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The Fifth and Sixth Strings (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

The Fifth and Sixth Strings

Jim covers the fifth and sixth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Music Reading seriesLength: 11:34Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (07:48) The Fifth and Sixth Strings Lesson Introduction

In the past several lessons, Jim has explained where the natural notes are located in first position. You have learned where these notes are located on the fretboard as well as how they are written on the staff. Jim finishes this process in the current lesson. This time around he explains where the natural notes are located on the fifth and sixth strings. He also explains how these notes are written on the musical staff. Your comprehension of lesson material is tested by a few reading exercises that Jim has written.

Ledger Lines

So far, the lowest note that Jim has discussed is the note D. Playing the fourth string open produces this note. This D note is written in the space just below the lowest line on the staff. As you will soon learn, there are plenty of lower notes played on the fifth and sixth strings. So, how are these notes written on the staff? Notes below this D note are written with "ledger" lines. Ledger lines are short lines that are drawn parallel to the staff. They are placed above or below the staff to indicate a continuation of the staff in either direction.

All of the notes discussed in this lesson must be written below the staff with ledger lines. At first, reading notes with ledger lines can be more difficult than reading notes on the staff. However, you will begin to recognize these notes on site with a little practice.

Notes on the Sixth String

Memorizing the notes on the sixth string is an easy process. The notes on the sixth string are identical to the notes on the first string. The notes on the sixth string are simply in a lower range.

The open sixth string (fattest string) produces the pitch E. This is the lowest note possible on guitar without changing to an alternate tuning. On the musical staff, this note is written in the space beneath the third ledger line. Take a look at Jim's Marker board to see how E is notated.

The next note in the musical alphabet is F. This note is played at the 1st fret of the sixth string. F is written directly on the third ledger line below the staff.

The next note, G, is played at the third fret of the sixth string. This note is located in the space beneath the second ledger line. Notice how a ledger line is not drawn below this note. If a note is written in a space below the staff, no ledger line needs to be written below the note to identify it.

Notes on the Fifth String

The open fifth string produces the note A. This note is located directly on the second line of the staff. Once again, refer to Jim's marker board for a visual representation of this note. The next note in the musical alphabet, B, is played at the 2nd fret of this string. B is written in the space beneath the first ledger line. Finally, C is located at the 3rd fret. It is written on the first ledger line.


Once you have learned the note names and locations for all strings, review them to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Jim will only continue to expand on this information in this lesson and the following lessons. He provides a review of all first position notes at 04:05 in the lesson video.


Jim has discussed three different G notes in first position. The 3rd fret of the sixth string produces the note G. The open third string is also an example of a G note. Finally, the 3rd fret of the first string produces a G. These notes are the same pitch. However, they are played in different ranges or octaves. The prefix "octa" means eight. An octave occurs every eight notes within a diatonic scale.

The Key of C Major

All of the notes that Jim has demonstrated on guitar are played with white keys on the piano. When the white key notes on the piano are grouped together, they form the key of C major. This key contains no sharp or flat notes. All of the notes in the scale are "natural" notes.

The C Major Scale

A scale is a collection of pitches consisting of a set pattern that begins and ends on a root note. The root note refers to the title of the scale. Thus, the root note of the C major scale is C. Earlier in this lesson, you learned that the note C can be played at the 3rd fret of the fifth string. A C note is also located at the 1st fret of the second string. To play the C major scale, begin with the C note on the fifth string. Then, ascend through the natural notes on each string until you reach C at the 1st fret of the second string. This scale spans one octave. Watch and listen carefully at 06:05 as Jim plays through the scale.

Note: Notation / tablature to the C major scale in first position is listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

When practicing any scale, always remember Steve Eulberg's mantra, "what goes up, must come down." Once the high C root note is reached, descend the scale back down to the low root note that you started with.
Chapter 2: (01:38) Fifth and Sixth String Note Exercise Jim has written a short exercise that tests your reading abilities with the fifth and sixth strings. There are no new surprises such as difficult rhythms. However, you will experience some difficulty with this exercise at first due to the ledger lines. Don't worry! After practicing this exercise several times, you will be able to identify each note by site.

Note: Open "Fifth and Sixth String Notes" in the "Supplemental Content" section.

