How to Read a Guitar Treble Clef

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The guitar is notated on the treble clef, an octave higher than it actually sounds. The actual pitch of the notes played on the guitar begin at the bass clef and extend to the lower reaches of the treble clef. By notating the guitar an octave higher than it sounds, the notes are all on the treble clef and easier to read. Learning to read traditional notation for guitar isn't difficult. Many of the notes you play on the instrument are the same pitch and notated on the same line or space on the treble clef. Here's how you can learn to read guitar notes on the treble clef.

Things You'll Need

  • Guitar
  • Guitar note chart
  • Sheet music

How to Read Guitar Notes on the Treble Clef

  • Familiarize yourself with the treble clef. It consists of five lines and four spaces. These lines and spaces stand for note names. The lines are E, G, B, D and F. The names of the notes in the spaces are F, A, C and E. The lowest note possible on a guitar is notated by drawing three short lines beneath the first line of the treble clef and placing a note on the space just before the third line. This is an E, the thickest string on the guitar, played without putting your finger on a fret. The highest note, depending upon how many frets your guitar has, can be notated by placing two short lines above the music staff and placing a note on the space just above the second line. This note is a D.

  • Locate key note positions on your guitar and place them on the staff. Since many of the notes in the middle range of the guitar can be played in more than one position, playing scales in various positions can help you memorize where the notes on the music staff are on the neck of your guitar. Key note positions include the low E note, the second line below the staff, which is the fifth (second thickest) string of your guitar, and the first line below the staff, which is a C, played on the third fret of your fifth guitar string. Once you know these notes, you can play up your string. The fifth string, third fret C is followed by a C#, then a D. That D is notated on the space just above the C, which is the first line below the music staff. The thinnest string on a guitar is the E, notated on the fourth space of the music staff. That would put the first fret of the thinnest string as an F, notated on the fifth line of the music staff. Once you know these positions, you can figure out the rest of the notes on the treble clef in relation to these notes. It takes time and practice.

  • Practice with flashcards to learn where the notes on your guitar neck are on the music staff. You can purchase a set of these cards at a music store or use a set of free guitar note flashcards online (see resources). The best way to get familiar with your guitar neck and where the notes are is to play scales and practice your flashcards. After a while, recognizing the notes and finding them on your guitar neck becomes second nature.

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