skip to content
Buy Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure and support Hardstuck!

Introduction to music

Featured image


Musical Instruments are usable items that change the skill bar to musical notes. While equipped, keys 1 through 8 on your keyboard play a musical tone when pressed, while keys 9 and 0 are other instrument functions such as changing octaves. An octave is one set of 8 notes (keys 1 through 8). Instruments offer two or three octave ranges, depending on the instrument. Some instruments support playing multiple notes at once to create chords, while others only allow one note to sound at a time.

Some players have skills bound to letter keys. For these players, we recommend setting alternate key bindings for music, such as the number row or num pad. This way you can still use the many music tabs available.

Keep reading for a description of the instruments available in-game:


Instruments in the Key of C

  • Magnanimous Choir Bell: This Bell is the best starter instrument because it can be obtained in-game rather than with Gems. It is obtainable only during the Wintersday festival. Outside of Wintersday, it can be purchased on the trading post for a handful of silver. Search the trading post for “Wintersday Red Musical Bell Case.” The Bell Case is a consumable item that gives an account bound Magnanimous Bell on use.
    • 2 Octaves
    • Allows chords
    • Allows notes to be played very quickly
    • Key of C
  • Harp: The harp is the most recommended instrument after the bell. If you are considering purchasing an instrument, this is an excellent first choice. It has a clear sound, good range, and is excellent for solo play.
    • 3 Octaves
    • Allows chords
    • Allows notes to be played quickly
    • Key of C
  • Lute: The lute is another highly recommended instrument. Like the harp, it had 3 Octaves. It is a little quieter than the harp which makes it an excellent accompaniment for duets and bands. Its unique sound makes it a good solo instrument, too.
    • 3 Octaves
    • Allows Chords
    • Allows notes to be played quickly
    • Key of C
  • Bass Guitar: The bass guitar is fashioned in Charr style. It is a fun instrument for guitar riffs, and it makes a great lower accompaniment in band pieces. This instrument is recommended for band performers or players who already have a harp and/or lute.
    • 2 Octaves
    • Does NOT allow chords
    • Plays notes more slowly
    • Key of C
  • The Minstrel: The Minstrel is a “fancy” version of the harp, with added reverb. Its sound makes it a beautiful and unique solo instrument, and a good addition to duet/band songs. The Minstrel is obtained by unlocking the Minstrel legendary focus.
    • 3 Octaves
    • Allows chords
    • Allows notes to be played quickly
    • Key of C
  • Verdarach: Verdarach is a horn obtained by unlocking the Verdarach legendary warhorn.
    • 3 Octaves
    • Key of C

Instruments in the Key of E

  • Flute: The flute is a unique instrument. It has 2 octaves, but unlike the bell and guitar only uses one key for octave changes. The other key is used to stop playing. For example, if you press 1, the flute will play a long, drawn-out tone that can be canceled early by pressing the “stop playing” button. If you hold 1, the tone will be played indefinitely. It is tricky to play the flute with the stringed instruments because it is in a different key. For this reason, the flute is best-played solo or with other flutes and horns.
    • 2 Octaves
    • Does NOT allow chords
    • Plays notes more slowly
    • Allows notes to be held indefinitely
    • Key of E
  • Mariner’s Horn: The Horn is most similar to the flute. It allows notes to be held, but not for the same lengthy duration as the flute. It uses the standard octave change buttons and does not have the flute’s “stop playing” button. Since the Horn is also in a different key from the stringed instruments, is best played solo or with other flutes and horns.
    • 2 Octaves
    • Does NOT allow chords
    • Plays notes more slowly
    • Allows notes to be held
    • Key of E

Other Instruments

  • Frame Drum: The drum is a very simple instrument that makes a fun addition to band pieces. It lacks notes and octaves but has a variety of drum sounds as well as some preset beats.
  • Unbreakable Choir Bell: This Bell is not recommended at all. It is slow and does not have the same note-to-key match-up as other instruments. This means it is difficult to play and is not compatible with most songs written for in-game play.


About Macros

This guide is about playing instruments by hand. It is possible to set up “macros” to have the instrument play a song automatically. However, this guide is intended for players who take pride in playing songs by hand. That being said, macros have their place in the game. In-game music should always bring players together.

The Basics of Playing

This guide starts out using a Magnanimous Bell since it is the easiest and cheapest to obtain. Further, in the guide we will work with 3 octaves in one song, so a harp or lute will be required.


