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Learning to Play the Guitar - Part 1 Different Note Symbols and Time Signatures in Staff Notation

Updated on November 8, 2012

Learning to play the guitar can be a daunting task. Music is generally something that is hard to learn how to make and string instruments are especially so. The guitar it self can seem especially daunting because of it's 6 six strings.

Now, I am going to help you get that whole reading music part of playing the guitar down. In this article I will explain the different types of notes as well as how to understand time signatures. I will start out with a brief explanation of the cleft that the Guitar is normally played in.

Treble Clef

Treble clef is also sometimes called G clef and is the main clef that you will be playing your guitar in. Take some time to memorize all of the notes of Treble clef bellow and learn to recognize the symbol on the first line as that signifies Treble Clef.

Time Signature

Right after the treble symbol you will usually see the time signature. The most common time signature you will find is 4/4 which means there are four fourth notes per measure.

The bottom number is the note you will use and the top number is the number of those notes per measure. So for example 10/16 would mean there are ten sixteenth notes per measure.

A Whole Note
A Whole Note

The Whole Note

The whole note is the longest note in Staff Notation. It is one whole beat. In 4/4 timing there would be one whole note for each section.

Two Half Notes
Two Half Notes

The Half Note

The half note is half of one beat. In 4/4 timing there would be two half notes for each section.

Two Quarter Notes
Two Quarter Notes

The Quarter Note

The quarter note is one fourth of a beat. In 4/4 timing there would be four Quarter notes per section. This is also the most common note in music meant for beginners.

Four Eighth Notes Linked Together
Four Eighth Notes Linked Together

The Eighth Note

The eighth note is one eighth of a beat. In 4/4 timing there would be eight eighth notes per section. Each group of four eighth notes gets linked together by one bar at the top while single eighth notes have a single flag.

Group of four Sixteenth Notes
Group of four Sixteenth Notes

The Sixteenth Note

The sixteenth note is one sixteenth of a beat. In 4/4 time there would be sixteen sixteenth notes per section. Groups of four sixteenth notes are linked together by two bars and single sixteenth notes have two flags.

A Whole Rest
A Whole Rest

The Whole Rest

The whole rest signifies your not playing for one whole beat. In 4/4 time there would be one Whole Rest per section.

a Half Rest
a Half Rest

The Half Rest

The half rest symbolizes resting for one half of a beat. In 4/4 time there would be two half rest to a section.

A Quarter Rest
A Quarter Rest

The Quarter Rest

The quarter rest symbolizes resting for one fourth of a beat. For example if 4/4 time there would be four Quarter Rests per section.

A Eighth Rest
A Eighth Rest

The Eighth Rest

The eighth rest symbolizes resting for one eighth of a beat. For example in 4/4 time there would be eight eighth rests per section.

A Sixteenth Rest
A Sixteenth Rest

The Sixteenth Rest

The sixteenth rest symbolizes resting for one sixteenth of a beat. For example in 4/4 time there would be sixteen sixteenth rest per section.

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