4. Guitar notes, tabs, positions and finger names

Why do I feel that a video with this title would have been demonitized right away?

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we will be discussing a little bit about the notes you can encounter on a guitar, how they are represented on a guitar tab and about the fingers you will be using on the fretboard. We will also learn what we use to determine the position on a guitar. So, let’s have some fun.

2. Guitar notes and tabs

In the previous tutorial we learned about the fretboard and how, by applying pressure on different frets, you could produce a different note. But what notes can one play on a guitar using the standard tuning? The answer lies in this picture:

As you can see, starting with the 12th fret, the notes begin to repeat (an octave higher, of course). Also, gotta give credit to Guitar Master Class for their very useful tool.

Basically, those are the notes you can have on a guitar. The next question we have to answer is: how are these notes represented? Well, one answer would be musical sheets. But since this series is more focused on guitar playing, we’re going to be using what is known as guitar tabs. A tab is fairly similar in look to a musical sheet. We basically have 6 horizontal lines, one for each string, and on them we will have some numbers.

The numbers indicate what fret on each string you’re supposed to be using your fingers on. Let’s take a look at an example:


The tab above is telling you that the thin E and G strings are played open, meaning you don’t put a finger on them, the B string is to be played with the 1st fret pressed, the D string is to be played with the 2nd fret pressed and the A string is to be played with the 3rd fret pressed. The thick E string is not played at all. And if you’re wondering what we just tabbed, that is a C major chord (or simply a C chord).

That’s really all there is to tabs. If two strings have numbers on top of each other like in the example above, that means that both strings need to pe picked/strummed at the same time. Otherwise, a single string is picked.

3. Guitar position and finger names

Now that we know what notes we can play and what tabs are, it’s time to take a look at our hands. I find the expression “what hand do you play guitar with” a bit confusing, since you are using both hands. The idea is that one hand goes on the fretboard and the other is used to actually pick the strings.

When it comes to the fretboard hand, you will be placing the index, middle, ring and pinky fingers on frets, depending on the chord of course, and what is known as the position number in which you are playing is given by the fret number on which you have placed your index finger. So when someone says something like “I’m playing in the second position”, you’ll know that that’s where his index finger is positioned, regardless of what the other three are doing.

Note that on chord representations, fingers are usually notated by using numbers, as follows:

  • the index finger is finger number 1
  • the middle finger is finger number 2
  • the ring finger is finger number 3
  • the pinky finger is finger number 4

Since this series is focused on how chords are built rather on how one is planning to play them, I won’t focus on the playing hand fingers, since it’s really up to you and the songs you’re playing/composing. And in the end, this is not a guitar technique series so I don’t want to fill your head with non-relevant information.

When discussing chords I will be focusing on the fretboard hand the most and regardless if you’re left-handed or right-handed, the rules are the same. Also worth noting is that I will be describing where your fingers are supposed to go both by using pictures and text.

That about covers it for this tutorial. Next time we will be learning our first chords and we will also discuss the ways in which one can notate a chord. See you then.

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