Understanding Music Notes

Understand music notes with these music theory basics all guitar players should know!

View the full lesson at Understanding Music Notes | JustinGuitar

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Hi all,
just a comment on the note circle.
I was trying to memorise the circle and relate it to the fret board as in the accompanying notes i.e. A is the first letter on the circle and is the first fret etc. For some reason I just kept mucking it up until I rotated the circle one spot to the right. It instantly made it clearer and easier to remember.

It turns it into a clock face. A is the first note, it is in the 1 o’clock position and the 1st fret on the board, A# is second at the 2 o’clock and 2 on the board, all the way around to the G# at number 12 at the 12 o’clock position and 12 on the board. Now I just have to remember the order and the associated number of the clock and the fret board becomes automatic.

Anyway it worked for me , hope it helps someone else too.


For anyone wondering about the german H, this is due to the way B flat and B interact with the note C. B flat is “softer” and B is “harder”, so they were called hard and soft B, and then B became H for hard B and Bflat is just called B in german.

see y’all around

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Is that an American thing or a Piano thing? I had a Chinese piano teach from China teach me it’s a half step because you are playing the black key instead of the jumping over to the white key.

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Welcome to the forum Thomas. It must be a piano thing because there are no Black keys on a Guitar :wink:


I’m a German and always use the “B”. Find the Sytstem with the “H” very strange.

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I really appreciate the guitar lessons, especially the ones on music theory! A couple of days ago, in the “Music Theory live class” on Tuesday, Justin talked about the origin of the “H” note name in German music theory, mentioning a “monk mistake” story.
Also in the beginner course, Grade 1, Module 5 (https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/understanding-music-notes-b1-504, Minute 0:54 in the video) he says the very same.
While I agree that using “B” is generally recommended worldwide, I wanted to share some additional findings of my own.

Apparently, the “H” notation wasn’t just used in German-speaking countries, but across many Central- and North- European countries, including those in Scandinavia, the Baltics, and in West Slavic countries.

Regarding the “Monk Mistake” theory:

  • In addition to “H”, a separate “B” exists and is used for “B flat”. If a monk simply mis-spelled a symbol or letter, where did the “B” then come from? The existence of both “H” and “B” implies intentionality in my opinion.
  • It seems unlikely to me that such a mistake would persist unnoticed for centuries.
  • I’ve done some reading, and other explanations of the origin of the letter “H” exist. Some sources point to the historical development of both a “hard B” (♮) and a “soft B” (♭) in early medieval music. The symbol for the hard B looks similar an H with a crossbar, and they say it’s possible this visual connection led to the usage of “H” as the note name. That’s at least how I understand how these authors explain it and hope that my summary is correct.

My simple recommendations:

  1. I would not mention the monk mistake story any more.
  2. Regarding the geographical origin / former usage, I would refer to Mid-, East-, and North European coutries, and not to German-speaking countries alone.
  3. Justin uses the sentence: “I don’t recommend learning it as H. Since the rest of the world uses B”. See the URL above. I would limit “world” to “western world”.

I spent a couple of hours on this topic, but because I’m really a beginner in music theory, I wonder if this is accurate and if you share my suggestions. Could this be looked into?
Let me tag the moderators @Richard_close2u @LievenDV @DavidP

Many thanks,


I give you a good recommendation for the effort :sweat_smile:


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As I understank @franzek it was indeed not really a mistake but a fork in the road in the evolution of notation.

It is a very cool story and well told by this excellent chap:

David Bennett Piano: (He has an interesting channel, also if you are not into piano but enjoy exploring the practical application of theory!)

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