the notes on the low e string

Congratulations! You’ve arrived at the sixth and final string. I hope that you’re familiar with the material presented in the previous lessons on music reading. If you aren’t I strongly recommend that go back and get hip now, by going back and studying Lessons Five, Seven, Ten, Fourteen, and Seventeen. If you are up to speed then let’s go ahead and learn the final three notes you’ll be introduced to in the course, and you can walk away with the satisfaction of having gained a solid foundation in reading music in open position.

Notes On The Low E String

By this point you are familiar with how to apply the new notes. E is open, F is on the first fret, and G is on the third. As always, use the fretting-hand finger that corresponds to the fret number. It is however time to introduce a couple of other new concepts. First, we’re going to be talk about “accidentals”. Here they are:


These guys will occasionally appear before a note, and will definitely make your music reading life a lot more interesting. “Sharps” raise a given note by a half-step, while “flats” lower the note by a half-step. It is very important to note that a sharp or a flat will remain active until the end of a measure, unless cancelled out by a “natural”. The end of a measure means that any notes that were played sharp or flat in the previous measure will now be played normally. In short, an accidental can be cancelled out in one of two ways, by a natural or by a bar line indicating the beginning of a new measure. For now we’ll only deal with sharps, but you should definitely be familiar with all of them.

It’s also high time you learned a couple of new chords to add to your arsenal, so below you will find two new friends, Emi & B7. Here they are. Look closely and I think you’ll be able to determine which finger should stay put when making the switch!

Emi & B7

I want you to play this dark little piece with some flair, so I’m going to introduce you to a couple of new friends. They will be showing up in the final two bars of the piece. The first is called a fermata, and it looks like this:


The fermata tells us to let a note ring out for longer than what is written. It’s not definitive, but a good guideline is twice as long as usual, so a quarter note would get two counts. Let the one at the end of the piece sustain until it’s done. The other thing you’ll notice is a new term, “ritard”. This simply means to slow down. Really dig in and try and make the ending nice and dramatic. One other thing is at the end of the fourth measure you will notice a double bar-line with two dots facing left. This is a repeat sign, and it simply tells you to repeat from the beginning. After playing the repeat you'll continue through the rest of the piece.

The Ghost Of Open Position

Great work in getting this far! You should now be comfortable with basic reading on all six strings in the open position on your guitar, which puts you miles ahead of most guitarists, many of whom are household names. I encourage you to continue reading all the music you can get your hands on. Know that you're not limited to pieces that were written for the guitar. When you can read music you can play pieces that were written for any instrument. I like working on Bach Inventions for the piano as duets with my students, but there are so many options for the literate musician to choose from that it's really limitless. Have fun, and continue to cultivate this new skill!