Knowing the Notes on the Guitar

original-singingguitarLearning to read standard notation is something many guitarists will never do. And while there are definite benefits to learning how to read notes, unless you’re playing Jazz or Classical, it’s not necessary to become an accomplished guitar player. However, knowing how to figure out what note you’re playing on the guitar is absolutely necessary if you want to go beyond strumming the standard open chords.

Knowing what note you’re playing on the guitar will help you to determine what scales and chords you’re playing up and down the neck. Each scale and chord has a root note that they are built from. The root note is the letter name which appears at the beginning of the scale or chord symbol (A major scale or C7 chord).

While it’s easy to memorize what chord or scale you’re playing when there are only a few in open position, when you start moving these shapes around the guitar, it becomes imperative to know your root notes and letter names.

The good news is that this is extremely easy as long as you know three things:

1) the names of the strings on the guitar

2) the difference between whole steps and half steps

3) the pattern of the musical alphabet

 

The names of the strings on the guitar

guitar, notes, lessons

As you can see, the two outside strings are both E notes, called Low E (the thickest string) and High E (the thinnest string). From Low to High the note names of the guitar strings are E, A, D, G, B, E. The strings are numbered 1-6 from highest to lowest, however, most people will order them from lowest to highest.

Here’s a little pneumonic device for remembering the string names from lowest to highest:

6-(E)very   5-(A)pple 4-(D)oes   3-(G)o 2-(B)ad 1-(E)ventually

 

What are whole steps and half steps?

On the guitar, the notes are determined by what fret you’re holding when you pick the string, unlike the piano where each note is represented by pressing a different key.

A half step is the shortest distance you can go, so on the guitar it is the distance between one fret and the next fret up or down. If you’re playing the 3rd fret – low E string, a half step up would be the 4th fret and a half step down would be the 2nd fret on the same string.

Keep in mind that the distance between an open string and the 1st fret is a half step.

A whole step is equivalent to the distance of two half steps. So if you’re playing that same note on the 3rd fret – low E string, a whole step up would be the 5th fret and a whole step down would be the 1st fret.

All scales have an order of whole steps and half steps which repeat over and over again. The musical alphabet also has an order of whole steps and half steps. Once you know that order, you’ll be able to figure out any note on the guitar.

 

So what is the musical alphabet?

The musical alphabet starts with A, just like the regular alphabet. However, it only goes up to G. After G it simply goes back to A and repeats again. So it includes letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. There is no H note. If you already know your standard open chords, you’ll already recognize a lot of these letter names from those chords.

There is either a whole step (2 frets) or a half step (1 fret) between each of these notes of the musical alphabet. The easiest way to remember the order is that there are whole steps between all the letters with the exception of half steps between B and C and between E and F.

Here are the distances between all the notes in the musical alphabet (Whole steps are represented by a W and half steps are represented by an H):

A (W) B (H) C (W) D (W)E (H) F (W) G (W) A (W) B (H) C… and on and on!

 

So what are the notes in between the whole steps?

Ah yes. You may have noticed that we’re skipping some notes because there are whole steps between most of the letters in the musical alphabet. This is where flat and sharp notes come into the equation.

A flat note is represented by a lower case b, as seen in the chord Bb Major or Ab minor. A sharp is represented by the number sign or hashtag symbol #, as seen in the chords G# major or C# minor.

When you flat a note, you bring it down a half step from whatever letter name you’re on. So if you’re playing a G note (3rd fret – low E string), you would play the 2nd fret for a Gb. A sharp note is just the opposite, go up one fret. So to play a G# on the low E string, you would play the 4th fret.

Now when we play the 4th fret G#, it could also be called an Ab because it is one fret above a G and one fret below an A. These are called enharmonic notes. They are notes which can be labeled as a flat or a sharp. Usually this is dependent upon what key you’re in, but we’ll get to that in another article!

 

Figuring Out What Note You’re Playing

So to figure out what note you’re playing on any string, simply start with the open note that you know because you have your string names memorized! Then work your way up the musical alphabet until you get to the note that you’re playing.

