In this exercise from the
In music there are 12 notes. The chromatic scale is where we play all 12 notes in order. Just use your first finger to play through each note in order. Each fret is an individual note. Start with the open A note (just play the open string). Then play each successive note along the string with your first finger (red dot). Finish on the high A note on the 12th fret:
Ahh you say - isn't that 13 notes I'm playing?
Well...play the very first note from the ActionTab again Low A (root). Now play the very last note on the 12th fret - A (octave). They should sound the same - except one somehow sounds lower and one somehow sounds higher. Why? They are both 'A' notes. They are said to be in a different register. We also sometimes describe them as being an octave apart.
These 2 notes share the same tonal qualities (so they are both A, and both sound the same), BUT the frequency the string vibrates at is different. In fact the higher A vibrates the string at precisely twice the rate as the lower A. That means it has the same pitch, but sounds higher because the frequency is twice as high.
To understand this takes a little bit of physics....
If you look at the A string - the Low A is as far as the string can go (you can't play a lower note on that string) and the 12th fret is in the exact middle of the string. It is the halfway point. This means that fretting this note and playing it will cause the string to vibrate in the same way as the open note (hence the tonal quality is the same) - except at twice the rate (the frequency doubles, causing it to sound higher). So we get a low A and a higher A. To distinguish between the two A notes we say they are in a different register or octave range.
Apologies for all the confusing language - but we didn't make it up I promise! Music theory is a conspiracy between physics and centuries of evolution across different cultures. This leaves a mash of awkward terms that we just have to learn, but stick at it and you'll get it!
So...we do have only 12 notes, BUT there are many different registers (or octave ranges - between A and A in this case). Yes we played 13 notes, but technically speaking, 2 of them are the same note!
For anyone still confused think of this - If you are playing with a friend who has a bass guitar, it will be tuned the same as your guitar - except in a lower register. That is why even if you play the exact same riffs together, you on guitar and your friend on bass - your music will sound the same, but they will still sound bassier than you!
Let's experiment with registers a little. There's no better way to learn than by just doing it! If your guitar goes up to 24 frets, you can play through the exact same A chromatic scale all the way up to the next A note! Try playing frets 12 through to 24 - on your A string - over the top of the notes shown in this ActionTab. Loop the ActionTab and do this until you can play each note over the top comfortably. You can load up the
As long as you are playing the notes in the same order, your guitar and the ActionTab guitar should sound exactly the same, except yours will be higher. If your guitar doesn't go up to 24 frets don't worry, try to go up even just a few notes (as far as your fretboard allows) and you should still get the point! Or play through frets 2-14 along the G string. That is also the next
This registers and octaves stuff all seems a bit confusing...Why not just name each note differently?
Well believe it or not, the fact that there are only 12 notes makes music easier to learn. Could you imagine if every single note was given an individual letter from the lowest register to the highest? You'd soon run out of letters to name the notes! Even if you used numbers instead, you'd have notes called '42' or higher. Explaining harmonic relationships between notes and chords would also become a mathematical nightmare! There's no need to go to all that trouble when all pitches fall into 12 basic tonal ranges - our 12 basic notes. We can use our ears to tell us which register the notes are in.
Now let's look a little bit more at the actual chromatic scale. Like we mentioned earlier, it is the only scale where we play all 12 possible notes. All other scales omit notes, which is why the major and minor scales consist of 8 notes, the pentatonic scale of only 5 notes.
So if you're just playing every note in a chromatic scale...what's the difference between an A chromatic scale and an E chromatic scale? Simply this - As with all scales, it is the note you START with that determines the name of the scale. We call that the Root note (or Tonic note). Simply play every fret along the Low E string in exactly the same way as you
did for the A string in this ActionTab, and you will be playing the E chromatic scale instead!!
So why bother learning chromatic scales? Surely they are just every note, and that's pretty meaningless...after all, this ActionTab was hardly a nice tune.
Well...they are important. Look at how much fundamental stuff there was to learn about music just from this one scale! If you understand the chromatic scale and how registers work, you can understand any other scale. Even if it's not very tuneful right now to you. Playing it helps your ear to learn the 12 fundamental notes in music. The Chromatic scale also becomes important later when we start looking at 'intervals' and how other scales are constructed. Remember, all other scales come from the chromatic scale! So if you understand it, you'll have a much better understanding of the mechanics behind all the other scales.
Also remember, no scale is musical just by itself - the order of the notes you play, the timing used between those notes (and not to mention HOW those notes are played) is truly making music. That's without mixing in chords or other instruments! If music is a language, then learning your scales is like learning more words. The more you know, the better you can express yourself. Of course, how you use those words is up to you!