, improvisation, chord analysis, learning songs, composing music and more. You simply can’t fully understand what you’re doing in music without this fundamental knowledge/tool.





The Major Scale can be considered the basic building block of all music theory. In the lessons that follow you will see just how important and true this really is. This lesson teaches you how to construct a Major scale in all twelve keys.


  1. Other scales are derived from the major scale.


  1. Chords are derived/extracted from the major scale.


  1. This exercise will show you how each key will generate it’s own number of

sharps (#’s) or flats (b’s) and what they are.



In Western music we have an agreed upon system whereby between E and F and B and C are natural half-steps, meaning these are the only pairs of natural notes that are only a half-step apart. All other natural notes are a full whole-step apart.





Any major scale can be constructed by determining the root (key) and then using the major scale formula.


W = Whole step H = Half step



  1. This formula is applied to all 12 keys.


  1. In the Major scale, half-steps always occur between the 3rd. and 4th. and between the 7th. and 8th. scale degrees.










1. The CYCLE OF FIFTHS is a series of keys – each new key is 5 tones away from the previous key.


  1. The CYCLE OF FIFTHS is the only order of keys that will generate (produce) one newsharp (#) in each NEW key in the series.


  1. The new sharp for each key in the CYCLE OF FIFTHS is always the seventh scale degree.







1. The CYCLE OF FOURTHS is another series of keys – each new key is 4 tones away from the previous key.


  1. The CYCLE OF FOURTHS is the only order of keys that will generate one new flat (b) in each NEW key in the series.


  1. The new flat for each key in the CYCLE OF FOURTHS is always the fourth scale degree.









Here is a system to help you memorize all the practical key signatures. Memorize the keys containing sharps (#’s) first – (CYCLE OF FIFTHS). Then memorize the keys containing flats (b’s) -( CYCLE OF FOURTHS).



  1. Memorize the order of keys – C G D A E B F# C#


  1. Memorize the number of sharps in each key – For example: C = 0, G = 1, D =2, etc.


  1. Memorize the actual sharps contained in each key:


  1. a) Always repeat the previous key signature. For example: The key of G has 1 sharp (F#). So in the next key of the cycle we repeat the previous key signature. Key of D = F# + C#.


  1. b) The new sharp (#) in each key will always be one half-step below the root of the given key – each new sharp is actually te seventh degree of the given key. For example: C# is one half-step below D.






    1. Memorize the order of keys – C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb


    1. Memorize the number of flats in each key – For example: C = O, F = 1, Bb = 2, etc.


    1. Memorize the actual flats contained in each key:


a) Always repeat previous key signature. For example: Key of F has 1 flat (Bb). So i the next key of the cycle we repeat the previous key signature. Key of Bb = Bb + Eb.


b) The new flat in each key will always be the fourth degree of the given key. The new flat will always be the same note as the next key in the cycle.






















This diagram shows the relationship between the cycle of fifths and the cycle of fourths. Start at the C and move clockwise. Each note visited is the next in the cycle of fifths. Start at the C and move counterclockwise, and each note visited is in the cycle of fourths.



Click here to go back to Lesson 4 – Minor Pentatonic Scale Theory







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