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Guitar Technique Sessions Number 40

Updated July 14, 2005

Okay, someone emailed me (actually three people) and asked why all this stuff about lute tab? Some of them didn't read standard notation. One wanted to know if I was some sort of musical 'snob' who had to "show off" just how many notation systems I could read!

Well, let me tell you a short story. Long before man wrote music down with lines and dots, people made music. The lines and dots only came about as a method of saving what the performers and composers did for posterity -- so others could attempt to copy their performances. Notation is a tool -- a wonderful tool that everyone should use if at all possible. Earth moving equipment and concrete are great indispensible tools as well -- not having them didn't keep the Egyptians from building the pyramids, did it?

Notation is the same. There are great musicians -- like Rory Gallagher -- who didn't and don't consider themselves 'readers.' Does this render their artistic efforts null and void? Of course not! So all this talk of mine about reading is not intended to diss all those musicians who don't read. Reading is simple. Simple enough that even musicians can do it!

Here is a fifteen minute crash course in music reading -- standard notation. Next week we'll transcribe that Dowland piece. For now, it's MSL -- music as a second language. Relax, it all makes sense.

Basics of Standard Notation

I feel it is essential for the student-guitarist to learn how to read standard musical notation. Although much of the repertoire is available in guitar tab, so much more isn't. [It is also a very wise endeavor to learn the various forms of lute intabulation. Much lute music is made available as scholarly researched editions, transcribed to standard notation—but to pitch, not in a format readable to guitarists, but it is much easier to find lute music in original editions and work from that to generate unique transcriptions. This topic is outside the scope of our discussion at present.] Guitar tab is great for new players, but a solid understanding of standard notation is more valuable in the long run. There are no concert-quality classical artists who do not read standard notation.

Pitch and Rhythm

All forms of musical notation deal with two factors. These two factors are pitch and rhythm. The notation of rhythm is basically identical in lute and lute tablature and standard notation. It is where pitch is concerned that the two differ. Tablature tells us where we are to place our fingers on the fingerboard. Standard notation tells us what pitches we are to produce on the instrument. Tablature is a much more precise system for stringed instruments since there are certain ‘duplicate' notes that can be played on different strings (and different positions) but would be written as the same note in standard notation. However, they are represented by different symbols in tablature. Tablature's major drawback then is that it cannot be directly read from on another instrument. You cannot sit down at the piano and easily read from lute tablature unless you have an intimate knowledge of the lute. However, a pianist can read a piece of violin music on the piano with no difficulty at all. This is because both instruments use the standard musical notation.

Notation of Rhythm

Musical time is divided into equally spaced units of time called pulses, or beats . These beats last from the beginning of the first beat until the beginning of the next. When written as music, these beats are organized into groups of beats. Vertical Bar lines divide the staff perpendicularly, dividing the staff into measures . The measures contain predetermined numbers of beats.




Measures mean nothing unless we know how many beats are contained in them. For this reason we call certain rhythms meters , which are designated by time signatures .

All meters can be reduced to two basic meters known as Duple and Triple meters. Duple meter uses groups of two beats. They are organized as strong and weak beats, which are like marching feet. The foot placed forward first is the strong beat, the other foot the weak follower.

V = strong, — = weak.

V - V - V - V - V - V - etc.

Triple meter is based on a unit of three beats and is basically a dance rhythm. The waltz is a triple meter.

V = strong, — = weak.

V - - V - - V - - V - - V - - etc.

The most common Duple meter is 4/4 time. (It is sometimes called Common time .) 4/4 is a symbol known as a time signature . It represents:

4 — beats to the measure

4 — the quarter note receives the beat

In the meter known as 4/4 , there are four beats in the measure (Or one whole note, or two half notes, or four quarter notes or eight eighth notes.) In 4/4 time, the Duple meter is arranged:

V - v - V - v - V - v - etc.

Beats one and three are the strong beats. One is the strongest beat. Beat three is stronger than two and four is the weakest. That brings us to notes and how they tell us what durations they have.

This is a Whole note. It has a duration of four beats.


This is a Half note. It lasts half as long as a Whole note, it has a duration of two beats


This is a Quarter note. It lasts half as long as a half note, one quarter as long as a whole note. It has a duration of one beat.


This is an Eighth note. It lasts half as long as a quarter note, one quarter as long as a half note, one eighth as long as a whole note. It has a duration of one half of one beat.















In 4/4 time, there can only be one whole note in a measure, two half notes in a measure, only four quarter notes in a measure, and only eight eighth notes in a measure. Of course, any combination of half, quarter, and eighth notes can occur, as long as they don't exceed or fall short of having four complete beats in the measure.


