A Guitarist’s Guide to Different Types of Notes in the Western Music (with video)

In the earlier lesson, we saw a brief introduction to the musical notations and also saw how the open string notes of a guitar are notated on a staff. In this lesson, we will learn western musical notations in detail and see different types of notes in the Western music.

As discussed In the earlier lesson, in traditional music notation, the notes are placed on a staff. The lower pitched notes will appear on the lower lines or spaces of the staff and high pitched ones on the higher lines and spaces. That’s all you need to know now. Now in this lesson, we will learn the notes of the 1st (e) and 2nd (B) strings on the guitar and see different types of notes with the help of the open 1st string note.

The picture below shows the 1st string (e) notes on the staff. The tablature notation is also given for ease of understanding and convenience. The first note ‘e’ is an open note, voiced by playing the 1st string without pressing any fret, the 2nd note F, is played by pressing the first fret of the string with your index finger, the 3rd note G by pressing the 3rd fret with your ring finger, and the 4th note A is played by pressing the 5th fret of the first string with your pinky or little finger.

Guitar 1st string notes on the staff

Video

This video will help understand these notes in an interesting and effective manner with the help of exercises and also teach you how to play it on the instrument with ease. Please do watch it.

The picture below shows the 2nd string (B) notes on the staff. The tablature notation is also given for ease of understanding. The first note is B, which is open (played without pressing any fret), the second note C is played by pressing the first fret with the index finger, and the third note, D is played by pressing the 3rd fret with your ring finger.

Guitar 2nd string notes notated on the staff

Video

Here is a fantastic video that’ll help you learn the 2nd string open position notes easily and effectively. I highly recommend watching it.

Different Types of Notes in the Western music

There are 4 main types of notes in western music – a whole note, half note, quarter note and an eighth note.

Whole Note

A whole note gets 4 beats i.e. you will play the note once for the first beat and then count 3 beats without playing anything. This note is denoted by an open circle on the staff. In the example below I have taken an open string note, the 1st string (e).

A beat is verbally expressed as “ONE-AND” “TWO-AND” and so on, where “ONE” and “TWO” are half beats each, and “ANDs” are other half beats. So for example, if we needed to count 4 beats, then we would verbally count it as ONE-AND (one beat) TWO-AND (one beat) THREE-AND (one beat) FOUR-AND (one beat).

A whole note notated on a staff

Half Note

A half note gets 2 beats i.e. a note is played for the first beat and the 2nd beat is just counted without playing any note. Two half notes make up a Whole note. In the example below I have taken an open string note, the 1st string (e). A half note is denoted by an open circle and a stem.

Half note notated on the staff

Quarter Note

A half note gets only one beat and you will play the note for that beat. 4 half notes make up a Whole note. In the example below I have taken an open string note, the 1st string (e). A quarter-note is denoted by a closed circle and a stem.

Quarter note notated on the staff

Eighth Note

An eighth note gets only half a beat, which mean, you need to play two eighth notes in one beat or in the timing of one quarter note (or in other words, one eighth note for ONE and the next eighth note for AND, please refer to the earlier section). And it takes 8 eighth notes to make up one Whole note. In the example below I have taken an open string note, the 1st string (e). An eighth note is denoted by a closed circle with a stem and a flag. So it is also known as a flag note.

Eighth note notated on the staff

I hope, I was able to articulate the different types of notes in the western music as clearly as possible to you in this lesson. In case I wasn’t, you can always drop a comment and let me know what made you overwhelmed!

A Fantastic Video Lesson on Different Types of Notes

Hey, by the way, I stumbled upon this wonderful lesson on YouTube by a gentleman named Craig Dickert who talks about these note types (with one additional note, the sixteenth note that we didn’t discuss here), in a lucid and succinct fashion. So I thought I will embed it here to help make it easier for you to understand these note types. It’s not so long, just over three minutes, but it will be worth your time. Please watch it.

In the next lesson, will talk about the 3rd and 4th string notes of the guitar. Keep practicing and have fun!

 

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