Understanding The Musical Alphabet

The musical alphabet is simply this: A B C D E F G
Everything that you play which involves pitch (e.g. chords, scales, melodies) will use these letters. So it’s definitely a good idea to get to know them inside and out!

There are three VERY important things to remember about the musical alphabet…

  1. and are always a semitone (1 fret) apart.
  2. and are always a semitone (1 fret) apart.
  3. All other consecutive notes are a tone (2 frets) apart.

Some people find it helpful to see this information as a diagram…

Musical Alphabet Starting From A

Important: The musical alphabet can start on any note. For example, if we started it on B the diagram would look like this…

Musical Alphabet Starting From B

Notice how even though we have started on a different note, the order and spacing of the notes stays the same.

And here is the musical alphabet written out starting from the other possible notes…

Musical Alphabet Starting From C

Musical Alphabet Starting From D

Musical Alphabet Starting From E

Musical Alphabet Starting From F

Musical Alphabet Starting From G

Understanding How The Musical Alphabet Lies On The Guitar

Let’s see how the musical alphabet lies on the guitar. Here are the notes of the musical alphabet shown on all six strings…

 Thick E-string:

Notes On Thick E-String


Notes On A-String


Notes On D-String


Notes On G-String


Notes On B-String

Thin E-string:

Notes On Thin E-String

So what do you notice?

Here are a few important observations…

  • The order and spacing of the notes on all strings is the same. The only thing that changes is the starting point.
  • The open string note name is the same as the 12th fret note name.
  • If you continued past the 12th fret the note names would repeat. For example, the 13th fret of the thin E-string would be an F note.

Return To: Guitar Music Theory Lessons