Examples:

  1. If I want to figure out what note I’m playing on the 5th fret, low E string I would start with my low open E, then go up a half step to the 1st fret (because there is a half step between E and F). Now I’m on an F note on the 1st fret, go up a whole step to the 3rd fret. Now I’m on G. Go up one more whole step to the 5th fret. Now I’m on A because the musical alphabet always repeats after G. So the 5th fret, low E string is an A note.

  2. If I want to figure out what note is on the 4th fret D string, I can do the same process. Start with my open D string, then go up a whole step to the 2nd fret (because there is a whole step between D and E). Now I’m on an E note. Then go up a half step to my next letter F on the 3rd fret (because there is always a half step between E and F). If we wanted to go up to the next letter we’d have to go up another whole step to get to G. However, we’re only going up to the 4th fret so we’ve hit a sharp/flat note. The 4th fret – D string can either be called an F# or a Gb depending on what key you’re in.

You can do these exercises all day long to practice finding and naming notes on all the strings of the guitar. Just kidding, maybe just 5 minutes a day? As you know, regular practice goes a long way!

Below is a diagram of all the notes on the guitar so you can check your work. Good luck naming those notes!

guitar, lessons, frets, fingering

Check out our talented students!

Our seasonal recitals are a great way for students to get an opportunity to perform for friends and family! It’s also great for friends and family to get a chance to see the progress they’ve made since last time, whether they are 6 years old or 60 years old. Check out this video offering up highlights of every students performance from our Spring 2018 recital at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!

Spring 2018 Recital

ethicalWe are so happy to announce that our Spring Recital this year will take place on Saturday, May 19th at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!  Our recitals are our most exciting public events of the year, and are a fantastic way for family and friends to get involved with lessons. Students of all ages and levels of development are encouraged to sign up and so the music heard over the course of the concert is full of surprises and variety!

Public performance is an important part of music-making, and so we are very proud to be able to offer these concerts twice a year for our students. In order to accommodate the number of students, the recital is spread out over two sets, each with separate admission.

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Set 1 @ 1:00pm

Set 2 @ 3:00pm

Enjoy a great afternoon of music making, and then you can enjoy all the wonderful restaurants and activities of Center City! Tickets at the door are $10.

Partnering with Local Schools – La Salle Academy

Music PartnershipsLa Salle Academy: Expanding our Teaching Partnerships

One of the core mission statements at Philly Music Lessons is that everyone deserves a chance to learn music. It drives us to make lessons available to many communities and families with varying income levels and schedules. That is why we offer the convenience of in-home lessons, as well as local studio lessons in Fishtown and South Philly, and why we offer financial aid discounts to low-income families.

To further expand opportunities for kids to learn music, we’ve started to partner with local schools, offering discounted private and group lessons during after school hours. Because our lessons are made available at an affordable rate, right on the school premises, it is much easier for kids to begin the process of learning music!

Engaging Students at La Salle through Music Performances and Presentations

DSC_0047 (1)We recently traveled down the road from our Fishtown studio to La Salle Academy, located in Kensington on North 2nd Street. Our teachers gave presentations to grades 3-8, showing them the basics of piano, guitar, violin and drums. Starting with the principles of technique and theory, our two multi-instrumentalist teachers, Sean Conlon and Emily Stewart, were able to give the kids a sense of what the beginning portion of learning an instrument really looks like. Our teachers performed solo pieces on each instrument, and followed with group performances to show how different instruments can come together to create unique styles and sounds. It was very inspiring for students to see professional musicians performing at an advanced level. We feel this experience gives them a sense of the hard work and dedication that goes into attaining such a level of musicianship.

DSC_0052 (1)DSC_0043 (1)With our presentations, children are better able to gauge their general level of interest in music. They may also be able to better determine which instrument they’d like to learn. We feel that starting a child off with an instrument that really inspires them is the best way to form a positive and lasting relationship with music. We hope these kinds of experiences at an early age will stick with them for the rest of their lives!

New Music Education Partnerships

Philly Music Lessons will be working to maintain and expand relationships with other schools in the city of Philadelphia throughout the 2018 school year. We feel our teachers have a lot to offer in terms of supplementing standard music education classes and providing individualized lessons to students who may not have access to them otherwise. As most educators know, there is no substitute for a great teacher.

 

Our Fishtown Community, Our Story!