Lesson 1: Hand Position

To begin, equip the bell and test playing a few notes to get a feel for it. There are a few different ways to put your hands on the keyboard. The standard method is to use the top row of numbers keys, and the alternate method is to use the num pad for notes and 9&0 on the top bar for octave changes. Ultimately, how you play is up to your personal preference. You can also change your key bindings as desired if the defaults are not to your liking. Test a few different ways of placing your hands on the keyboard to see what feels most comfortable to you!

For those with custom skill keybinds, it is possible to have secondary keybinds, thus you can have keybinds for music playing while also having your desired keybinds for gameplay.


Lesson 2: Playing a Simple Melody

We’re going to start with the song “Amazing Grace.” To play this melody, press the keys in the order written below. This notation is referred to as a “tab”.


1 4 6 4 6 5 4 2 1

1 4 6 4 6 5 8

6 8 6 8 6 4

1 2 4 4 2 1

1 4 6 4 6 5 4


Congratulations, you’ve played your first song! Practice this song as many times as you need to feel comfortable both with your hand position and playing the melody.

A good rule of thumb for dedicated practice is to move on only after you can comfortably play the song three times in a row.

Note that this melody is all within one octave. This means you can choose to play this song in either the high or low octave. Try playing it in both to get a feel for the different sounds!


Lesson 3: Learning Chords and Chord Notation

Now that you know a simple melody, let’s add chords. Chords are multiple notes played at once.

For example, play these three notes one after another to hear them on their own: 1 3 5

Now, press all three keys on your keyboard at the same time to play a chord: 1/3/5

Well done! Feel free to try playing different combinations of notes on your own. You can also “strum” or “roll” chords by playing them almost all simultaneously but not quite. This makes it easier to play chords. It also tends to sound better on the harp and lute because chords are strummed on those instruments IRL.

You’ll notice that the chord is written differently than the notes played individually. There are no spaces between the chord’s notes – instead, they are separated with slashes. This is the generally accepted notation for chords. However, keep in mind that every in-game composer has a unique style to their tabs so you may encounter something different in the future. Never be afraid to ask for clarification on tabs if you’re unsure!


Lesson 4: Playing Chords

Now that you’re familiar with how a chord looks and sounds, let’s add some to the melody for Amazing Grace that you learned in Lesson 2. Play as slowly as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the song below.


1 1/4 1/6 4 1/4/6 1/3/5 2/4 2 1

1 1/4 2/6 4 1/4/6 1/3/5 1/8

1/6 1/4/6/8 6 1/8 6 1/4

1 2 1/4 2/4 2 1

1 2/4 2/6 4 4/6 3/5 1/4


Remember that a good rule of thumb for dedicated practice is to move on only after you can comfortably play the song three times in a row.

Once you feel comfortable playing chords in a song, you have mastered the basics of hand-playing music in Guild Wars 2. Well done!!

Intermediate Playing

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of playing melodies and chords, we are going to introduce playing across multiple octaves. This section begins with songs across two octaves which will be compatible with a bell. Later in the section, you will need a harp or lute to continue.


Lesson 5: Learning Octaves and Octave Notation

The bell had two octaves, and so far we’ve only played in one octave. We are going to practice playing songs that include notes from multiple octaves. Before we begin, let’s go over how you can recognize octaves in tabs.

The tabs you’ve seen so far have no octave notation. This indicates that you can either choose your octave, or the song is intended for the instrument’s “default” octave. The default octave is the one the instrument is on when you first equip it. For bells, it’s the lower of the two octaves. For harps, it is the middle of the three octaves. The middle octave on the lute is considered the default even though it does not equip for it.

Notes that are to be played in a higher octave are surrounded by parenthesis, like so: (1 3 5)

Notes that are to be played in a lower octave are surrounded by square brackets, like so: [1 3 5]

Try playing this sequence of notes that begins on the bell’s lower octave, progresses through the higher octave, and finishes back in its lower octave. Remember that you will need to press the corresponding octave change keys in between notes to change octaves.


1 3 5 8 (3 5 8 5 3 1) 5 3 1


Since the bell only has two octaves, it could also be written like this:


[1 3 5 8] 3 5 8 5 3 1 [5 3 1]


As a side note, did you notice that the lower octave’s 8 and the higher octave’s 1 make the same tone? You may see these used interchangeably in tabs in the future.

Go ahead and practice this a few times until you feel comfortable with both the notation and changing octaves. Remember that a good rule of thumb for dedicated practice is to move on only after you can comfortably play this three times in a row.


