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Clearing Up Confusion (Guitar Lesson)

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Steve Eulberg

Clearing Up Confusion

In this lesson Steve attempts to clear up some confusion with previous lessons. He will talk about reading tablature, note names, chord names and more.

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Basic Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 15:52Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (15:52) Clear Up Confusion: ABC's and 123's Many members have written in and expressed their confusion regarding topics such as tablature, string names, and note names. With all of the numbers, letters, and symbols that are used in guitar music, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. Steve has taken this lesson as an opportunity to clear up some of the confusion that many members are experiencing.

Finger Numbers

Open the video capture entitled "Frets, Fingers, and Chords." This image is located under the "Supplemental Content" tab. On his marker board, Steve has drawn a left hand with the palm facing up. When a specific left hand fingering is designated within a tablature score, each finger is assigned a letter or number. The left hand thumb is always indicated by an uppercase letter "T." The index finger is labeled as "1." The middle finger is labeled "2." The ring finger is assigned the number "3." Finally, the pinkie is labeled as finger "4." The left hand fingering for a specific chord or note is usually indicated directly below the tablature staff. This prevents guitarists from confusing the left hand fingering with the fret numbers listed on the tablature lines.

Piano Confusion

If you have experience playing the piano, this number system is probably quite confusing. Pianists refer to the thumb as finger "1." Consequently, the index finger is labeled "2," and so on.

Left Hand Fingering and Standard Notation

In standard notation, the left hand fingering for a note is usually indicated directly to the right of the note head. The numbering system listed above remains the same for standard notation.

Fret Numbers

When reading tablature, the numbers written on the lines indicate fret locations. For example, a "0" indicates that a string should be played open. A "3" indicates that a string should be played at the third fret.

The number of frets available varies from guitar to guitar. Classical guitars and steel string acoustics have 19 or 20 frets. On classical guitars, the neck joins the body at the 12th fret. The neck joins the body on steel string acoustics at the 14th fret.

Electric guitars have 21, 22, or 24 frets. The Ibanez company recently began to produce a guitar that features 27 frets. Regardless of how many frets an electric guitar has, the neck typically joins the body around the 17th fret.


The musical alphabet repeats itself every 12 frets on the guitar guitar. For example, the open first string (smallest string) produces the note E. An E note is also located at the 12th fret of the same string. These notes produce the same pitch. The note at the 12th fret is simply played in a higher range or octave.

Proper Fingering for First Position

Almost all of the melodies and single note exercises that Steve has presented in this lesson are played in "first position." Position refers to the location of the fretboard where the left hand plays. In first position, the appropriate left hand finger corresponds to each fret number. For example, finger 1 plays at the 1st fret. Finger 2 plays at the 2nd fret. All notes at the 3rd fret are played by finger 3. Finally, finger 4 frets all notes at the 4th fret.

Chords and Roman Numerals

A chord is usually identified by its letter name and quality. For example, G7 is a chord that has been discussed in this series. The root note or letter name of the chord is G. The "7" written after the letter name indicates the quality or type of G chord. A "7" written directly after the root note indicates a dominant seventh chord.

Frequently, Roman numerals are used instead of letter names when referencing a specific chord progression. Roman numerals indicate which scale degree a chord is built from. The C major scale contains seven distinct notes - C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. A triad (chord containing three notes) can be built from each note in the scale. The Roman numeral assigned to each chord is based upon its order in the scale. Study the list of chords built from the C major scale below.

I – C Major: C, E, G
ii – D Minor: D, F, A
iii – E Minor: E, G, B
IV – F Major: F, A, C
V – G Major: G, B, D
vi – A Minor: A, C, E
vii – B Diminished: B, D, F

Uppercase Roman numerals are used for chords built around a major or augmented triad. Lowercase Roman numerals indicate a chord that is built from a minor or diminished triad.

Note Names

There are seven note names in the musical alphabet - A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Once G is reached, the alphabet simply repeats again in the same order. These note names represent the white keys on the piano. Each of these notes can be written with a sharp or flat. Sharp or flat notes are played on the black keys of the piano.

