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The Basics

Tone and Pitch

Page 7 Learning the Folk Guitar

Tone is what we call the character of the sound we can produce on the guitar
(tone = sound). Another word for tone is timbre. Pitch will refer to whether the tone (sound) will be a high sound (treble) or a low sound (bass).

Placing a finger on a string behind a fret and moving toward the body of the guitar will raise the pitch. Therefore, we are moving up the neck. Moving your finger back toward the head will lower the pitch.

You will be moving down the neck. You will hear these directions often. Be certain that you know which way is up and which way is down.

Top and Bottom

Page 8 Learning the Folk Guitar

The 1st string on the guitar (the high E) when played open is the highest in pitch. Therefore, we call it the top string. The 6th string (the low E) is the lowest in pitch. We will call it the bottom string.

You may be tempted to think that because you must reach down to strike the 1st string that it is on the bottom, and because the 6th string is closer, it seems to be on top. However, starting now, we must think as musicians.

Musically speaking, any pitch that is high will be referred to as being "up " or "top" or "raised" (treble). A low pitch will be "down", "bottom,"or"lowered" (bass).

Using your right thumb, strike the bottom string "open". The low E note is the lowest tone your guitar is able to produce. Strike the top string "open".

Place any finger of your left hand behind the 1st fret on the 1st string and strike it. Now, move up the neck one fret at a time and strike the string with each movement.

As you move up the neck you may notice that the frets get closer together. Switching to the little finger of the left hand will make it easier to play the high notes. Repeat this exercise on all the strings at all the frets.

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The Musical Alphabet

Page 8 Learning the Folk Guitar

The musical alphabet starts in A. It goes to G and then starts again. Each one of these letters represents a note. Every time you strike a string or put your finger on the string and strike it, you are playing a note. Each string on your instrument is a note. That is why they have letter names.

You should memorize the letter names of the strings. They are (high to low) E - B - G - D - A - E. We may, also, refer to the strings by their numbers.

Notes and Chords

When you play many notes together (three or four strings) you are playing a chord. Chords also have letter names. Chords are made by placing the fingers of the left hand at certain places on the guitar fretboard.

Brushing your right hand across some or all the strings while fretting a chord is known as playing a chord accompaniment. We use chords to accompany ourselves and others while we sing the melody and words of a song.

The Diatonic Scale

Page 8 Learning the Folk Guitar

A scale is a series of ascending or descending notes (pitches) separated by either whole or half steps. Each fret on the fretboard represents one half step. Two frets equal one whole step.

The major diatonic (Do Re Mi) scale is a pattern of eight notes (octave) starting and ending on notes with the same letter name (the tonic note). Each note is separated by a whole step (two frets) except for the third & fourth and the seventh & eighth notes of the scale. They are separated by half steps (one fret).

C - major scale

Let's look at the C major scale. Begin on the 5th string at the 3rd fret and work your way up the C major scale.

Say, or better yet, sing out the letter names of the notes as you play them. Can you hear the octave?


Listen   "C major scale" up the neck

Listen   "C major scale" across the strings

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