Lesson I:  Understanding Basic Music Theory


Some of you may be starting to play an instrument for the first time.  Others may have had some form of musical training as early as grade school while playing in a band.  For those who have been playing for a while, maybe you have the technique down but need a refresher course on music theory.


At FretMentor, I believe it is important to provide you with the theoretical training relative to each musical instrument.  Often times you will find instrumentalists who little or no training in music theory but at the same time, they become fundamentally sound in their musical techniques.  Some musicians may be comfortable with their playing skills and abilities and do not want to invest a great deal of time learning the theory. 


For those interested in learning more about the instrument and the theoretical concepts relating to the fingerboard, many of the lessons on this site will provide you with that knowledge one lesson at a time.  Most importantly, we will take that theory and make it useful and practical by teaching you how to apply theory towards playing your instrument.


The Musical Alphabet


To begin, I initially ask each student if they know their alphabet.  The response is usually a tongue in cheek response that indicates to the teacher that this was one dumb question to ask an adult.  Once you start applying a basic musical alphabet forwards and backwards (up and down) the fingerboard, you will soon learn that the musical alphabet can get confusing.



The 7 Natural Notes in The Musical Alphabet:





The confusion comes into play when one considers the musical alphabet and its corresponding “in-between” notes; herein referred to as sharps or flats.  In music theory, a note with two different names is called an “enharmonic”.  While you may not need to remember this musical term, it does describe the note that falls between the natural notes.


Two names for the same note

A# C# D# F# G#


Bb Db Eb Gb Ab


# is a sharp    b is a flat




The seven natural notes in the musical alphabet range from “A” to “G”.  There are no additional natural notes in the musical alphabet beyond the letter G. Furthermore, the G# (also referred to as the Ab) is the last note in the musical alphabet.


There is no sharp or flat between B and C  & E and F


The Piano Keyboard


To understand how the fingerboard is comprised in an orderly fashion of musical notes, it helps to understand how the notes lay out in a piano keyboard.



The natural notes (he letters A to G) of the musical alphabet are represented by the white keys of the piano keyboard.  Likewise, the “in between” notes, known at the sharps and flats, are identified as the black keys of the keyboard.


The Fretted Instrument


Unlike the piano, the fretted instrumentalist does not have the benefit of distinguishing between natural notes and sharps and flats through the use of white or black characteristics.  This fact alone makes music theory and the understanding of the musical fingerboard a bit more difficult.  

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