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Guitar Fingerboard Logic - Transience Divine
November 27th, 2008
12:06 pm

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Guitar Fingerboard Logic
I'm trying to learn the guitar in a way that's compatible with reading standard sheet music. But the notes on the guitar fingerboard seem at first fairly random-- because of the different number of steps between successive notes and between strings, it's tough to predict.

Here's a standard fingerboard diagram, from wikipedia:


But there's another way of looking at it, and every note makes sense:


Edits: corrected score octave, added mysteriously-disappearing notes.

Every note is either on a staff line or a staff-middle. This diagram is for a guitar in standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E), against a staff in C major. Changes in the tuning move a guitar string up or down; sharps and flats in the staff move its lines up and down.

The guitar strings aren't evenly spaced, because there are only four half steps between the G and B strings. The staff lines aren't evenly spaced, because there are different numbers of half steps between them. The one thing that is evenly spaced here is the one thing that's not on a guitar: the frets. That's because what's non-linear in space is linear in what we hear. All music is on a log scale, but so are our ears (like all our senses), so it cancels out.

I've called out the C's in purple for convenience. Also, I show the notes on the frets, instead of between them where you hold the string.

Note: this, along with all my posted material, is Creative Commons.

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From:talacky
Date:November 27th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
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As someone who first learned to read music before playing guitar, I'm not sure why you'd want to learn guitar this way. Is there any reason in particular? The nice thing about playing guitar, which a lot of instruments don't have, is the patterns that make it a lot easier to play. You just learn one pattern for a major scale, for example, and you can move that same pattern around to play lots of scales. Same way for chords. This really doesn't show up in sheet music - you're only going to learn by playing it. It might look random on paper, but trust me, the notes are that way to make chords and scales a whole lot easier.

It really doesn't lend itself so easily to sheet music, as, say, a piano or a saxophone. What you have here looks immensely frustrating. If you really want to be able to play sheet music on guitar, I would start by memorizing every note on the guitar (it will take you a while, but you will start to see the patterns), and then learning to recognize what different chords look like on sheet music.
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From:jrising
Date:November 27th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the advice. Well, first let me say, my "how I'm trying to learn" is completely in flux. How and what I'm trying to do changes every day-- I've only had the thing for a week.

At this point, I don't actually want to play chords (strumming vs. picking)-- it's just not the kind of sound I want to make. I got a guitar because I wanted a better kind of harp. I've started learning chords, because it lets me how and where to hold my fingers for playing notes that often come together in sequence, but eventually I'd love to forget them.

Have you done much classic guitar? Any ideas on where to find this teaching style online?
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From:talacky
Date:November 27th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad to help. Learning new instruments is so much fun.

I really don't have any experience with classic guitar, but I have found that youtube is great for learning all kinds of guitar techniques.
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From:siderea
Date:November 28th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
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Haven't tried, but the magic googleterm you may need is "punteado", the Spanish term for what we call "classical guitar". As opposed to "rasgueado", the strumming style.
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From:siderea
Date:November 28th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)
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P.S. If I decided I wanted to learn punteado guitar, the way I would start is by learning a bunch of useful scales. I'd check the music I wanted to play for keys, of course, but absent that constraint, I'd go learn:

C major
G major
G minor
D major
D minor
E minor
F major
A minor

And by "learn" I mean, practice the ability to say, "Now, I'm going to play the $key $mode scale at speed up and down my instrument" and successfully do so, on demand.

Then I would be able to look at a piece in any of those keys and say, "hey! I know where all those notes are!" and proceed to use them to try to play the piece.

However, IANAG.

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From:jrising
Date:November 28th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
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siderea to the rescue! These are exactly the hints I needed. Or they seem to be... I'll see where they lead.

There's an issue I've encountered playing scales, and you might have some thoughts on it. Playing scales on the guitar requires moving one's finger every note. Successive notes can be found either on the same string, or more-than-a-hand away on another string. But I think this is exactly the wrong thing to do when playing a song: you want to leave both that finger and that string alone, if possible, because reusing them immediately will break up the sound. So, I'm inclined to learn my scales mixed-up, like maybe going around the octave in thirds, C-E-G-B-D-F-A. Any reason I shouldn't?
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From:siderea
Date:November 29th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC)
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You should do that, too. Second. The commonest motion in melody is "stepwise", which is why training your hands to do scales is so useful: those are literally the gestures of which most music is mostly made. Of course, as much as that gets you, then there are all the other intervals you'll need.

I suspect (IANAG) that punteado requires you to smoothly move a single finger from pitch to adjacent pitch, to next adjacent pitch, because your other fingers will be busy doing counterpoint. Certainly, that is what violinists do, which is pretty much the same concept, only without frets to make it easy. And part of the craft of playing the instrument is managing to do that smoothly.
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From:elctric_mayhem
Date:November 27th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
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Actually, your overlap of fretted notes to notes on the standard staff is off by an octave. And the guitar is entirely a treble clef instrument.
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From:jrising
Date:November 27th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
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Wow, good to know! Mmm, that make it much more difficult to show many notes as being on lines. Maybe I'll just throw away the staff-per-se and show a line for every major scale pitch...
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From:siderea
Date:November 28th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
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The standard notational solution for this is to put a little "8" on top of each of the clefs, which means "... only, an octave up". SATB recorders are all treble isntruments, so their scores are typically notated with clefs (top to bottom) G^8, G, G, F^8 (ETA: e.g.)



Edited at 2008-11-28 12:04 am (UTC)
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