We have shown how pitch duration is notated. However, music is made of silence as well as sound. Rests notate when and how long the silences in the music last. Rests show beats or parts of beats that remain silent in performance, where no pitches are assigned to a beat. Rests correspond exactly to note values in duration:

So heavy it hangs below the line

The whole rest

It sits up on the line

The half rest

The quarter rest

The eighth rest








The whole rest represents four beats of silence, the half rest represents two beats of silence, the quarter rest indicates one beat of silence and the eighth rest divides the beat into two equal parts and represents one half beat of silence.

The Tie

These six samples show correct use of whole, half, quarter and eighth notes, ties and rests in 4/4 time.


Notation of Pitch

Pitches are notated on the staff —a structure consisting of five lines with four spaces. Each line and space indicates a single pitch.

Fifth line_________________________________________________

Fourth Space

Fourth line_________________________________________________

Third space

Third line_________________________________________________

Second space

Second line_________________________________________________

First space

First line_________________________________________________

Text Box: The Pitches on the Treble Clef Staff:

Text Box: The Treble Clef is depicted with this symbol.  The middle curl of the clef loops around the ‘g' line on the staff












The spaces spell the word ‘face' ( F , A , C , E )

Remember the names of the line by thinking: E very G ood B oy D eserves F udge


Text Box: The Pitches on the Bass Clef Staff:


Text Box: The Bass Clef is depicted with this symbol.  The curl of the clef loops around the ‘f' line on the staff and two dots frame the same line.




These are the pitch names of the lines on the bass clef: 1 = G, 2 = B, 3 = D, 4 = F, 5 = A

Remember the names of the lines by thinking: G ood B oys D on't F orget A nything












1 = A, 2 = C, 3 = E, 4 = G

And Cows Eat Grass

Bass clef is not of primary importance to the guitarist aside from the fact that it is useful to have good working knowledge of this clef fro transcribing keyboard music (Albeniz and Scarlatti spring to mind.)

Accidentals (Sharps and Flats)

The c major scale is composed of the following pitches: c, d, e, f, g, a, b, and c. Even though the note names follow in complete alphabet sequence, there are still gaps.

These gaps are where the accidentals are located. To understand the logic of this, we must first look at how the diatonic major scale of Western music is formed.






(Whole) (Whole) (Half) (Whole) (Whole) (Whole) (Half)

In this chart, the term “Whole” refers to a Whole step and “Half” to a Half step. A Whole step is made up of two Half steps. There is no smaller interval in Western music than the Half step. The guitar fretboard is fretted in half steps. In other words, to make a Whole step, one must skip a fret from the original tone to the next tone forming the interval. The interval from the c fret to the e fret is a whole step. The interval from the c fret to the d fret is a half step.

In order to make major scales starting from pitches other than c, we have to use sharps and flats to insure that the intervallic relationships between each step of the scale is correct.

Here is a g scale without any accidentals:






(Whole) (Whole) (Half) (Whole) (Whole) (Half) (Whole)

This scale is not a correct major scale because the last two intervals are transposed. To make the scale correct, we must add an f sharp to the scale. The symbol for the sharp is:

G A B C D E F # G

(Whole) (Whole) (Half) (Whole) (Whole) (Whole) (Half)

Now the Intervals are in the proper order.

Rather than continually writing f # 's throughout a piece that is in g major, we put one # at the beginning of the piece, right after the clef, and before the time signature. We call this the key signature, as it tells us what key the piece will be in. F # 's are then just written as f's in the piece. We understand them to be f # 's from the key signature. If the piece should require an f in its natural form due to a transposition, etc., a symbol called a “natural” is placed before the note. It looks like this:

As far as flats are concerned, they are the same pitches as sharps, that is to say c# is the same pitch as d flat (d b ), d # is the same pitch as e flat(e b ), f # is the same pitch as g flat(g b ), g # is the same pitch as a flat(a ), and a # is the same pitch as b flat(b ). Flats are used when a sharp would obscure the true nature of a scale. Observe the following f scale.






(Whole) (Whole) (Whole) (Half) (Whole) (Whole) (Half)

The intervals are out of order. We could straighten it out by spelling the scale as F G A A # C D E F. This scale is correct as far as pitch in equal temperament is concerned, but how could we possibly have a key signature with both an “a” and an “a # ” in the scale? Instead of this awkward spelling, we use a “b” flat instead.

F G A B b C D E F

(Whole) (Whole) (Half) (Whole) (Whole) (Whole) (Half)

Now we can use a single flat as the key signature for the key of “f” major. Of course, like a sharp, a flat can be removed by a natural sign.

The intent of this section has not been to teach the student everything there is to know about standard notation, but to allow him to figure out and understand what is being presented to him in this graded format. Other aspects of notation will be discussed when they present themselves.

What's New? The The Two New Albums!








Hey, the new albums are out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my old album from the late 1980's and its sequel as well.

Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track... Reflecting Pools is an ethereal journey into the realm of relaxation. In That Zone is a more classically structured exploration of mood and personality.


