The ToneWay® Project: helping people play music

Numbering system for notes

I just started your system mostly to play all the songs in the book. Although I'm a beginner, I can read music and I'm having trouble using your numbering system for the notes. I've been converting the numbers to notes on the fret board diagrams and it's really cumbersome. When I look at the diagram showing ex: 3 1 1 1 6, etc. I think of it as F#, open D, open D, open D, B, etc. I know where all those notes are on the fret board, but when I look at the numbers in the scroll across the page, I then have to look where the number is on the fret board, convert it to a note and then pick it. Whew!

Then I look at all the songs in the book and I know all the chords, but I won't be able to pick the melody because it's not there. So, is the point of the book saying that I have to learn the song using the chords and then figure out the notes for myself by ear or find the music online and then play it from there?

I'm confused because I don't see how learning the numbering system will help me play the song. And I realize that your system is all about playing by ear, but your numbering system is not, yet the songs in the book don't have any numbers, so I would have to listen to how the song is sung on U tube and then try to hear the notes if I wanted to play the melody.

Maybe I just haven't read far enough into the book. I don't know. I just don't want to keep going forward at this when if I had the music, I could play it right away. Can you straighten me out or suggest how I can make this easier on myself? I was pretty excited to get all these songs to play, yet disappointed that I wouldn't be able to play melody.

I really like how you teach and it seems like fun, but I'm making this learning way too hard by learning a new way to play by numbers and I feel disappointed that I can't play the songs in the book unless I go online and get the music, which defeats the purpose of having the book. Sigh. Please help me.

Thanks, Sandy

Hiding 7 posts. Click to show.

Reading Gwen's replay and your latest one got me to wondering what 'tool' could help… how about using a capo to make your urge to convert to note impossible, or rather too hard to try.

Place the capo on various frets, up and down the neck, and strum the 1,4,5 chord (G,C,D shapes perhaps) and sing one of the Get Started Songs. Then do the same thing using the picking pattern and the 'Tonation'. You be physically doing the exact same pattern, but in various keys via the capo.

That process might help open / nudge the mind to leave its ingrained box and 'see' (feel).

If you try this trick and it helps, let us know.


Well yes, I think that might help too. It actually sounds like fun to try. I'm very open to trying new things and anything that might help my severely structured brain. Being a math major in college and a retired accountant I have a brain that looks at things a certain way. I took up guitar in my retirement and also thought I might learn to draw. Turns out I'm a natural artist and produced some really good drawings. Completely surprised myself. So now, I feel emboldened and want to conquer learning by ear. It appears the only thing standing in my way is my stubborn little brain.


Sandra, I also hail from the “classical” tradition of learning music via notes and rhythms. I began improvising when a friend invited me to an open mic that she hosted. I am now playing fiddle in a band where the leader won't allow me to have a music stand on stage when we perform. However, as a visual learner (like you I learn quickest when I see something written) I convert what I hear into notes in my mind to help me memorize locks and chord progressions.

What I'm understanding in this thread is you need to relax when learning a new song and take time to simply LISTEN to it before taking on the additional stress of trying to play it. When I can't play a particular lick or riff correctly I'll listen to it until I can sing it, then match each sung pitch until I can play it correctly.


Wow. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the kind words and help from everyone. Yes, this is exactly what's happening. I feel stressed over this. It's hard to relax and enjoy the process because I'm trying to do something that goes against my nature and how my brain is wired. Yet I refuse to give in and quit. So many good suggestions.

Yesterday, I was trying to play and sing by listening to YouTube first and trying to strum my guitar to what I was hearing. It was a baby step and I ended up reverting to the written music. But if I have enough baby steps I might finally succeed. I'm so jealous of those who can do this including my son who has refused to learn to read music. He plays entirely by ear which has always seemed so foreign to me. I could never understand because it seems so hard. But my lack of progress can partially (or fully) be blamed on my rigidity. So, the question is if this old dog can learn new tricks? Maybe.


Sandra, when I was first learning to play, I could not hear the chord changes, so I would mark them on the music words i had. then after playing with others, I began to hear the changes. It will come in time, just enjoy all for now. Don't sweat it.


to write a reply.