The Note Circle

the note circle

This is the Note Circle. It shows the names of the 12 notes (or pitches) that are used in Western music. They are the very foundation of the theory of music and so you need to commit this diagram to memory as soon as possible.

Up And Down

Starting from any note on the guitar, moving clockwise around the circle makes the notes higher in pitch (up the fingerboard, towards the bridge) and moving anti/counter-clockwise makes the notes lower in pitch (down the fingerboard, towards the nut).

Same Pitch, Different Name

Notice that some notes have two names. For example, A# and Bb are the same pitch; they are played and sound the same but are sometimes called different names, depending upon the context. Don’t worry about the ‘why’ at this point - just grasp this idea, by studying the diagram and taking in which notes have two names (which are called ‘enharmonic equivalents’ if you want to impress your mates with big words!).

Double Dots and Octaves

Ever noticed the double dot fret markers on the neck of your guitar? They show the 12th fret. So why does this fret have special markers? To find out, try playing any open string on the guitar, and then play the same string but with a finger at the 12th fret: you should hear that the two notes sound very similar, but that the fretted note is much higher in pitch. This note has the same name as the open string, but is an octave higher; likewise, the open string is an octave lower than the 12th fret. A complete lap of the Note Circle clockwise brings you to the starting note an octave higher. A complete lap of the Note Circle counter- clockwise brings you to the starting point an octave lower. 

On The Neck

The diagram below shows all the notes on the neck starting and ending with the open A String (the second thickest string). Compare this diagram with the Note Circle - one step around the circle is the same as moving up one fret, and so on. Try playing each note in turn and saying the note names as you go: ‘A; A sharp or B flat; B; C’ etc. 

Music Theory 1