The music that we listen to has a total of twelve notes and comprises the musical alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). When we talk about scales, we are referring to two things: major and minor. On the guitar, every semitone is separated by a "fret". We will start by focusing on the first four frets and cover all six strings. Begin with the low "E" open string, then play each semitone (first fret, second, fret, etc.). Then move to the fifth string, "A", and repeat until you get to the first string, or the high "E".
One of the most famous symbols in musical notation is the treble clef. Placed at the beginning of the staff, it will denote the pitch and the name. Generally, the F (bass) and G (treble) clefs are the most common, and they are what we will use throughout our lessons.
The treble clef is used by such instruments as the mandolin, violin, and guitar. Vocalists such as sopranos, tenors, and altos will also look to the treble clef.
Here is the treble clef (also referred to as the G clef):
Conversely, the bass clef is used for low-note instruments such as the trombone, bassoon, and bass guitar.
Here is the bass clef (also referred to as the F clef):
Now we will move on to key signatures. It is important to have a least a fundamental understanding of notation; this is especially important if you are learning to sight-read. Let's start off with some basics. If a song calls for one step higher in pitch (or "raised" a half-step), it is denoted by a sharp. (The notes "E" and "B" are enharmonically equivalent, meaning that E-sharp = F and B-sharp = C.)
Here is an example of a raised semitone:
Conversely, if a song calls for one step lower in pitch ( or lowered a half-step), then it is denoted by a flat. (The notes "C" and "G" are enharmonically equivalent, meaning that C-flat = B and G-flat = F-sharp)
Here is an example of a lowered semitone:
From here on out, we will use the terms "half-step" and "semitone" interchangeably. Here are some examples of key signatures.
The circle of fifths is one of the most helpful ways to visualize the relationship of the chromatic scale. When we speak of fifths in music, we are referring to a ratio of sequential tonalities - the circle of fifths beautifully shows that relationship between pitches. Here is an pictorial example of it:
In the diagram, C major is at the top of the circle as it has neither sharps nor flats. If a song had only one sharp, we are in the key of G (think C, D, E, F, G). If a song had two sharps, then we pick up from G (remember G has one sharp) and count five full notes to arrive at D (G, A, B, C, D).
Let's try to go the other way now. Again starting at C, let's see what the key is for a song with one flat. This time, we must go the opposite direction and count five notes to arrive at F (C, B, A, G, F). And if the song had two flats, we count five notes (backwards) from F to arrive at B (F, E, D, C, B).