Available through

...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational -- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) Please visit the Relfecting Pools page on this site or

LOW END What's new with the book that came out over a year ago? After being on back-order at for what seemed like a century, it is my uinderstanding that copies are once again shipping. Barnes and Noble's website stocks new coipies of LOW END in an on again/off again mode.

DEEP END, the exciting sequel, is being shopped by my literary agent even as we speak.

The Guitar Sessions:Weekly tech tips and exercises to help the guitarist improve. This feature has really taken off. Each week a new page is posted with either an exerices to get the left and right hands moving more efficiently and effectively or an interesting pice from the standard repertoire , demonstrating a necessary technical ability. Judging by the hits these pages receive, you guitar players love this feature!

The page is updated every Thursday. Visit the 2004 Archive as well!


My Mission, My Policy

In my opinion, the murder mystery genre reached its zenith in the 1930's and 1940's. The novels penned in those decades were taut, no nonsense stories of people in life and death crises, people who did not flinch when confronted with overwhelming odds or overwhelming emotion. Some of these tales could be hard-edged and hard-boiled, but the heroes invariably had a soft side as well.

I believe that over the years, in an attempt to mimic real life, the writers of murder mysteries--and most other literature, for that matter--have lowered the standards of excellence set by such authors as the gritty Raymond Chandler and the sophisticated Dorothy Sayers. Many authors misinterpret smut for romance and brutality for strength.

My novels aspire to the standards set by the 1940's mystery writers. My tales are as real and grimey as the mean streets that spawned them. Even so, and though they deal with modern issues, you will not find gratuitous sex in my characters' relationships. Sex may be alluded to, but it is never allowed out from behind closed doors. You will find that my books are entertaining to a broad audience--I have had positive comments from teens to grandmothers. One reader was surprised when I told him that there were no obscenities in the book he'd just finished. He hadn't missed them! A good story doesn't need such unnecessary 'embellishment.'

I have conducted book signings at churches, country clubs, libraries and even a street corner (don't ask!) and I've never been called to task for, or ashamed of, my work. Pick up a copy of my latest novel and see if it isn't a good read!

Harry Pellegrin


As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit and rebuild America!



About My Site:

This site is a way for me to commemorate and celebrate a life and lifestyle that is now extinct. Why extinct? Is it that Thomas Wolfe " You-can't-go-home-again " thing? Is it because life is so much different now that what we experienced in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's is no longer relevant? Yes. No. Yes and no? Definintely maybe ! Why do I always start these little essays with questions?

At first, the main thrust of this site was to promote my book. It is a worthy goal; the book tells a good tale and eveyone who has read it finds it entertaining and thought-provoking. With that sole goal, I went live with this site back in August of 2003. What happened next is what makes this site truly valuable.

There are people I grew up with, attended school and with whom I played in bands -- neighbors, friends, good family -- who I hadn't seen since I moved from the Bronx in 1986. Divorce had forced me into exile, time and distance conspired to seemingly turn this into a life sentence. Thank the muses for the internet! This site wasn't live for more than two months before I was reunited with Paul Silvestro , a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in seventeen years. His brother Larry , the guy who had turned me on to playing guitar and taught me the things about music that matter the most, now with him I had no contact since 1983. Twenty years! Too long. I felt as if a part of my soul had been restored -- a part that had been missing for ages and had long ago been written off. But more was to come.

Anthony Pernice, Art Clement , Mike Moretti -- all reunited to me.

The 1960's weren't good to a number of us -- many of us had our personal demons to exorcise, be it substance abuse or the insidious hedonism of the times. but through it all, we were instilled with a vibe, cast in an artistic mold--call it what you will--but unless these same environmental stimuli are exactly reproduced, there will never be another crop of people quite the same.

This page delves into what we experienced and how we incorporated these experiences into art, music, literature and life . I've paid tribute to my neighborhood, the Wakefield section of the Bronx. The Discords -- Larry Silvestro and Artie Clemente's first band in the early mid-sixties-- they're here with their matching outfits, Fender, Hagstrom and Gretsch guitars plus those impeccably precise five part harmonies.

Of course, there is an homage to Leo Fender and his magnificent designs, the Telecaster © and the Stratocaster ©. I officially declare C.L. Fender an honorary Bronxite. These instruments have literally changed my life and the way we all hear music. Check out this page on my site.

Rory Gallagher, whom I saw play in 1973 and who has influenced me ever since--he has a page here as well. He has gone on now, but the impact he made is still rippling outwards, changing how we interpret the blues.

Untermyer Park in Yonkers and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are included on this site. We were kids interested in a good ghost story and both these places were terrific for providing a few innocent and fun goosebumps. Of course this was during the same period of time that Son of Sam was using Untermyer and Pine Street in Yonkers for his own uses... And we didn't know!!!

...and of course, my book!

Please enjoy this site. Nose around. Anyone can find something here to read and get a chuckle.





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