Sharps And Flats

A sharp sign (#) raises the pitch of a note by a semitone and a flat sign (b) lowers the note by one semitone. You can remember this easily by remembering that if you sat on something sharp you would jump UP and if you get a flat tyre your car goes DOWN. Notice how sharps look kind of sharp too, a bit like barbed wire.

For example, the note A is found at the 5th fret of the 6th (thickest) string. Therefore the note A# is found one fret higher at the 6th fret (clockwise around the Note Circle), and the note Ab is found one fret lower (counter-clockwise around the Note Circle) at the 4th fret.

The ‘Missing’ Sharps And Flats

I’m sure you’ll have noticed that there isn’t a note between E and F, or between B and C. This is a little quirk that you will simply have to remember.

You might find it helpful to use a mnemonic if you have trouble remembering the notes that don’t have notes between them. A mnemonic is a little phrase that helps you remember something. They’re very useful and we’ll be using them often! You can make up your own but to start you off you might remember that:

Big Cats Eat Frogs.

Can anyone play E#?

I have often been asked if there is such a thing as E# or Fb. Yes, there is! There’s no need to be confused: remember that a # moves the pitch up one step (one fret) so E# is the same pitch as F, and Fb is the same as E. The same applies to the relationship between B and C; C can also be called B#, and B sounds the same as Cb. Don’t worry about this just yet; you won’t see these notes in a musical context until much later in this course, and probably only very rarely in the ‘real’ world.

It’s absolutely essential that you memorize the Note Circle so please make sure you do the related exercises in the chapter to help you remember the names of the notes (and what sharps and flats do!). We’ll be putting this basic knowledge into practice in many different ways during this course!

Music Theory 1