I want to play guitar but I am 67 years old, have cancer and is partially deaf. CAN NOT hear chords so I taught myself to play the right hand of the piano but this means only one note, one string. I have to see notes and look on the guitar to play this. How can I add another note so I can play two notes two strings. Please help. There must be a way but I can't find it


It sounds to me like you might be describing what are commonly called Double-stops on guitar. They are technically referred to as Diads by purists, and a quick search on google should yield lots of results, or a visit to your local library might also be fruitful. In order to actually understand how it all works, you might do some reading up on your basic music theory, but that's your decision to make. There are probably some good descriptions and advice on this site, but you'll need to be pretty specific if you choose to ask about Double-stops or Diads.

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  • Thank you very much. It is the first time that I have a direction to research. – Pg Kruger Apr 14 at 23:05

Sorry to hear of your challenges, and wish you well handling them. A similar thing happened to my father, and music helped him cope, as I pray it will help you as well.

Two things: The tangent first: If your guitar is acoustic, try hugging the body. I sometimes do this to get closer to, and more intimate with the music. So laying your head (as in your left ear if you're right-handed) on the guitar body is something I highly suggest you try. This not only helps get the vibrations directly into your body, but also the music into your soul! (Everyone who hasn't tried this btw, should!)

Now as for your question, the best answer is to view the music of a piano (or other) score... as a series of meandering, interweaving lines. The melody (and/or vocal) is just one. You're just trying to add another. And they don't have to be exact! So if you don't love one, or if it's too hard to reach... then just choose another, or better yet, skip it and/or allow a previous one to sustain (and sort of syncopate) through. For when doing this sort of thing, more often than not, less is better. An easy way to accomplish this is just to choose the top/highest and the bottom/lowest/bass notes (especially if you are familiar with reading from the bass clef. If not, just pick the lowest line you can read, and that should suffice). Again if one(s) stick out that you don't like, just replace it with any you feel sounds better.

But it sounds like you want just a hard-fast trick to enable you to add good notes, while avoiding terribly-wrong ones! For in the example you provided, the reason an E automatically sounds good when added to a C note, is because E is the 3rd of the C major scale. It's called 'doubling a line'. And many (like the Beatles) have easily made millions doing it (ex: their song 'Blackbird'). This also works well with 5ths and octaves.

So I believe you're asking for a simple trick to do this... like playing safely in C major (or A minor) by simply avoiding the black keys. Well, the guitar (being so much more versatile than a piano) isn't going to be quite as helpful in that way. The closest 'trick' I can think of, is learning how to use patterns on a (most-likely standard tuned) guitar. (Or make your millions {like Jimmy Page via Rain Song, Joni Mitchel via Clouds, Keith Richards via Brown Sugar, etc} by learning how to tune a guitar in alternate ways to make this process easier. But I say start standard 1st. Because there isn't just one pattern, there's just 3 or so you gotta get to know. Then they'll help you everywhere no matter what tuning you choose, even on the piano!)

I'm new here as well, and may get in trouble by saying too much.

But you mentioned "if I play middle C, is there a corresponding note on another string that I can play simultaneously with C. On the piano it is E. These are close enough to play together on the guitar, but E and G is impossible."

Not true!!! Unlike a piano, a guitar has all the notes EVERYWHERE! And you can always reach 'em. (They may not be exactly the ones you want, but they are all represented and {mostly} all within reach at all times. But here's the catch: One has to know a neck, to know where they are! (Or at least the shortcut of knowing a few {like a half-dozen or so} patterns. Don't worry, I'll not list them. But they'll be in any good books that mentions CAGED).

So in your case, it sounds like you're {wisely btw} trying to go from using only one, to two, or 3 strings. I just think you're starting with the wrong one... backing yourself up against a wall, where you have nowhere {or strings} to move.

The strings {high to low aka near the floor, towards the ceiling} are 1-6. 6=Low E, 5=A, 4=D, 3=G, 2=B & 1= high E. The patterns get a little funny up on the high end (the 2 aka B string just shifts it higher by a fret), so it's easier at first to start on the bass part, ie strings 6,5,4. But it sounds like you started with #6. So if you're at the C on that string, you're way up at the 8th fret! Wondering where a G is!?! How are you supposed to know there's one right there on the open 3rd string? (Or 2 frets higher on #5 string, 10th fret.) I don't expect you to know that yet. But things are easier if you give yourself some room. So start on the 5th string (A). That way, your C is at the 3rd fret, and your G is right there of above {as in closer to the ceiling} it on the 6th string. And you have your E by playing #6 open. And another higher-pitched one on the 4th string, 2nd fret.

So my suggestion to you is to first get familiar with this part of the neck, and how these three bass strings relate to each other. But start by centering on the C on the 5th string. That way, you have ample room to move around before running out of instrument (unless you buy a 7 or 8 string, which I'd approve of!).