Morning Music ClassesFishtown Community Building Through Music 
A few years ago, we moved our music lessons business out of our basement and into a beautiful space down the street in Fishtown. Feeling inspired by my own upbringing next to a fine arts and music institute for kids and adults, I decided to start teaching music classes to the smallest of our neighbors! I wanted to bring the experience of walking past an open window to the sounds of clarinets, opera singing, piano practice, and plays into my Fishtown community. Cracking open the windows on a warm June day, the sounds our first music classes and lessons were heard in Fishtown in 2014.


Bringing high quality music was a focus of mine. I had been to some great music classes throughout the city in my nannying days, and I realized how deeply kids responded to the ones with genuinely good music and real instruments. With this in mind, I created a flexible routine that engages kids through props, promotes spontaneous interaction between teacher and child, and trains the ears to hear pitches using Solfege, familiar songs, and other music-based exercises. At the center of my classes are our carefully selected teachers, often performers in Philly and teachers with a talent for connecting with kids. They play their guitar (and sometimes ukulele!), while performing and guiding children through various kids songs, rhymes, and our unique “Hello” and “Goodbye” songs. 


Each week, old standards and new children’s songs are presented. With a scarves, pinwheels, parachutes, puppets, shakers, various world instruments, a big piano, and more, we explore what it means to play music. Interactive pieces shift from the most basic of kind to more complex dances and movement games as youngsters progress through the months. Heavily based on individual groups, these classes are adaptable – a good fit for many different ages.


Parents, sit back and enjoy as you play with your baby through this guided 45 minutes of fun! You can read our march newsletter below. Stroller parking is available.
Read about our current teachers, Alex and Keely!

Sign Up Today for Music in March

Hello!

Let’s usher in the Spring with some music making at Philly Music Lessons! As usual, we’ll be meeting weekly for classes in Fishtown and in South Philly (4PM Fridays in Fishtown and 9AM Wednesdays in South Philly). Our multi-aged classes are designed for 0-3 year olds and make for an awesome part of a day with kids – moms, dads, nannies, and other caregivers are welcome. With singalongs, movement activities, tons of props and assorted musical instruments, we change it up as we keep a base line of familiar kid favorites!

March in Fishtown | $40
Sign Up
Fridays @ 4PM:
March 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 30th
*Please note: NO CLASS on the 23rd!

Address:
2111 East Susquehanna Ave

Philadelphia, PA

March in South Philly | $40
Sign Up
Wednesdays @ 9AM:
March 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th

Address:
1548 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Class Basics:

  • $10/class with a monthly sign up – Includes one makeup for missed classes per month, which can be used as credit towards upcoming sign ups or any classes scheduled at either location
  • $12 drop-ins with advanced notice only – Email ahead of time to let us know when you’ll be coming (please check with us to see if there’s space!)
  • First timers FREE
  • Online invoicing for monthly sign ups and drop-ins – Can pay online or make in-person payments

What’s My Voice Type?

voice, type, fach, philadelphia“What’s my voice type?”

Beginner voice students often ask this question. It feels reassuring to classify ourselves, to feel we belong somewhere. Plus, newer singers believe knowing your voice type gives them other information about their voice, such as their range. What seems like a simple question doesn’t have a simple answer though. To understand why, first learn what “my voice type” even means, why voice type exists, and why a singing novice might not be able to find their voice type.

What is Voice Type?

A “voice type” is the classification of voices based on certain qualities and characteristics of the voice. These characteristics include:

  • Range: how high and low you can sing.
  • Timbre: the “color” or quality of your voice.
  • Vocal breaks: the shift in your voice between head and chest voice.
  • and Tessitura: the part of your range you feel most comfortable singing in.

Men tend to have four options when it comes to voice type: countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. Women tend to have three options: soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto.

All of these variations depend on a number of physical elements just like they do in instruments. A cello has thicker strings than a violin, resulting in a lower range. Similar variations apply to the voice as well. Therefore, the variations in voice type depend largely on physical sex, but also on genre.

These identifications vary according to genre because different genres require different characteristics. A musical theater soprano may be considered a mezzo-soprano in opera because of the average range, tessitura, and timbre of the music.

Why Classify the Singing Voice

While some people like labels, others ask, “Who needs them?” There are pros and cons to identifying your voice type.

