Notes On A Staff


Hello everybody! Our focus in Fretboard Theory this time around will be the notes on the staff. Maybe even throw in a major scale. Then we’ll see where we go to from there.

It’s been a few days since I blogged but they’ve been a busy several days! Mostly I’ve worked on getting the GuitarTheoryWIthMike blog and website up and going and circulating as far and wide as possible. So far that is going well.

I’ve received lots of feedback and so far the response to giving you a simplified overview of Fretboard Theory has been very well received. It’s been suggested that I start throwing in some Gear Review pieces now and then, plus an occasional Buyers Guide for guitars. I know those may be outside the scope of GuitarTheoryWithMike but if that is what my readers want, so be it.

Just leave me a note in the comments section below about this, or anything else. Let me know what’s on your mind!


Staff Notes

The last couple of lessons we’ve brought out the staffs, the Treble Clef, the Bass Clef and the Grand Clef. We’ve talked about Time Signature and Key Signature. For our discussions in this lesson we will assume that we’re in 4/4 time. Just as an aside, 4/4 time is so common, it is often called common time and is shown as


Common Time

and should not be confused with a similar symbol, cut time, which means 4/4 time, cut in half.


Cut Time Symbole

Cut Time SIgnature

To the right is the cut time symbol on the staff.


Notes Of The Treble Clef

Like the Bass Clef, the Treble Clef has five lines enclosing four spaces. Each line and each space has a note value. In the Treble Clef, the notes on the lines, from bottom to top, are E, G, B, D and F. An easy way to remember this is to take the acronym E G B D F as meaning Every Good Boy Does Fine.

The notes on the spaces are F, A, C and E, or remember it simply as F A C E. Notice below that sometimes the notes extend beyond the bounds of the staff, as in the G and A. The G is drawn in its space, if you will. The A will need the ledger line drawn and the note placed on it.

Likewise, notes can extend below the bottom E of the Treble Clef and would be placed in the staff in the same way. The low D would be drawn next to the line but the full body of the note below the line.

Treble Clef Notes





The Bass Clef also has five lines and four spaces.

The notes of the Bass Clef on the lines are G B D F A, or Good Boys Do Fine Always. The spaces are A C E G – All Cows Eat Grass. The same rules about notes that extend beyond the bounds of the clef apply to the Bass Clef.

Bass Clef Notes




If you draw the Grand Clef – both clefs together – you will see that the note that is exactly in the middle of the Treble Clef and the Bass Clef has been drawn on a ledger line. This note is C, or middle C since it corresponds to the middle staff line of the Grand Staff.

Middle C





The Game Plan

This is the game plan for what I am about to teach you. First, I will show you the Major Scale and how it is put together and what it looks like on the staff and on the guitar. I will show you how the scale is broken into steps and how those steps will construct the Major Chord.

Next I will show you the same for the Minor Scale and lastly, for the Major/Minor scales with Sevenths. After we do that for three select keys, we will play our first song together. How about that? Okay. But first, I’ll show you the Major Scale, then we’ll take a break.


The Major Scale

A major scale will consist of eight notes built upon a root. The scale will get its name from the root plus the type of scale it is. If the root is the note C and is a major scale, then its name will be C Major.

Remember how we talked about intervals and that there were half-steps and whole-steps? That’s how a scale is constructed: it is a series of whole and half steps. The major scale, regardless of the root, consists of two whole steps, one half step, three whole steps and one half step that resolves to the octave of the root.

The C Major scale is C D E F G A B C. Looking at it on a clef, it looks like this. The last two notes are left for you as an exercise.

C Major Scale






It should look like this:

C Major Scale-2





So to construct the Major Scale, we take: a whole step, a whole step,  a half step, a whole step, a whole step, a whole step then a half step. It can be said to be: two whole steps, a half step, three whole steps and a half step. The scale can also be broken into steps 1 through 7:

W  W  h  W  W  W  h

1    2   3   4   5   6    7  where you learn and understand that there is a half step after 2 and a half step after 6 for a Major Scale.

To The Neck

So what does a C Major scale look like on the guitar. The illustration below shows it on a guitar neck diagram and includes the first three frets of the guitar neck.


The O’s on the diagram represent where you would finger and/or play a note. The O on the nut means you would play that open string. If there were no O there, you would not play the note.The notes of the scale are also shown within the O’s.

In a diagram like this with three frets and open strings, your left third finger would hold the fret at fret 3, your left second finger would hold the fret at fret 2, and your left first finger would hold the fret at fret 1. The open strings are, well, played open and require no fretting, at least not in this case.

The numbers along the bottom correspond to the fret number on the neck. At fret number 3 of the second string from the bottom you will find a C note. So, to play the C Major Scale begin there, then the open third string, fret 2 of the third string, fret 3 of the third string, open fourth string, second fret fourth string, open fifth string, fret 1 fifth string, fret 3 fifth string, open sixth string, fret 1 sixth string and fret 3 sixth string. Use your left finger to hold the string down on the fret. Try not to let it buzz. If it does, keep on trying. You’ll eventually get it. For now, with your right hand and your pick, pluck each note downward.

Be sure to learn the C Major scale, how a scale is constructed from the root note on the Treble Clef, then how the C Major scale is constructed on the guitar neck. It seems like a lot, but once you do it once, you can do it for every note.

When we resume next issue, we’ll discuss a couple of valuable things you need to know, then we’ll tackle constructing the C Minor chord.

Coming up next… Diagrams, Tabs and C Minor

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