How to write guitar music notes

Written by carl hose
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How to write guitar music notes
Music notes written for guitar are the same notes used by other treble clef instruments. (guitar and notes image by Victor M. from

Music notes written for guitar are no different than notes written for any other treble clef instrument if standard musical notation is used. With the exception of a few guitar-specific symbols used to indicate playing techniques, guitar players read time signatures, measures, and music notes on the treble clef in the range of the guitar. While many guitar players skip learning to read music notes for guitar in favour of guitar tablature, there is no better way to increase your all-around music skills than by learning to read and write guitar music written in traditional notation.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Blank staff paper

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  1. 1

    Familiarise yourself with the range of the guitar. Music written for guitar is written on a music staff featuring five lines and four spaces. These lines and spaces represent note names. The lines are E-G-B-D-F. The spaces are F-A-C-E. Notes written off the staff (above or below) are written on ledger lines, which are small lines just wide enough for the note that indicate the number of lines above or below the staff that the is located. Notes above the staff follow the musical alphabet forward; notes below the staff go in reverse. The first line on the staff is E, the space below it is D, the line below that C, etc. The top line of the music staff is F, so the space above that is G and the line above that is A, etc. The lowest note on the guitar is E, written on the space below the third line beneath the music staff. The highest note is a D written on the space above the second ledger line added over the music staff.

  2. 2

    Learn the basics of rhythm notation. The notes include whole notes, half notes, crotchets, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, etc. These notes are combined to fill a given number of beats per bar (measure) of music. Each measure or bar is indicated by the notes between vertical lines on a staff. The number of beats needed per bar is indicated by the time signature, always written at the beginning of a piece of music. Common time is 4/4, which means four beats per measure. The note values are: whole note = 4 beats, half note = 2 beats, crotchet = 1 beat, eighth note = 1/2 a beat, sixteenth note = 1/4 of a beat. Any combinations of these note values can be used to fill a measure of music in common time.

  3. 3

    Write notes on the line or space of the music staff that represents the name of the note you want to write. Since the lines and spaces repeat the same notes, you need to write the note on the line or space that represents the pitch of the note you are writing. The low E, for instance, is written on the space below the third line below the music staff. if you want to write an E an octave higher, it will be written on the first line of the music staff. Several note positions on the guitar that can be written in the same place on the music staff, so a chart that shows notes on the neck of the guitar in relation to the music staff is a helpful learning aid until you have played long enough to familiarise yourself with your instrument.

  4. 4

    Draw an uncolored oval (or small circle) for a whole note. A half note is the same as a whole note except it has a stem. The stem is attached to the right side of the note head if it is placed on the staff below the third line and on the left side of the stem if it is on the third line of the staff or above. This applies to all notes with stems.

  5. 5

    Write a quarter not like a half note, with a small oval for the note head and a tail. Colour the note head of the crotchet black. Write a single eighth note like a crotchet, but add a small curved tail to the top of the stem. When you write two or more note heads, you can omit the small tail and attach the eighth notes with a slanted bar connecting them. Write sixteenth notes like eighth notes, except you'll add two tails to the top of the stem. Sixteenth notes also can be attached with a bar. The note heads for eighth notes and sixteenth notes also are coloured black.

  6. 6

    Read guitar string bending and tremolo techniques using symbols specific to guitar playing. A "v" with a number beside it indicates the use of a tremolo bar. The "v" accompanied by the word "whole" tells you to drop a note one whole step with the tremolo bar. The fraction 1/2 written beside the "v" indicates dropping the note a half step. An arrow pointing up with a number beside it tells you to bend a note up the number of steps indicated.

  7. 7

    Indicate pick slides and finger slides with either a jagged line between the two notes the slide occurs on or a straight line between the notes included in the slide. For tapping, which is a technique often used by guitar players, draw a curved line over the notes to be tapped out and write a "T" over the line. This tells the player the notes are to be tapped out rather than picked.

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