Aside from the music itself, notation is key to getting others to enjoy your music. To do so a songwriter and/or composer must make the notation as clear as possible. If a performer can’t red or decipher your intentions then there is little hope they’ll get through the entire piece and even less hope of them spreading the good word. Also if you want your creation to be played correctly it’s best if your intentions are make sense.
In addition to standard articulations such as Marcato and Staccatissmo the guitar has additional effects similar to most stringed instruments. These are not always notated the same as a cello might but it can include upstrokes, downstrokes, bends and harmonics. With so many variations on how to notate a single effect we’ve provided a quick guide to help you understand the best and most common way.
Hammer-ons and Pull-offs
Slurs are generally notated on a guitar the same as any other instrument. A curved line is drawn from one note to the next. However, guitar slurs generally do not exceed two notes.
Depending on which fret you play the harmonics it sounds a different note. On the 5th fret it is 2 octaves highers, the 7th is 1 octave higher and the 12th is the same note (by the way a good way to check your intonation). Because of the variations it is most common that the notation reflects the fret (example 1) that is played rather than the note heard. If you wish to depict the sounding note make sure you make it clear to the performer.
You also have options as to the notation. You can use the standard string notation (example 2) by changing the notehead to a diamond with an ‘o’ about it. Or you can write “Harmonic” or “Hrm.” above the notes (example 3) and use a dotted line to show where to start and stop. The only problem with the first method is that an ‘o’ looks a lot like a ‘0’ (zero) which is typically used to indicate an open string. You can also remove the ‘o’ from above the note (example 4) but just remember that it might be difficult to spot the difference of a round notehead and a diamond notehead.