My assignment is to write an arrangement of a song in 5th position(from guitar) on the staff. I picked a song and I've written the notes out on paper, it's in common time, on the treble clef, but i have no idea how to make notes from the 5th position on the staff. Are they the same as open notes? wouldn't they be higher? Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated.

2 Answers 2


One aspect of the guitar is that certain notes can be played in different places on the fretboard. Often, it's down to the discretion of the player. On the music, the writer can put clues, such as Roman numerals, often with a 'B' or 'C'. But - that generally means play a barre at that fret. Not exactly what you need. Sometimes there can just be the Roman numeral to tell position.

Take the note made by open top E. That can be written on the top space of the treble clef, obviously. Now, when a player sees that note, he can play it top string open; second string 5th fret; third string 9th fret; fourth string 14th fret and so on. All the same note, but slight differences in tone, and one of them will fit with other notes around that same fret where the guitarist is playing on the neck.

For your example, it'll either be second string 5th fret, or third string 9th. That's how it is. You could indicate with a fingering reference - '1' would encourage 5th fret, whereas '4' would play 9th fret.

Apart from a note at the top of the piece, I don't think there's another way to indicate 'play from 5th fret'.

  • 1
    so the song i'm play in 5th position will look the same played in 1st position on the sheet music?
    – Verity
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 5:21
  • Yes, except for the Roman numeral V. Just checked. In fact, I have some publications with '5' instead.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 8:55

In guitar theory, fifth position is a fingering notation. It has no effect on the music notation. So if your note is a C, it will be written as a C no matter where on the guitar the player may play that note.

So in general your approach would be first to to write the music, then add the fingering notation. Your goal as a composer or arranger here is to assist the guitarist to play the piece in the simplest and smoothest way.

As for notating music in a specific position, the main signs to be familiar with are:

(1) A number in capital Roman letters indicates the hand position. It is usually placed over the relevant note, and the default is that all subsequent notes will be played in the same position until there is a new position sign. Fifth position means the first finger will play the fret 5 notes, so the second finger will play the fret 6 notes, third finger the fret 7 notes and so on. So in theory your exercise could be completed simply by putting a capital V over the first note.

(2) An Arabic number inside a circle indicates the recommended string to play the note on. A line extending from that sign and to the right shows that more than one note is to be played on the string.

(3) A number beside the note indicates the recommended left hand finger to press the fretboard.

Consider an example. Suppose the first three notes are C D E from the C major scale. Here are two ways the fingering might be annotated.

First, if there were no annotations the default fingering would be assumed to be open (first) position. Thus C would be played on string 2, fret 1, with finger 1. D would be played on string 2, fret 3, with finger three. And E would be played on the high E string open.

Second, if these notes were to be played in fifth position we would play the C on string 3, fret 5; the D is on string 3, fret 7; and the E is on string 2, fret 5. So we might see any or all of:

A capital V over the C note.

The number 3 in a circle over the C note. The same symbol could be repeated over the D note, or a line could extend from the circled 3 to cover both the C and D notes. Finally, a circled 2 over the E note.

The number 1 next to the C and E notes; the number 3 next to the D note.

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