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Acoustic Guitar Notes

Musical notes and Chords notation

There are 12 notes in the scale, which are separated in two groups: natural notes and
accidentals. The seven natural notes in order are the following:

- C or Do

- D or Re

- E or Mi

- F or Fa

- G or Sol

- A or La

- B or Si

Between each of this notes there is ONE full tone, except between E and F, and B and C,
where there is half a tone.

Of course, between full-tone notes we have a halfway tone, which is called an accidental.
Depending on what note we are coming from we are going to call it sharp (#) or flat (♭).
For example, between C and D we have the note which is half a tone higher than C (C# or
C-sharp) and the tone which is half-step lower than D (D♭ or D-flat). This two notes C#
and D♭ in guitar are the same.

When we play three or more notes at the same time, we are playing a chord. The two
main types of chords are major chords, which produce a happy sound, and minor
chords, which produce a sad sound, although there are exceptions. There are more
complicated chords, such as seventh chords, or diminished chords.

Any chord has a main note, the one that you “hear” the first, this main note is called tonic
and is the one which we represent when we are writing the name of the chord. For
instance, if we want to represent the chord integrated by C, E and G we have to see
which note is the tonic, in this case it is C, and the chord is in a major form, so we would
write the C-major chord, CM (an uppercase M means major), or simply C (when we write
chords, if there isn’t any letter that means the opposite, it is a major chord). On the other
hand, if we take the chord integrated by A, C and E, we find that the tonic is A, and it is in
a minor form, so we would write A-minor or simply Am.

As you want to learn to play the guitar and simply read chords, we’re not going to see
how chords are made.

The first time we take a guitar

Now we are going to see what a guitar is, its parts, how does it work and the things you’ll
need to play it.

The acoustic guitar is a musical instruments with two clearly differenced parts: the body
and the neck. Here in the neck we have the headstock, with six tuners, one for each
string. The strings are made out of steel. In the neck, we have the fingerboard, or
fretboard, where we are going to place our fingers to produce different sounds. The white

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bar located in the beginning of the fingerboard is called the nut, and the spaces between
the metal bars on the fingerboard are called frets.

In a guitar, the frets are separated exactly half a tone between each other. If we play a
string without pressing any fret, we are playing the string in the fret 0, which is located at
the nut. The 12th fret on any string produces the same sound as the fret 0 on the same
string, but an octave higher. Hence, the 13th fret produces the same sound as the 1st,
and so on. This is because there are 12 notes in the scale.

The main accessory you’ll need to play the guitar is called the pick. You’ll use it to play
the strings instead of your fingers, right over the body of the guitar. It’s hold as Luis tells
you how :)

The strings of the guitar are named from the thinest one (the 1st one), which produces the
highest sound in the 0 fret to the thickest (the 6th one), which produces the lowest one.
The standard tuning of the guitar is the following:

- 1st string: E

- 2nd string: B

- 3rd string: G

- 4th string: D

- 5th string: A

- 6th string: E*

*: two octaves lower

Of course, there are other different tuning patterns, but the standard one is that one.

A good accessory you can use is a capo. A capo is a device used to transpose a song. It
places a bar in the same fret of all strings, keeping the proportion of tones between
strings, but as many half-steps you place it. For example, the tuning of a guitar standard-
tuned with a capo of the first fret will be the following:

- 1st string: F

- 2nd string C

- 3rd string G#

- 4th string: D#

- 5th string: A#

- 6th string: F

And the chord diagrams will be the same, but if you play a C-major chord, what it will
sound is going to be a C#-major chord.

Now, talking about chord diagrams, lets learn our first 5 chords

Our first five chords

To learn the chords, we should get accustomed to the chord diagram we’re going to use:

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Here is represented the nut, with a thick black bar, the six strings in vertical, being the one
in the right the first one, and the one in the left the sixth one. The horizontal bars are the
fret bars. We have represented here 5 frets.

Now, here we’re going to find black points represented on the frets. Those are our fingers,
and there’s also going to be a number, which means what finger are we using, being our
index finger the first one, the middle finger the second one and so on.

Sometimes, we are going to find above the nut some symbols. If there is a white point (O),
it means that you should play that string at fret 0. If there is a cross (X), it means that you
shouldn’t play that string.

Now, I should have personally taught you how to play the following 5 chords. Anyway, I let
you here the diagrams:

Both F and B chords use a technique called bar

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The bar

The bar is a technique which consists on playing more than one string on the same fret
with the same finger. For example, you can put the called american bar, (playing a bar
that doesn’t involve the first string) in the A chord, so you can play it with only one finger.

There are two main shapes you should learn to play any chord, depending on the place
the tonic of the chord is. If it is on the sixth string, this is the shape:

Where the fret played with the bar on the sixth string is the tonic. This shape is used for
the F chord. You should play it with the bar on the first fret. In case you want to play a G
chord, for example, in a closed shape, you should put that shape on the third fret, or if
you want a G#-major, you should put it on the fourth one.

The other shape you should learn is for the tonic being in the fifth string. The shape is the
following:

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Here is the same thing, the fret where you put the bar on the fifth string is the tonic of the
chord. If you play it with the bar on the second string, you will hear a B-major chord.

Now, if you look carefully, you will see that this are the SAME SHAPES as the E-major and
the A-major shape, with the difference that in those open-shape chords, the bar is located
in the nut.

Hence, and with a bit of practice, you can put the universal fifth string major chord with a
american bar and a normal bar, just like this:

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Now let’s talk about minor chords:

Minor chords

Here I leave you the diagrams for the minor chords. You’ll see that for Cm, Fm, Gm and
Bm we are using the closed-shape, because there isn’t any open-shape. The shapes are
the same as the Am and Em, but with a bar where there is the nut. Same story, you put
those two shapes anywhere on the fretboard, and you’ll get a minor chord, with the tonic
in the fret you’ve placed the bar.

Now you should now how to play any major or minor chord on the instrument. I leave you
here a diagram with all the notes in the first twelve frets. Remember it’s cyclic, so the 13th
is the same as the 1st one, and the 12th is the same one as the 0 fret.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

5th | A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A

6th | E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E

Seventh, fifth and other weird chords. Palm-muting.

Apart from major and minor chords, there are a world of different strange chords. This is
the case for seventh and fifth chords, the two more common ones. In seventh chords,
what you do is putting the seventh note from the scale of the chord. For example, if you
have a Cm7, you must get the C minor scale and put the first, the third, the fifth (until here
is a normal Cm) and also the seventh, which is a B♭.

Fifth chords are really important, as well as seventh ones. They are used mainly in rock
and blues music. The shape is really easy, mainly because there isn’t a major-minor
classification. If the tonic is in the sixth string, the shape is the following:

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If you want, and it sounds well, you can also include the fourth finger on the fourth string
just next to your third finger:

There is a picking guitar technique named as Palm-muting, which consists on getting


your right hand palm very near the bridge, touching the strings, so that you mute them a
bit. This is the most common way for playing fifth chords, and you can hear it in most 50s
rock songs, or all through Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

Same story for the fifth chords whose tonic remains in the fifth string, you can use both
ways:

Remember that in these fifth-string diagrams, I have put the tonic on the first fret, so in
the first example (the sixth string tonic) it is a F5, and in the second one, a B♭5

The end

If there is anything more for you to learn, I’m sure I will have taught it to you. I’ve left you
also a chart with the diagrams for every chord you’ll need, as well as some info for other
guitar tunings.

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