SMG Guitar Lesson #3: The Range of the Guitar


The guitar has a four octave range, starting with Low E on the open sixth string and moving up through Middle E on the second fret of the fourth string, High E on the open first string, Upper E on the twelfth fret of the first string, and through the upper notes beyond the twelfth fret. Here’s an illustration of what this looks like on the music staff using the natural notes.


Most guitars only have 22 frets, but on a guitar with 24 frets, you can even reach the upper upper most octave of E on the twenty-fourth fret of the first string.

So from Low E to Middle E, Middle E to High E, High E to Upper E, and Beyond Upper E, that’s four whole octaves. This even gives the range of the piano a run for it’s money!

Now, here’s the most interesting thing about the guitar that makes learning to read guitar music notoriously challenging; Unlike the piano or most any other instruments, there is often more than one way to play each note on the guitar. In fact, there is sometimes as many as four or five ways to play the exact same note! There’s a lot of duplicate notes on the guitar. So even if you know how to read music and see a note on a page of traditional sheet music, that still doesn’t necessarily tell you which string or fret you’re supposed to play. That’s why we have “Tab.”

“Tab” is short for “table of numbers”, and is an age-old system that’s been handed down ever since it was invented by lute players in the renaissance.

It’s kind of mind-blowing when you think about how many people spent their entire lives perfecting the systems we use today over the course of hundreds of years…. just so you can learn in a short while what might have taken some poor lute player in the middle ages his whole life to figure out. Plus the guitar is way cooler than the lute, so sometimes I can’t help but feel sorry for those guys…So we have a lot to be thankful for.

Anyway, back to learning the layout of the guitar.

With the duplicate notes included, the layout of the guitar looks something like this:

So the next time you find yourself stuck in your comfort zone, just remember, there is a lot more room to push the envelope than meets the eye.

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