Pros

The number one benefit to knowing your voice type is for auditions. If you audition as a singer, the panel can get an immediate idea of your voice through your stated voice type. Why? Because the “rules” of voice type allow others to understand what characteristics your voice possesses.

Similarly, you can select music for yourself this way. If a song has a certain note you can’t reach, or spends a lot of time in a part of your voice you’re not comfortable with, you will know not to sing that song.

Cons

Identifying your voice type can become unintentionally limiting. Especially for younger or newer singing students, a voice type can make you feel boxed in to certain guidelines, discouraging you from exploring new songs.

Voice types are also hard to identify. The voice is a tricky instrument. It’s not like other instruments where you can see and feel exactly which notes the instrument can hit. Each voice is unique, and it can even change based on age, hormones, and more.

What’s My Voice Type Then?

Only a qualified voice teacher can help you identify your voice type. Even if you know your range right now, you may be able to extend it after learning different technical aspects of singing like posture, breathing, and more. And as stated above, no one element alone points to voice type. The subject is so complex, voice teachers have written entire books dedicated to it.

Again, the best way to find your voice type is to sign up for voice lessons today and learn all about your voice. Your voice type will reveal itself to you after developing a solid technique. And remember, it may take some time, but the process of discovery will be a lot of fun along the way.

Baby and Tots Music Winter Schedule Updates!

Music_LessonBefore the Christmas holiday and New Years, we have a few more December music classes to usher in the winter. Visit us this week and the following for some warm, cozy music classes in Fishtown and South Philly! The last classes of the season will be Dec. 23rd (no classes between Christmas and New Years – see calendar for full schedule).

December Music Schedule
(Baby and Tots Classes Ages 0-3)

This week:

  • Dec. 13th @ 9 AM (South Philly – 1548. S. 13th Street at our Passyunk Studio)
  • Dec 15th @ 4 PM (Fishtown – 2111 East Susquehanna Avenue)
  • Dec 16th @ 9 AM (Fishtown again)

Next Week:

  • Dec 20th @ 9 AM (South Philly)
  • Dec 22nd @ 4 PM (Fishtown)
  • Dec 23rd @ 9 AM (Fishtown)

If you plan to come try out a class for FREE, please get in touch! And if you’re in the Fishtown neighborhood on Fridays at 3 PM or Saturdays at 10 AM, be sure to come see our space and visit our musical instruments, toys, and activities during our FREE story-time, free-play jam session! Free thru December (Sign Ups starting in Jan. 2018)

Please note that our Philly Music Babies schedule will be slightly different starting in January 2018:

South Philly Music Classes – Wednesdays @ 9 AM
Fishtown Weekday Afternoon Classes – Fridays @ 4 PM
Fishtown Weekend Music Classes – Saturdays at 10 AM

Sign Up for January! 

  • $10/class Monthly Sign Up
  • Weekly classes, with 4-5 weeks typically scheduled per month see schedule
  • *1 Makeup per month can be used during any schedule classes throughout the year, or can be credited toward upcoming months.

We do sign ups to make sure classes remain small and intimate. We have found that regular classes encourage more meaningful participation and more engaged learning! And who doesn’t want to get together with their little friends weekly?

Happy Singing!

-Coco

 

Meet one of our Violin Teachers! | Navid Kandelousi

Introducing a fantastic new addition to our teaching staff: Navid Kandelousi

violin teacher, strings, philly, fishtown, philadelphia, lessonsI started my musical journey at the age of six by studying violin with both Iranian and Russian teachers. In 1999 I was invited to join the Iranian National Orchestra as a violin soloist, a position which I held until 2006 when I left Iran for Italy.  I studied western classical music at the Verdi Conservatory in Milano, Italy and at the Moscow Violin Academy in Russia.  In 2009, I was invited to join the Gateway Symphony in New York City and the International American YPHIL Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.  I have mastered virtuosic skills on a great breadth of instruments including the Violin, Setar, Taar and Kamanchah, in addition to experience with piano, tonbak, santour and gheychak. Throughout my professional career, I have collaborated with numerous prestigious Persian ensembles such as the Iranian National Orchestra, the Orange County Orchestra, and have performed all the great composers internationally across Europe, Asia and America in venues such as Lincoln Center, Juilliard Music School, Albert Hall, Kennedy Center, Sydney’s Symphony Hall and Vahdat Hall, while winning numerous music and violin awards. My teaching background includes work at the Yamaha School of Music, Suzuki Violin School, and Master Classes in Kamanchah, Taar and Setar at the Julliard School. I received a scholarship from Maestro Daniel Philips in Queens College of Music 2012-2015 and recently attended the Silk Road Global Music performance with Maestro Yo-Yo Ma in Kennedy Center!

