Welcome to the first lesson of for Beginners. This lesson’s target is for you to be able to play the track below:
To do this, you must understand the following basic knowledge:
As you can see in this sheet music we have two staffs (or staves) in every system. The upper staff is a standard note staff with 5 lines and 4 spaces. The lower staff consists of 6 lines which represent the 6 different strings on a guitar and we call it tablature or tab-fingering staff. The lowest line represents the 6th string on guitars and the highest line represents the 1st string. The upper staff begins with a violin clef and we add notes in the standard way, while the tab-fingering staff begins with the letters TAB and is a specific way for marking which string on which fret we are playing. In tablature we use numbers to represent frets and lines which represents strings. So, when there is a number 1 on 1st line that means we should play the 1st string on 1st fret. Zero means that we just play the open string on which it is written.
While numbers in tab-fingering staff represent frets on specific strings, the numbers in the standard note staff represents left hand fingerings. So number 1 will be index finger, number 2 will be middle finger, 3 – ring finger and 4 will be little finger. In beginning level of learning guitar we do not use a thumb. The thumb in left hand only gives us position of left hand on fingerboard.
Here is a list of every note with tab-fingering below that we are playing in the lowest positions:
Here is position of notes that we are playing on fretboard divided on stings:
Here is an example of the note F on the 1st string of the 1st fret:
Note duration is relative and depends on the main tempo of the composition. This is written above the notes at the beginning of the composition. So, this composition is in a “Slow tempo” and means that one quarter is about one second long.
Here is a list of basic sound duration which is relative to tempo:
The sound duration (relative value to Slow tempo)
- Whole note: 4 seconds sound duration
- Half Note: 2s (= 1/2 Whole note)
- Quarter Note: 1s (= 1/2 Half note)
- Eighth note: 0.5s (= 1/2 Quarter note)
Look at the diagram below to visualize the time length value of the notes.
When two or more Eighth notes stand together, we can group them by the beams connecting the note tails.
The track above has 3 types of notes: Whole note, Half Note, and Quarter Note. You should notice the estimated sound duration of each note to play them correctly.
At the beginning of the track, we often see the time signature almost like fractions: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. Please consider them as fractions. We have a numerator (number on top) and denominator (number on bottom).
- Numerator indicates the beat of 1 bar.
- Denominator shows the length value of the beat. Calculate by having the semibreve (whole note) divided by denominator.
Beat 3/4 has 3 beats in a bar. Each beat has its length value equal to 1/4 of a whole note or 1 black note. First beat in bars is strong beat!
Analyzing the track above
The track above has a 4/4 beat. That means 4 beats in one bar. Each beat has the length value equal to 1 black note. The first beat is a strong beat; the 3 later beats are light ones.
Note: As the first bar has only 2 beats and is missing 2 beats. It is called a pickup bar. The pickup bar often starts the track and does not need to be full of notes.
Tap your foot: at the first note of beat, you tap your foot. To help you enjoy practicing more, I wrote “the foot tap” (+) above the staffs. Each symbol (+) is one foot-tap. The time gap between the two foot taps is the same.
Note: You can practice foot-taps several times to get used to it before combining it with playing the guitar.
After having read this theory, you can go back to the top and begin practicing. To help you get comfortable with the notes look at the staff below with the tab-fingering. In the right hand it is better to use a plectrum with picking on the down stroke only. Watch closely: the 3rd fret on the fret board doesn’t mean that we always play with the 3rd (ring) finger. Sometimes it is better to use the 4th (little) finger instead such as in this tune.
1) For homework You can add the proper numbers for frets in the tab-fingering staff below:
2) Look for a relationship between these two exercises. Also, complete the same exercise below. Compare these notes with the list of notes and tab-fingering in lowest positions given on the 2nd. page:
You need to complete these 2 exercises smoothly in 1 week before starting lesson 2!
 Tab-fingering staff with 6 lines represents guitar with 6 strings, while tab-fingering staff with 4 lines represents bass-guitar with 4 strings. Also there are bass-guitars with 5 strings and guitars with 7 strings so for that kind of instruments we will use analogue number of lines in tab-fingering staff. There is also issue about standard tuning. For example drop D tuning means that we tune the lowest 6th. string on note D so when we put zero on 6th. (the lowest) line in tab-fingering staff it represents the note D. There are specific way to determinate that not standard tunings but this issue is not for begging level of learning guitar. These lines are just informative.