This way you can smoothly transition from your familiar white piano keys, to becoming familiar with C major on the guitar, and beginning to learn/know/FEEL where all the 'letter-notes' are... at a good logical place on the neck, before learning where else they are.

I don't want to throw too much at you, and I hope this all makes sense. But I also don't want to leave you without enough to start with... that importantly includes the ability to make some music while learning, rather than getting too bored with the mechanics.

So I'd love to start you off with the doubled/corresponding third diads (since they're more interesting, and are the example you gave). Their patterns are not at all difficult. But I've thrown a lot at you. So let's start with the insanely-easy (if you begin on the 5th string that is!) 5ths instead. They are the easiest to start with. Why? Because THEY ALL (except for one), are on the same fret below the 5th string, on the 6th. The one exception is the 7th (or the B). In this case, it's one fret lower.

So if you start on the C (5th str 3rd fr), the corresponding 5th is at the 6th string, 3rd fret. But if you go down the neck, a half step lower (to the 7th aka B) then the corresponding 5th on the 6th string will be the F at the 1st fret. That's the only difference. (The 5th of the open A btw, is the E on the open 6th str). But as you walk up the neck, all the corresponding 5ths will be at the same fret as their roots[note1] you play on the 5th string... all the way up to the 5th string, 14th fret/6th string 13th. (Keep in mind that everything repeats/starts over at the 12th fret.) Try it and you'll hear the correct harmonious correspondence. These are the basis of what some call power chords... or 5 chords. They aren't really chords, rather naked triads. Missing their thirds, they are neither major or minor (although that different 7th one is diminished!). So they're vaguely ambiguous... meaning they'll sound good enough (most of the time) to get by (and enable garage bands to get paid for their 1st gigs!).

Please let me know if this is the kind of info you're looking for, and if you'd like me to give you the patterns for the 3rds and octaves. I'm sure if it's too much... someone'll tell me that too. :)

In any case good luck and keep enjoying making music!

Note1: What this is actually doing, is called "Harmonizing The (C Major) Scale". In other words, each note played on the 5th string, along with the corresponding one on the 6th, are parts of chords which all perfectly fit (aka all have the same notes in common with) the scale. In this case of C major (when the appropriate 3rds & 7ths are added) they will be CM7, Dm7, Em7, FM7, G7, Am7, & B half-diminished. But the point is that ALL of these chords, (and therefore any fragments of them) will all sound harmonious together... because they are all exclusively-made-up of the white keys of a keyboard. But some black keys will be necessary, to complete the chord harmony of any key other than C. But wonderfully on a guitar, the resultant patterns will basically be the same {relative to the root}... just located a bit differently on the neck. So learn one... and you've pretty-much have learned them all.

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I hope you are doing well. That's great that you are learning to play an instrument! Learning to play an instrument is one of the best things you can learn. But anyway, to your question. The backbone to finding another note to accompany the melody is knowing the chords. I recommend you start with a popular melody and looking up the chords that accompany the melody. Learn how to play those chords and really internalize how it sounds. Then, you will start to develop an ear that will help you add chords to any melody. I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

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  • Thank you for your answer. Really appreciate it. The problem is I cannot hear the difference between chords. I play piano notes on the guitar from piano sheet music. I can hear a melody faintly with the help of the amplifier. What I am really asking is: Is there corresponding notes on the guitar for the piano notes. The piano experts can't help me so I am turning to the guitar experts. Eg. On the piano you can play Middle C and E at the same time, on the guitar also but G and E is impossible or notes are on the same string. Is there another note that you can play with G and so on. – Pg Kruger Apr 15 at 10:50
  • Yes, you can play that second note an octave down. On every string, there is always going to be every note. But not always in the same octave. I am not an expert at guitar but I am sure with trial and error you will be able to find each note and play it on that string. Or you can check this image out for reference: simplifyingtheory.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/… – Haversine Apr 15 at 17:48
  • Actually the image you provided is the one I am using to play. Eg. I have a dream, starts with GEDF. The ideal would be to have that same note map showing all the notes linked to it. Then I play G with another note on a different string. The E with maybe 2 notes at the same time and so on. If I can't find a "note map" with linked notes it would mean that I have to try and link notes myself to build it. This takes time that I don't have however willing because my wife has to link it on the piano and I draw a line from note to note on the note map. This is confusing but am memorizing it slowly – Pg Kruger Apr 17 at 14:51

It looks like what you're trying to do is to harmonize a melody. On one of your comments you say:

I play middle C, is there a corresponding note on another string that I can play simultaneously with C. On the piano it is E.

This is very context dependent (in this case it works because you're playing the first 2 notes of a C major chord). To understand the whole reason why, we need to get into music theory and harmony, which you don't want to do.

Trying to skip over music theory, I can try to give you a rule of thumb that can work in 85% of the cases.