When playing through the exercise, do not cheat yourself by reading the tablature! Print out this exercise. Then, cover the tablature with a piece of scrap paper. It is only acceptable to peak at the tablature if you get stuck and cannot decipher a specific note.
Chapter 3: (02:06) Six String Exercise At this point, you must have the locations of all the natural notes in first position memorized. You must also be able to identify each of these notes on the musical staff. In this scene, Jim puts your knowledge to the test with a new exercise.

Note: Open "All Six Strings" in the "Supplemental Content" section.

Practicing the Exercise

The first two lines list all of the natural notes in order. In the last two lines, the order of the notes is broken. Consequently, you cannot rely on finger patterns when playing through these lines. You must actually read the music.

The entire exercise is played in 4/4 time. Count the beat out loud as you play through each measure. Tap your foot along with the beat to reinforce your counting. Test your rhythmic accuracy by playing along with the JamPlay metronome. Set the tempo as slow as you need to. You can increase the tempo as you become more comfortable with the exercise.

Note: The metronome can be accessed from the "Teaching Tools" button on the left side of the homepage.

The next time you play through the exercise, do not count the beat out loud. Instead, say each note name out loud while tapping your foot. Combining multiple brain functions will enable you to learn this material in the most efficient manner possible.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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

magpie04magpie04 replied

I've always been searching for a way, other than complete memorization to remember the note names on ledger lines above and below the staff. I just rewalized that the ledger lines are reversed from how we learn (remember) lines and spaces. For instance, lines are normally E F G B D F and spaces are F A C E. That is reversed on the ledger lines. Not one teacher, from grade school on has ever taught that. Sure would have made life easier. I wonder why I never saw such a simple thing.

magpie04magpie04 replied

Sorry I meant lines are E G B D F

ceciljr40ceciljr40 replied

i dont understand what has happened to these lessons but about half of the first ones of the reading music either Jim dont move or you cant hear his voice. I have checked everything that i can think of.

ty15951ty15951 replied

Whoop Whoop! Thanks for addressing the position of the notes on the staff as they relate to the "open" position on the guitar. Very helpful for intuitively learning the notes in the first few frets of the guitar. Great place to start before moving onto Matt's series! :)

tommylamtommylam replied

jim i never know ,reading music is that music thank you very much for ur teaching

daristanydaristany replied

Looking at all those notes in different positions on the music scale are not as intimidating to me after reviewing your lessons. Thank you for teaching the basics of reading music in a basic manner so I can finally understand (or at least begin to understand) how to make some sense out of them.

daristanydaristany replied

Enter your comment here.

otterotter replied

Great lessons, thanks for making it so easy!!!

shadowblueshadowblue replied

Alright, this one's almost down

johnnysjohnnys replied

wow! Jim you make it easy, I've looked at music notes for years and been stuck. After watching these 4 lessons I can basically read music!!!

flyrerflyrer replied

Thanks Jim these lessons have been very helpful in understanding what we are playing. Russ

Music Reading

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Reading music and rhythm is the foundation for anyone serious about music. In order to understand the theory necessary to progress as a player, a basic understanding of how to read music and how to read rhythms is necessary.

Basic Notes and TheoryLesson 1

Basic Notes and Theory

Understanding notes, intervals, and scales is key to music reading. Jim proves a beginner crash course on these subjects.

Length: 18:53 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Basic Music ReadingLesson 2

Basic Music Reading

Jim covers basic music concepts such as the staff, time signatures, clefs, measures, note duration, and note representation.

Length: 16:25 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
The First Two StringsLesson 3

The First Two Strings

Jim covers the first two strings in this lesson. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 17:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
The Third and Fourth StringsLesson 4

The Third and Fourth Strings

Jim covers the third and fourth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 11:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Fifth and Sixth StringsLesson 5

The Fifth and Sixth Strings

Jim covers the fifth and sixth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 11:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Symbols, Timing, and NotesLesson 6

Symbols, Timing, and Notes

Jim Deeming explains more music symbols in this lesson. He also introduces 3/4 time and eighth notes.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Twinkle, Twinkle Little StarLesson 7

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

In this lesson Jim Deeming uses the classic song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as a music reading exercise.

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Low StringsLesson 8

The Low Strings

In this lesson Jim takes the song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and plays it on the lower strings. This is an excellent exercise for reading and memorizing these notes.

Length: 5:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
EchoLesson 9


Jim Deeming teaches a music reading exercise entitled "Echo." This fun, play-along lesson is a perfect way to hone your reading and counting skills.

Length: 18:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Jim Deeming

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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