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Blues Guitar Lessons: Terminology

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Now, for this lesson,
you wanna have your guitar in your hand.
And we talked about guitars in general,
and you know how they look and
how they feel, but there's a couple of
important things that we need to make sure
we're speaking the same
language here right up front.
One of them has to do with
this concept of high and low.
You know when you were a little kid,
you learn pretty early on that the sky is
up there and the ground is down there,
and that's high and
that's low and we all get that.
But then you pick up the guitar and
I say okay, go up to the high string, and
you might intuitively say okay,
high, closest to the sky.
That would be the big fat string up here,
but no, no.
Musically, high refers to pitch.
And low likewise.
So when I say the high string I'm talking
about the highest pitched string,
which is the skinniest one.
All right.
And then the lowest string is
the fattest one obviously.
And then on the neck, low means
closest to the end of the neck here.
And high is getting closer and
closer to your right hand.
So, high and low are specific to music,
not to sort of geometry I
guess you might call it.
Now when we talk about
locations on the guitar,
the thing about the guitar that makes
it kind of a special instrument,
different than the piano, the piano's
kinda visual, you can see all the keys,
the white keys, and black keys, you want
middle C, there's middle C, one spot only.
On the guitar it's more like a grid,
it's like a graph.
You got lines going this way and
lines going that way.
So we need to be very specific
about location because you can
find the note C in different locations and
play it with different fingers.
It can get pretty confusing.
So we use numbering systems and
they're very consistent.
On the guitar we number pretty much
everything and starting with the strings.
The highest string remember that's
the skinniest is called string number one.
So number one and then I go across the
neck and one, two, three, four, five and
then finally string number six.
So I've got six strings.
The frets are numbered
starting with the first fret.
Now, this is the nut.
The nut is the piece of plastic or
bone that the strings rest
on at the end of the neck.
First fret is the metal fret.
Some guitars have what
they call a zero fret,
which is right up next to
the nut is pretty rare.
Most guitars start right here, so
first fret, second fret, third fret.
Now as you go up the neck you'll see
that at certain points, the 3rd fret,
the 5th fret, the 7th, the 9th and
the 12th, you have markers,
and they can be round dots like this, so
they can be squares, they can be anything,
you can make up all kinds of shapes,
but they're always in the same places.
Now I actually went online and tried to
figure out why are they at those frets and
the answer seems to be nobody knows.
When they developed guitars they started
putting markers in different positions.
Now on an acoustic guitar usually
the body joins the neck at the 12th fret.
So there's really no reason
to go any higher than that.
And you already know where that is so the
rest of the markers are kind of arbitrary.
On an electric we have higher frets and
so they keep the markers going.
But anyway, however,
they came up with it that's what it is, so
we can say quickly when you look at
the neck there's the third fret,
there's the fifth,
there's the seventh and so on.
That's pretty easy to do.
Now frets and positions are synonymous.
So when I talk about playing
in the third position,
what I'm saying is play at the third fret.
When you finger a note,
you're actually fingering behind the fret.
And if you think about it, the note itself
is produced by pressing the string down.
And then you're clamping
it against the fret.
And it's the distance
between that metal fret and
this end over here,
the bridge that produces the note.
It's not my finger.
It's the fret.
So I fret behind.
Or we call it fretting.
In other words, putting your finger
on the neck is called fretting.
I fret behind the fret.
So, this is third position, and
my finger is behind the third fret.
And that's consistent all the way up and
down the neck.
So, we got six strings.
We've got umpteen frets going up and down.
Now my fingers are also numbered.
If you took piano lessons they showed
you one way to number fingers.
We do it differently.
On the guitar, the index finger is called
finger number one, the middle finger,
number two, the ring finger, number three,
and your little finger is number four.
And we don't talk about
the thumb unless we're using it,
in which case we call it the thumb, t.
So, when you see numbering on a chart or
something like that, and
they're showing you which fingers to use,
it'll say finger number one at
the third fret, on the first string.
So now, we've got all the essential
numbers to kinda get going and
let's do a little test here, I'm gonna
give you a quiz see if you can follow.
Third finger, fourth string,
seventh fret, go.
Now, if you couldn't get
there at the same time I did,
that's because you're thinking about it.
This is something that you wanna learn and
be able to respond quickly.
Let's do another one.
How about second finger,
tenth fret, fifth string?
All right.
Very specific.
There's only one answer to that question,
it's gonna be that one right there.
Second finger, tenth fret,
fifth string, one more.
How about sixth string,
fourth fret, thumb.
How hard is that?
So you get the idea now the number
thing can get confusing when you
start saying strings in numbers, so
I'll try to keep it as clear as I can.
But those are the basic realities
of how we find our way on the neck,
on this kind of grid that
we organize our notes on.
So once you got those
numbers kinda memorized, and
you should have it even by now it's not
that hard, then we can go forward and
figure out how to play the dang thing.
Let's go.