When did you begin playing Violin, and why?
I started in music when I was 6 years old, and I chose the violin at 8. I picked the violin because I fell in love with the sound it made the very first time I heard it.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I play Taar, Setar, kamancheh, and Tombak. These are all Persian instruments that I have been playing for many years along with my violin – they are also mostly from the string family.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
As a violinist, I would like to continue performing solo concerts! As a teacher, I want to be able to show my students everything I’ve learned. Most of all, I hope to become a better person in my life and enjoy music as much as I can!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
My understanding of violin technique really clicked when I heard the Paganini caprices performed by Shlomo Mintz. What a beautiful performance!

What is your favorite piece of music from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Paganini Violin Concerto No.1

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My most challenging moments are always learning new, difficult pieces with a teacher. It can be so hard in the beginning, but it always gets better!

What is your biggest musical achievement?
Finding the best friends and music lovers in my life

Favorite thing about teaching?
I love giving a lot of examples during my classes when I am teaching!

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Practice slowly and correctly and every day!

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
I am also very involved in Middle Eastern folk music!

 

Unique Gifts for the Musically Minded

Shop Philly for the Holidays!

Studios in Fishtown and South Philly
In-Home Lessons in Philadelphia and The Main Line

gift certificates

 Gift Certificates from Philly Music Lessons

The holidays are nearly here! Help someone pay for the lessons they’ve been dreaming about for months. We have affordable private lessons in-home or at our studio in Philly. Music gift certificates make unique presents for all ages, while allowing you to support Philly musicians, educators, and the arts. Nourish someone’s creative pursuits, or encourage a new passion this year!

Contact Us for Gift Certificates

Great Gifts Under $20:

$40 and up:

  • 2 + Lessons starting at $52.50 (first lesson is still half-price). Request to purchase any number of lessons to help someone out with their musical studies.
  • 1 Month of Lessons starting around $120 (includes 1 at trial rate). Exact price depends on lesson duration and location.
  • Season Package of Lessons (10 lessons) – 10% off 10 lessons. Rates vary depending on duration and location. Starting at $315.
  • Voucher for Music Instrument Rentals (3 month minimum) – Price varies depending on instrument and size. Rentals start at $69 for the 3 months. Guitars, violins, cellos, uprights, brass, and woodwinds.

Private instruction at Philly Music Lessons begins at age 4, and caters to all ages and skill levels. Where we teach.

How it works:

  • Fill out the form below or Email Us with any questions.
  • We’ll get back to you within 1 business day.
  • After confirming your order, an invoice will be emailed to you.
  • The gift certificate can be emailed to you as a printable pdf (preferred method), or a gift card can be mailed
  • The gift recipient can contact us at any time after the holidays to redeem their gift certificate.
  • We will work directly with the gift recipient to find a teacher who can cater to their individual interests and can work with their schedule.

Gift Certificate

Please fill out the form below to get started. We'll get in touch with you shortly after we receive your submission to finalize the gift certificate amount. If you'd rather speak on the phone you can call us at (215) 645-0405.
  • Choose anything that fits what you're looking for! We'll contact you after your submission to finalize the gift certificate amount. Prices vary depending on lesson duration and location. The first lesson is always half-price!
  • Continue below if purchasing private lessons:

  • Piano, Drums, Guitar, Bass, Violin, Viola, Cello, Saxophone, Trumpet, Clarinet, Ukulele, Banjo, Voice, Flute, Trombone, and more.
  • We service all neighborhoods in Philadelphia, as well as the Main Line and other surrounding areas.
  • For in-home lessons, please provide the gift recipient's address. You can leave this part blank if you don't know. We'll obtain this information after the gift recipient contacts us to set up lessons.
  • If you're not sure, you can leave this part blank.
  • We'd love to hear more about the gift-recipient's interests, skill-level, or anything else you'd like to share. We use this information to help select the best teacher for them to work with!