A friend who is a guitar teacher, told me I should learn to read music. He wrote the notes for guitar's 1st position and said to try and transcribe one of my songs as an aid to composition.

So, I'm wondering if there is a specific way of notating the B string 5th fret "E" and the open (high) "E" string being plucked at the same time. With ring and pinky fingers. I've tried searching it but I don't know what to search.

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    What kind of notation do you want to use? Tablature or standart?
    – Dom
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 17:56
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    I would think that is hard to do on standard notation. You can't play the same note on two keys of a piano like you can on two strings on guitar. So I'm not sure there is a way to notate that without using tab. It's a no brainer in tab. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:13
  • @RockinCowboy you can do it on both. It's pretty common to do in classic guitar where typically it's only using standard notation.
    – Dom
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:23
  • @Dom - I am looking forward to reading your answer. I must assume OP refers to standard notation. I don't think he would have that question if he was using tab because the answer would be too obvious. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:27
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    Related (or exactly the same?): music.stackexchange.com/q/17008/3032
    – anatolyg
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 19:50

5 Answers 5


Normally this would be enough, I think:


The '0' indicates that an open string is to be used (in this case the high 'e' string). And from the context you would infer which string to use for the other 'e'.

If you want to be more explicit that the other 'e' should be on the b-string you could notate this as well:


The number with a circle indicates which string to use, counting from high to low.

Perhaps in this case you want to be more consistent and use the string number notation for both notes:


You may want to notate the two notes in different voices:


And finally, using tab notation you would automatically show which string to use:



I left out the notation of which pluck fingers to use for several reasons: I didn't think it was essential for your question. And I wouldn't be explicit on that for just plucking a chord, maybe for a more complex fingering pattern. Furthermore the score examples would be unnecessarily crowded, I think.

Nevertheless, to notate pluck finger (or stroke finger) there's a convention to use the letters 'p', 'i', 'm', 'a' and 'c':

thumb = p = pulgar, 1st finger = i = índice, 2nd finger = m = mayor, 3rd finger = a = anular, 4th finger = c = chiquito


The only way I've come across is to have two dots (heads) on the stem - one either side of it, on the top space. Looking rather like if you had to play a D and an E simultaneously, when the music would show one each side of a stem because they would otherwise end up as a big blob if they were both printed on the correct side.

The fingering would make it a little clearer, with 'a' for the ring finger and 'c' for the pinky. Both under/over the now funny looking note.

In some sheet music, numbers in circles are used to designate which strings are played. For this scenario, there may be two circles - with a 1 in one and a 2 in the other.

  • The question is how to notate playing the same exact note on two strings simultaneously. Would the two heads on the stem indicate to play the note on two strings? Do you have a picture of what this would look like. Might help folks visualize exactly what you are describing. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:19
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    I believe it would be like this, except with a stem down the middle if the note isn't a whole note. This is from the wikipedia page on unisons. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unison_on_C.png#/media/…
    – Dan D
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:22
  • The stem would be the clue - be it a crotchet, quaver, et al. The heads wouldn't affect the timing - they don't for anything 1 beat or less. If it was a minim, there would still be two heads - empty. It'd be interesting to see dotted crotchets, though...
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:23
  • This is the correct way to do it. Guitars are not the only instruments that can play unisons and this has been accepted unison notation for a long time. It is not the place of sheet music to indicate HOW to play the unison, and the notation should be largely instrument independent in this case. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:40

In Guitar the way to tell where to play a note is usually defined by the context... meaning, what were you playing before that note and what is to come after, what are the fingerings e.t.c e.t.c. When more specification is needed the number of the string is written inside a circle above or bellow and a bit to the right of the note like in the pic bellow.

That A is played on the 4th string (D) 7th fret.



my teacher replied via text. the note with a tail down and a tail up

  • This is good, but I think you should add a '0' on one of the notes, so that the person who sees it can understand that you want one of the notes on the open E string. Like @PeterBjuhr's answer Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 11:46

There are indications that you can write on the staff that pertain to both of your questions (for frets and also picking hand). It's much easier if you check this link:


...than if I were to write it out. :) Although to clarify the two simultaneous notes, you'd use a double-headed note for E, and mark 0 and 5 respectively by the two heads.

  • I think the question is how to notate the same exact note being played simultaneously on two strings. I did not see how to do that in your link. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:21
  • @RockinCowboy I've edited my answer to clarify what you asked.
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:40
  • I think you folks pretty much nailed it though I dont have the where with all (yet) to fully under stand, i certainly do appreciate the help.
    – Dave
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 3:42

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