Pattern of Whole and Half Steps

The distance between each pair of adjacent notes in the musical alphabet is measured in intervals called whole steps and half steps. Sometimes, these intervals are respectively referred to as tones and semitones. A half step occurs between the notes B and C as well as between E and F. These notes are located one fret apart on the fretboard. A whole step occurs between the remaining pairs of notes. A whole step is represented by two frets on the guitar.

Enharmonic Notes

Several notes in the musical alphabet can be written in a few different ways. Enharmonic notes are notes that are written differently but sound the same when played. For example a Cb produces the same pitch as the note B. A# and Bb are also examples of enharmonic notes.

Note Locations on the Fretboard

Using the pattern of half and whole steps, draw out a diagram of the guitar fretboard and write in all of the correct note names. Once you reach the 12th fret on any given string, the pattern of notes simply repeats over again. Say each note aloud as you write it. When multiple brain functions are combined in a single activity, the material is learned and stored in the most efficient manner. Also, draw where the inlays occur on your fretboard. This will help you visualize the fretboard in relation to all of the note names and their appropriate locations. Check your work with the diagram located in the "Supplemental Content" section of Mark Brennan's third Phase 1 lesson.

Say It and Play It

After correcting any mistakes you might have made, say each note aloud as you play it on the guitar. This exercise will greatly improve your knowledge of note locations.

Send Us Your Questions!

As always, feel free to email Steve with any questions or comments that you might have. You can also leave questions and comments with Steve in the "Comments" section of the lesson or on Steve's forum.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Supplemental Learning Material



Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

DL8149DL8149 replied

I like your lessons, Steve. Your lessons are always so direct, clear and easy to follow. So much better than a lot of the others I've run across on this site. I personally have never bothered with tabs because I want to learn music theory not positions. But keep up the great work. I enjoy your approach. BTW, not that it matters, but I play a T386 and a PRS SE Standard. And love them both.

drx1drx1 replied

Audio comes back on at the end but Steve is relegated to a mime for 6 plus minutes.

drx1drx1 replied

Audio drops out completely at 9:25 - QC asleep on this one.

guloguloguyguloguloguy replied

Obviously,'s probably a very good thing to do= to try to "memorize" ALL of the note names associated with all of the fret positions, as this would help one to find any given note that is most easily reached, while playing, but, that may take some time to memorize, (like learning a "multiplication table", etc. Is such a memory feat absolutely necessary in order to progress in one's guitar playing abilities?....

dhyanashadhyanasha replied

Thanks Steve, I`m looking foreward to see if tablature makes sense to me now!

lisismelisisme replied

This was helpful! Thanks!

pckeenpckeen replied

Steve -loved this series - Could you add a single video lesson, that contains all the theory you interspersed throughout the lessons. I'm trying to go back to different points of theory, becuase I'm getting what was taught earlier, and want to confirm I've understood correctly...but I can't always find the theory that you have taught without a lot of searching.

jsteedjsteed replied

Thanks steve ,good refresher lesson

petermcgpetermcg replied

RE Lesson 17 "Clearing up Confusion", you suggest printing out the chart of the fretboard strings but there is nothing to print out in the supplemental info section~!

scroogescrooge replied

Print can also mean hand written print

jboothjbooth replied

Fixing that right now, thanks!

blewcroweblewcrowe replied

Not quite getting the roman numeral thing. Think I get the tablature but sure would be nice to see some examples of tab music.

ksclarkksclark replied

is first fret always half step from open except for b, and e? ie: open a is a, so a on fret 1 is a sharp correct?

mstewart85mstewart85 replied

Hi Steve: In this lesson you suggested writing out a chart of the notes on the fret board. I took that a big step forward. With white fingernail polish I wrote every note on my guitar fret board. I find it very helpful. I have a fairly inexpensive guitar that I had set up.

mazzystarlettemazzystarlette replied

Great lesson, still unclear on the Roman Numerals though.

phillymphillym replied

Hi Steve, You are the best teacher on Jamplay. Your lessons are clear, informative and I love that your personality is not what you are tying to teach.

buffy136buffy136 replied

hi steve , one way I got through the abc notes is first I had to know what the names of the 6 strings so I say to myself the are 2 e's top and bottom strings,no problem there but for the 4 others I made up a sentence A Dog Got Bit (ADGB) so now I can find them easy

sendbahtsendbaht replied

Steve, will you please move to Thailand and become my private teacher? PLEASE!! You are to best I have ever seen. This was as stated above, "very useful lesson"!

greenogreeno replied

Very useful lesson Steve. Good job.