You want to play a minor 3rd, major 3rd or 4th above the note you are playing. Those notes are usually found in the string higher from the one you're playing, either 1 fret higher, the same fret, 1 fret lower or 2 frets lower (depend on the string you're jumping from).

I the C and E example: there is a nice C on the 5th string, 3rd fret, and a nice E on the 4th string 2nd fret. That is a major 3rd.

In the case of F, you might try an A. This is 4th string 3rd fret and 3rd string, 2nd fret. Again, a major 3rd.

If you're playing a high D, you might try an F. This is a minor 3rd. They can be found on the 2nd string, 3rd fret and 1st string 1st fret.

This technique does not work well with open strings, so you need to find for a fingering that avoids them. For instance, try playing the B on the 4th fret of the 3rd string as opposed to the open 2nd string.

I think that the list below might be a good starter:

C -> Eb, E or F

D -> F, F#, G

E -> F#, G, G#

F -> G#, A, A#

G -> A#, B, C

A -> C, C#, D

B -> D, D#, E

You might want to try different ones to see which one is the best note in each context.

Good luck!

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  • This looks like the kind of thing I am looking for. Will try it. – Pg Kruger Apr 15 at 13:14

Approaching this from a really simple point of view. A lot of the more uncomplicated songs have three chords supporting them. Let's be in key A. Those chords are A D and E. Not that you're going to be playing chords, as you state.

Instead, just play the notes, on the low open strings, which correspond to A D and E. Find which one is appropriate for each bar you play in the tune, and use your thumb to play the open string at the beginning of each bar, along with the tune note on a different string.

For example, Edelweiss. 1st bar A, 2nd E, 3rd A, 4th D.

EDIT: having re-read comments, etc, I think you're trying to play a harmony to the melody notes you already play. If that's so, then -

It's easier to play an upper harmony, which needs the existing melody to be on a lower string. Let's take key C The harmony which is most common is made using the notes third above the original note. That third will vary between major and minor, thus:

C + E. D + F. E + G. F + A. G + B. A + C. B + D.

If you were, for simplification, to play the melody all on the second string, there would be the opportunity to play the harmony note on top string.

Note C (2nd string, 1st fret) would mean harmony is top string open. Note D (2nd st. 3rd fret) goes with 1st st. 1st fret. Note E (2nd st. 5th fret) goes with 1st st. 3rd fret. That last one is your 'impossible' E and G! I'm not going to continue, but as you go up that 2nd string, the harmony on top string is either 1 or 2 frets lower on top string. Have fun working them out. It is a pattern.

All that sounds more complex than it is, and I hope it's more compatible with what you need. And it's really only a starter for harmony on guitar.

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  • I really appreciate you taking the time to answer. But your answer is also my biggest problem. What you have told me is Greek to me. Remember, I do not have the lifetime to study guitar. I know all the piano notes on the guitar. All I am really asking is if I play middle C, is there a corresponding note on another string that I can play simultaneously with C. On the piano it is E. These are close enough to play together on the guitar, but E and G is impossible. What other note can I play with G and so on. Again thank you – Pg Kruger Apr 15 at 9:15

From comments...

All I am really asking is if I play middle C, is there a corresponding note on another string that I can play simultaneously with C. On the piano it is E. These are close enough to play together on the guitar, but E and G is impossible.

...that's a clearer question.

The octave for middle C is 4 so you can write that C4.

The tones you gave are CE E4 G4

You can play C4 E4 as 2nd string, 1st fret and 1st string open.

You can play E4 G4 as 2nd string, 5th fret and 1st string 3rd fret.

You can write those two like xxxx10 and xxxx53 where the six character across are the strings EADGBE and x means don't play the string, 0 means open string, and other numbers give the fret to use for the string.

Another way to write out guitar notes is tablature. It lists the strings left to right and gives the fret numbers in sequence across...


...that's the fingering for the first five steps of the C major scale harmonized in thirds. I think this may be the basic harmony idea you are looking for. And it can be a lot of fun to just improvise using that simple pattern. You move up and down and skip around those tones with different rhythms and start sounding like a Spanish waltz!

Another way you can try adding another note to the melody is with a bass. It's harder than just playing the harmonized scale, but you can give it a try and take it gradually.

D or G are convenient keys to use.

The 1st and 2nd strings can be used for the main melody. The bass part can come from using the open 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings for D, G, and A. If C is needed, you can get with on the 5th string, 3rd fret. Those four bass tones will support many simple melodies in D or G major. Try keeping the bass simple. Just let the note ring for 2 or 4 beats. You could adapt the bass from piano music or song books. It depends on the source where you go the 'piano melody.'

It sounds like you are wanting to play purely for your own satisfaction and enjoyment. You aren't trying to impress anyone. So, keep the music simple, take it slow, and enjoy the moment.

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