Guitar 101 – Standard tuning, chromatic scales, sequence of notes, fretboard

Know the open string notes of the guitar when tuned to Standard tuning. Use the Note sequence on each string, with the knowledge of what each open string note is. This gives us the notes on the whole fretboard on any string. When the sequence of notes is played as a scale, we get the chromatic scale. Playing the chromatic scale with appropriate fingering is a good exercise for the fingers and to understand the guitar fretboard.

Above shown are the notes on a guitar fretboard when the guitar is tuned to standard tuning.

The column corresponding to '0' on the above diagram shows the notes of 'open strings' when the guitar is tuned to standard tuning. Open string just means playing the string without pressing the string at any fret. (frets are the divisions you seen on the guitar).

Guitar Standard Tuning

In Standard tuning, the thinnest string (usually called the 'first string' – bottom most on guitar and topmost on the above diagram) is tuned to a E4 note. When the string is sounded without pressing the string at any fret (open), the note sounded is a E4.

The thickest string is tuned to a E2 note (called the 6th string – top most on the guitar, bottom most on the above picture).

Here is the full table of notes to which each open string is tuned to in Standard tuning. Remember that 1st string has the highest frequency, bottom most on the guitar and thinnest. 6th is the top most on the guitar and thickest in dimension.

Guitar strings frequencies and notes

String Note Frequency Scientific pitch notation
1 e' 329.63 Hz E4
2 b 246.94 Hz B3
3 g 196.00 Hz G3
4 d 146.83 Hz D3
5 A 110.00 Hz A2
6 E  82.41 Hz E2

String frequencies for a few other instruments

Middle C is C4=261.6Hz Standard tuning fork A is A4=440Hz
Piano range is A0=27.50Hz to C8=4186Hz
Guitar strings are E2=82.41Hz, A2=110Hz, D3=146.8Hz, G3=196Hz, B3=246.9Hz, E4=329.6Hz
Bass guitar strings are (5th string) B0=30.87Hz, (4th string) E1=41.20Hz, A1=55Hz, D2=73.42Hz, G2=98Hz
Mandolin & violin strings are G3=196Hz, D4=293.7Hz, A4=440Hz, E5=659.3Hz

How to find notes on any fret on any string of the guitar

The sequence of notes

The box shows the series of notes, the sequence followed in western music.

A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# (using sharp)

OR (same notes different name)

A Bb B C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab (using flat)

E# is F. B# is C.

A# and Bb are the same note, C# and Db are the same note, D# and Eb are the same note on the fret board etc…  Using sharp on the note before and using flat on the note after, we are pointing to the same note, frequency wise. Therefore, A# and Bb and other # and flat combinations which point to the same note, are called enharmonic.

Sequence of notes on the guitar

The 12th frets are an octave above the open (unfretted) notes.

This means if you are playing an A note, the immediate next  fret is the note A# (or Bb). The fret just before A has the note Ab (A flat) or G# (G sharp).

Have a look at the standard tuning. The open note on each string is given, or defined in a standard tuning.

The thinnest string (first string) open sounds a E note. To find the first fret note on first string, just look at the sequence of notes. F follows E according to the sequence. So on the first string of the guitar, after the open string E note, the first fret should be the F note.

The standard tuning gives you the starting points on each string – what are the notes sounded when each string is played without pressing on any fret. Then use the sequence of notes, and find the next notes for each fret.

The chromatic scale

The sequence of notes when played as a scale gives us the chromatic scale. E chromatic scale would be E F F# G G# ……D D# E

Chromatic scale fingering

Here are the notes on each string for the first 4 frets, found by starting with the open note, and counting each fret according the sequence of notes.

  open 1st fret (index) 2nd fret (middle) 3rd fret (ring) 4th fret (little)
1st string e' f' f' g' a'
2nd string b c' c' d' e'
3rd string g a a b
4th string d e e f f
5th string A B B c c
6th string E F F G A
Chromatic note progression

Start playing it from the 6th string open, then F on the 6th string etc… After Ab on 4th fret of 6th string, play A, 5th string open and continue playing the notes on the 5th string. continue till you reach Ab on 4th fret of 1st string.

Wikipedia article on standard tuning.

Posted in GTM, Guitar
2 comments on “Guitar 101 – Standard tuning, chromatic scales, sequence of notes, fretboard
  1. Larry says:

    In the frequency chart shouldn’t those hz numbers be multiplied by something? – possibly x4 for the A string?

    • Shyam Monk says:

      Hello Larry, according to what I have understood, tuning fork A is A4=440Hz, which you may find on viola and tenor banjo (C3 G3 D4 A4), though on standard tuned guitar, the bass string A has the A2 note = 110Hz. On bass guitar, it could be A1 = 55Hz. Please correct me if am wrong. Thank you very much.

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