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specific question about reading music

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
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I am a complete newbie with a guitar. I'm trying to learn how to read music. I have a specific question on how to play a certain note on the guitar

I see notes that tell me to play the same string differently. How do I do that?

For example concerning the Fourth string, I've seen a note that tells me to play D note (4th string open) and E note (4th string second fret) at the same time. The note has a line coming down between the D note and E note notation? What is this? I obviously can't play both notes at the same time on the same string

Please excuse the very cryptic description. I don't know how to get a drawing on this message board

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2241

um, from your description, it sounds like the notation is asking you to slide up to the E note or hammer-on (since the D note is an open string). but I might have misread your post.

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Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

I'm not sure from your description if the line you mentioned is a single note stem for both notes, meaning they're played at the same time or if it's like Scrybe suggested, i.e., a slide or hammer on between the notes played consecutively.
Anyway, you CAN play both notes at the same time, just not on the same string.
One way (there are several) is to play D on string 5 fret 5 and E on string 4 fret 2.

Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472

Without seeing the example, one can only guess at what the music is saying and there are all sorts of possibilities. Most likely it's a a slur (slide, bend, hammer-on or pull-off) or a trill. What piece of music is it? Chances are someone has a copy.


Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342

See, you get so many different replies about this sort of thing. From that description, I would automatically bang my first finger down on the E at the 2nd fret of the 4th string, and my pinky down on the D at the 5th fret of the 5th string and play both notes together.

A :-)

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Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 40

I would have to agree with Mr Hodge's on this one. Most likely it is a slur and I believe it means to smoothly connect the two notes together. Play the D note and without a gap smoothly go to the E note. I may be wrong though.

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

Hmm... I agree with Alan. If it was a hammer-on, it would always be written as two separate notes with a slur; if it was a slide, it's either two separate notes with individual time values or a "grace" note.

Standard notation tells you to play two notes at the same time in either of two ways: the notes are on the same stem, or the notes have stems in different directions (one up, one down) to indicate to separate lines, and the notes for each line fall at the same point in the rhythm - i.e. they'll both be on beat 3, or a half beat after four, or whatever. Either way, they'd be played on two different strings.

The way you play it depends on your position on the neck. Off the top of my head I can think of four ways:

Second position x52xxx
Fourth through seventh position x70xxx
Seventh position 10-7-xxx
Ninth through 12th position 12x0xxx

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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 680

Not really answering the specific question but if you're learning how to read music look at Frederick Noad's book he takes it nice and slow though it's designed for classical guitar ;)

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