Basic Guitar with Steve Eulberg

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Phase 1 Acoustic Lessons with Steve Eulberg is a great place to begin your journey as a guitarist. With over 30 years of playing experience, Steve appreciates the importance of beginning your guitar training the correct way - no bad habits! These lessons are not just for acoustic players. Electric guitarists will receive the same benefits from this lesson series.

The Absolute BasicsLesson 1

The Absolute Basics

You will learn the parts of the guitar and how they function. Steve also discusses the importance of technique.

Length: 45:09 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Your First ChordsLesson 2

Your First Chords

Three simple chords will literally enable you to play millions of songs. In this lesson, you will learn the primary chords for the key of G.

Length: 40:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Strumming TechniqueLesson 3

Strumming Technique

Now that Steve has taught some chords, he will go over the proper methods of strumming and right hand technique.

Length: 42:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
All About ChordsLesson 4

All About Chords

This lesson is all about the various aspects of chords.

Length: 39:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Chord TheoryLesson 5

Chord Theory

Steve explains how basic triads are formed in this lesson. He also explains the relationship between scales and chords.

Length: 40:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Intro to FingerpickingLesson 6

Intro to Fingerpicking

Steve Eulberg introduces you to the wonderful world of fingerpicking.

Length: 51:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Bringing it TogetherLesson 7

Bringing it Together

Steve starts to weave the strings of the past lessons together.

Length: 47:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Chords, Keys and RelationshipsLesson 8

Chords, Keys and Relationships

This episode delves further in the realm of chords, scales, keys and the relationships between them. You will also learn some new chords.

Length: 34:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Barre ChordsLesson 9

Barre Chords

This lesson covers power chords and barre chords. You will learn how these chords are formed and how to apply them.

Length: 38:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Tools for GuitarLesson 10

Tools for Guitar

Steve explains how basic tools such as the metronome, capo, and picks aid your guitar playing. Enjoy!

Length: 27:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Playing Lead and ScalesLesson 11

Playing Lead and Scales

This lesson gets you into the basics of playing melodies on the guitar. Playing melodies and solos is often referred to as "lead guitar."

Length: 45:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Hand StretchesLesson 12

Hand Stretches

Steve demonstrates some great stretches for the hands, wrists and upper arms.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Different GuitarsLesson 13

Different Guitars

Steve discusses the difference between the steel string acoustic, classical, and 12 string guitars.

Length: 12:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Changing Guitar StringsLesson 14

Changing Guitar Strings

This lesson is all about changing guitar strings. This process can be very frustrating, but it doesn't have to be. Learn some great tips from Steve.

Length: 37:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Timing and TempoLesson 15

Timing and Tempo

Steve Eulberg delves into the wonderful world of rhythm and time signatures.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Circle of FifthsLesson 16

Circle of Fifths

Steve Eulberg introduces the Circle of Fifths. He demonstrates a song that features a Circle of Fifths progression.

Length: 15:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Clearing Up ConfusionLesson 17

Clearing Up Confusion

In this lesson Steve attempts to clear up some confusion with previous lessons. He will talk about reading tablature, note names, chord names and more.

Length: 15:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Review and Moving OnLesson 18

Review and Moving On

Steve Eulberg does a quick review of this lesson series and talks about moving on.

Length: 12:44 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Completing LessonsLesson 19

Completing Lessons

Steve answers the popular question, "When should I move on to the next lesson?" by sharing his personal goals and some important advice.

Length: 6:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Steve Eulberg

About Steve Eulberg View Full Biography An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.

He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.

Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.

While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.

Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.

Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the “sweet music” of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.

In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.

Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.

Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).

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