Basics of Music Theory For Beginners

Basics of Music Theory For Beginners

In this lesson, you are going to learn the basics of music theory for beginners.  When it comes to music theory and mapping out the guitar fretboard, it all starts with the musical alphabet.  This is also called the chromatic scale.  This is the 12 notes that all western music is derived from.  No matter if it’s Pop, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country, etc.  It all comes fro the 12 notes of the music alphabet.

The music alphabet

Consider the music alphabet the roots of the tree of music.  A tree has roots under the ground that form the tree trunk and branches are formed from that.  So if the musical alphabet or chromatic scale is the roots of the music tree, we’ll say it has 12 roots.  These roots are:


the music alphabet


have two letters, is that they are the same note.  They are decided by which way you are moving along the music scale.  If you are going up the scale the note would be sharp.  If you are moving down the scale the note would be considered flat. Think fo a car tire.  When it goes flat it goes down.

So for instance, if you were moving up the scale from A, the next note would be A#.  But if you were moving down the scale from B the next note would be Bb.  Same note different name.  It just depends on the direction you are moving along the scale.

Twelve sacred notes

Like I stated earlier, the 12 notes are what create all western music.  Like the regular 26 letter alphabet is to a writer of books, so are these 12 notes to all writers of music.  Since this is the case, you want to make sure you memorize these 12 notes.  These will be the 12 colors that your artistic vision will paint with.  The 12 words that your next music book will be written with.

Also, take note of the fact that every note has a sharp/flat after it except the B and E.  This is very important to remember.  So if you are on the B note going up the scale, your next note will be the C note.  If you are on the E note and going up the scale, your next note will be the F note.  All other notes will have a sharp after them going up the scale.  Remember, these 12 notes are the roots of the music tree.

tree roots

Half step and whole steps

The chromatic scale or musical alphabet can be broken down into half step s and whole steps.  This will be the frets on your guitar fretboard. A half step is one fret and a whole step is two frets.  So, if we look at the music alphabet, we can see that there is one fret between the A and A#, but there are two frets between the A and B notes.  This is very important to know as it will teach you where your notes reside on your guitar fretboard.  And it is this knowledge that will help you to understand music theory.

Watch the video lesson below

Music theory can really help out your guitar playing.  No matter if you are playing rhythm guitar, or if you are playing guitar solos.  Learning to understand how music theory relates to your guitar playing will only make you better.  So remember your note locations, whole steps, and half steps.  One fret, two frets, and if you are moving three frets, that would be a step in a half.

Guitar string notes

notes on the guitar fretboard


As you can see from this diagram, the chromatic scale is on all six strings.  In the exact order that we learned earlier in this music theory lesson.  The only difference is that each string starts with a different note.  The reason for this is because every guitar string has a different name.

When reading music diagrams, you want to remember that they are presented upside down.  The reason for this is that the lowest note in music will always be on the bottom, but the lowest note on your guitar will be on the top string.  The E string.  This can make reading music very difficult.  Especially for us guitar players.

So if you can remember this, you’ll be ok.  As you can see from the diagram, the guitar strings are E B G D A & E.  And since it presented upside down from your guitar, that means that the smallest string is the E the second smallest is the B and so forth.

The thing you want to remember is that if you are on the E string you will start the chromatic scale with the E note and proceed forward.  If you are on the D string you want to start with that note.  The same thing goes for the other strings.  The great thing about this is that the music alphabet is always in the same order no matter where you start on it.  So remember this.

Additional training

The guitar is not always easy to learn, and learning to understand music theory takes, even more, will power and dedication.  But if you are determined to learn it, you can.  And you can do it easier with the book  Rhythm Guitar Alchemy.

Rhythm Guitar Alchemy

In this book, you will learn to understand the inner working of music notes and how they relate to guitar chords.  This will not only improve your musicianship, but it will also teach you notation, chord construction, intervals and how to improve your rhythm guitar playing overall.

All done in s simple step-by-step method that will give you the tools necessary to unlock mysteries of the fretboard.  Learn musical concepts and principles that most guitar players never learn.  Develop your ear to hear notes and chord shapes.  Learn how to add color and emotion to your playing and songwriting while having fun in the process.  Rhythm Guitar Alchemy will teach you all this and more.

Lesson conclusion

When it comes to music theory, it is an ongoing learning experience.  One that you will need to study time and time again to fully understand it.  The reason for this is because music is a language and like any other language it can’t be learned overnight.  But if you study the basics that I have taught here in this guitar lesson, you will begin to build a solid foundation for future study to stand on.

Remember, it all starts with 12 notes of the musical alphabet.  The music tree roots as I call them.  Memorize these notes, get them etched into your brain and go about learning how to use them to create your guitar magic.

And if you haven’t already, I recommend you grab my FREE training-guide Beginner Guitar Secrets to help you get moving in the right direction having fun playing the guitar.

Also, if you feel that taking private lessons can help you further and you’re located within the Denver, CO metro area, reach out to get on the schedule to accelerate your learning.

Until our next lesson, keep practicing and take care.

Dwayne Jenkins

Dwayne Jenkins