What are sharps and flats on guitar? And how are they different from natural notes? While they sound a little complicated they're actually really simple. Today we're going to talk all about these and by the end of this lesson you'll have a good overview of sharps and flats.
We'll talk about the theory of sharps and flats on paper. But theory is only as good as you can apply it to guitar, so we'll also talk about them in the context of playing guitar.
What Sharps And Flats Are
It's important to know that Western music has 12 notes total. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and some sharps and flats thrown in. These names for the notes are completely arbitrary. They were given to the notes hundreds of years ago and we've been using them ever since. Instead of adding sharps and flats, we could have just gone up 12 letters in the alphabet. Or they could have been given numbers. But for whatever reason, we have our A-G letters and sharps and flats.
I say this to let you know that this isn't some magical formula. It's just letters. Sometimes names will get complicated, and theory can get very complicated, but at a baseline it's just part of the alphabet and elementary math.
So what are sharps and flats? Let's say you're playing a G note on guitar. If you moved that up a half step (one fret) it would be a G# (#=sharp). A flat is similar but in the opposite direction. If you played the G note and moved one half step down, you'd have a Gb (b=flat).
Here's where it gets a little weird. You can have two notes that sound identical (and are identical) but have a different name on paper. Remember the G#? Well that's also an Ab. If you played an A note and moved down one fret, it becomes an Ab. G# and Ab are enharmonic; they're the same exact note but have different names depending on the context.
B To C And E To F
All notes have either a sharp or a flat in between them except for B and C, and E and F. I like to call this the rule of B to C and E to F. If you play a B note and move up a half step (one fret), you don't get B# or Cb; you get C. Similarly, E to F is one half step and there isn't an E# or Fb.
Most of the time....
There are certain instances where you might see a note called B#, or Cb, or E#, or Fb. And sometimes you'll even see a double flat (bb). Like Abb would be a G note. The theory gets a little complicated here, and it's not something most musicians will ever encounter.
It goes to show you how interesting music theory is and how honestly weird it can get. But that's kind of an outlier. The functional side of music theory is pretty straightforward, and hopefully you've seen that in this lesson.
If you enjoyed this lesson and want to see more lessons on music theory, you're a perfect candidate for my Real Guitar Success program. Click the link to check it out!