Don Parkhurst jr

I'm a Conservatory trained musician and guitar instructor who specializes in the Hard Rock / Metal genres. ...

Fundamentals/Lesson four (Enharmonics)

In this lesson we are going to talk about enharmonics! An enharmonic is one note that has two different names. What the heck am I talking about you may be asking? Don't worry I'll explain this all for you!

Up until now now we have learned what the natural notes are. All of these sets of natural notes have whole steps between them except for what two sets? Correct B to C and E to F. What are those notes in the frets between? These are enharmonics!


Intro:   Video

In the last lesson I mentioned the word natural. When I say natural I’m talking about the notes in the musical alphabet. ABCDEFG

Notice that in the diagram we skip a fret when going from G to A and A to B. We are then left with notes in the frets between. You may be asking yourself “ What could these notes possibly be? If we have a G at the 3rd fret and an A at the fifth what could this remaining note in the middle be?”

These notes in the middle are called enharmonics. An enharmonic is a note that has two different names. An example of this would be how TV is to tube. If somebody comes walking in the room and asks you to turn on the tube you know exactly what they are talking about. This means what? To turn on the TV.

Two different names to describe the same thing!

All these additional notes are our enharmonics!

We need to give these notes a name. Actually we will give each of these notes two names.

This name will depend on what note we start from. Let’s take the note between the G and A.

Here we will start from the G and go up to this next note. When we do this we will call the note G#. Anytime we go up one fret from a natural note we will assign it this note name and add the sharp sign. For example F up to F# and A up to A#. Remember there are no notes between B to C and E to F. This means there is no B# or E#.

When we go down a fret from a natural note we will assign it a flat. For example if we start on A and go down a fret we would call this note Ab.

One way to remember this is to think of a flat tire. When we have a flat tire the tire will deflate and the rim will go down. Here are the other two added notes from the above diagram. The next note down from B is Bb and the next note down from G is Gb.

So as you see these notes actually have two names. As mentioned earlier we call these notes enharmonics! In the next diagram all the enharmonics on the low E string are presented.

You’re probably saying “great I need to learn these notes too?” No! If you have the natural notes down then you are all set. Why you may say? Well because if you wanted to find say a Bb on the low E string you already know that B is located at the 7th fret so all you have to do is go down one fret to get to Bb. Remember when we go down we flat the note. If you wanted an F# you find the F and go up one fret to play F#.

So there is no need to memorize every single note on the neck. As long as you know the natural notes you can then easily find all the sharp and flat notes on the neck. This works the same for all of the strings. Let’s take a look at the notes on the A string.

Start with the open A and work your way up the neck fret by fret naming the notes.

Since we already know that each of the notes between the natural notes have two names there is no need to write them both out all the time. It can also look a bit sloppy if we wrote both note names each time. Let’s just stick with the sharps for now!

Once you are able to easily name all the notes up to the 12th fret turn around and make your way back down the neck. The difference here is instead of using sharps we are going to use flats based on the note we were last on. For example going down from E to D we are not going to call this note located in the fret between D#. We are going down so we would call this note Eb. So up is sharp and down is flat!

Now go ahead and name all of your notes on the rest of the strings. One thing to remember is there are no notes between B-C and E-F. No B# or Cb! When we play both the natural and also the enharmonic notes we are playing what is called the chromatic scale. This is simply a scale containing all of the notes in a key. You start on a note and play every note in each fret until you reach that same note an octave above the note you started on. I’ll explain more on what an octave is in the next lesson.

Let's demonstrate this for you now!

That's it! You now know what an enharmonic is. Hopefully you now realize how memorizing your natural notes will help you find any note on the neck easily. No need to memorize every single note!

Now make sure you get this concept down and when you do go ahead and move onto the next lesson!

It's now time to grab that Axe and get started! See you on the next page!


Which Name to Use

Hi, Don.

I'm confused about when we should use which name of the enharmonic? Is there a convention apart from what you showed in the video - going up, sharp; coming down, flat? If I had to play G A# C Bb G, won't it be better to use just one name (A#/Bb) to denote both those notes?