Lesson 6: Playing a Melody Across Octaves

Now that you’re familiar with octave changes, let’s learn a song that involves multiple octaves. We’ll start with a melody you already know, Amazing Grace. However, we’re moving it up one step so it starts on note 2 instead of 1. There are also some additional flourishes in this tab compared to the one you already know. This goes to show how each composer has their own style, and you may encounter a song played several different ways in-game. Give it a try:


2 5 7 5 7 6 5 3 2

2 5 7 5 7 6 7 (2)

7 (2) 7 5 7 6 5 3 2

2 5 7 5 7 6 5


There were only a couple of octave changes in that song. Let’s try something a little harder! The next song is the melody of “Tale as Old as Time”, from Beauty and the Beast. There are several sections to this song. Feel free to play as much or as little as you’d like.


35784 3578(2)

(12345 54321


35784 3578(2)

(32351) 878(3)6 (34231)


(12345 12365

12345 54321



35784 3578(2)

(12345 54321


35784 3578(2)

(32351) 878(3)6 (34231)


(32351) 878(3)6



Before moving on, remember that a good rule of thumb for dedicated practice is to move on only after you can comfortably play this song three times in a row. The next section will be difficult until you are comfortable with octave changes.


Lesson 7: Switch Chords

Now that you’ve learned how to change octaves and how to play chords, let’s combine them! Playing a chord that spans octaves is called a “switch chord”. This will be the most difficult lesson to master, but once you’ve learned how to play switch chords you can confront any song in-game.


To play a switch chord, quickly change the octave in the middle of the chord as needed. Let’s start by playing a few chords until you feel comfortable with them:







Take your time! Try a few more switch chord combinations:







And some more:







Are you feeling more comfortable with these chords? Feel free to revisit your hand placement on the keyboard to make sure you’re comfortable. When you’re ready, move on to the next lesson.


Lesson 8: Playing Switch Chords

Now that you’re comfortable with switching chords, let’s put them in a song. Try playing Amazing Grace with some switch chords. Remember that this version has a bit more flourish than the first version you learned.


2 2/5 2/7 5 2/5/7 2/6 3/5 1/3 2

2 2/5 2/7 5 2/5/7 2/6 7 2/6/(2)

7 5/7/(2) 2/5/7 5 2/7 2/6 1/3/5 1/3 2

2 2/5 2/5/7 6 5 2/7 6 2/5


Well done! Practice this song until you feel comfortable with it. Remember that a good rule of thumb for dedicated practice is to move on only after you can comfortably play this song three times in a row.


Are you ready for another challenge? Amazing Grace only had a couple of switch chords, so if you’re ready let’s try a more complicated song. The next song is “What a Wonderful World” and it has quite a few switch chords. It was written for the lowest octave on a harp. If you have a harp, go ahead and use it. If you’re using a bell, make sure to start in the lower of the two octaves. Read through the tab before you start playing to make sure you know what to expect. You’ll find some additional guidance for playing the song in the tabs.


[5 7 1/3/5/8 8] 1/3/5

6 1/4/6 6 [7]/3/5

4 [6]/2/4 [4 3/5]/3

[3/7]/2 22 [1/3/6/8

[8 8 6/8 88 1/3/6/8

[2/6/8 8 2/5/7 8 2/5/7]/2 [1/3/5]/1/3


[8 1/4/6]/2 222 [5/7]/2 [2/5]

[5] 4 [3/5/7]/3 32 [3/5]/1/3

[8 1/4/6]/2 222 [5/7]/2 2

[5 3/8]/4 3 [3/5]/1/3 33

3 5 1/4/6 66 [7]/3/5

33 1/3/6 66 [7]/2/5

1/3/6 66 1/3/5 5 [1/6]/2/4 3 [5/7]/2


Repeat the first section


[8 2/4/6]/1/3 1 2 [2/4/6/8]

[8 8 2/5/7 8  2/5/7]/2 [1/3/5/8]


How did you do? Don’t worry if you aren’t happy with your performance yet – the more complicated the song, the more practice it takes to learn it. Give this one a few more tries until you feel happy with your performance. Walk away and come back to it later if you need to! Remember the rule of thumb for dedicated practice and try to reach a point where you can comfortably play this song three times in a row.


When you’re ready, move on to the next lesson to practice some more advanced music. Lesson 9 requires that you have a harp or lute.


Lesson 9: Playing Switch Chords on Harp or Lute

Congratulations on your playing so far! We’re now going to learn a couple of songs that include both switch chords and all 3 octaves. Because of the number of octaves, you will need a harp or a lute to play this song. The first song is “Danny Boy,” and it’s new to this lesson. If you click the name of the song, you can hear it played in-game for some guidance.


Danny Boy


[2/5/7 1/3/5/8 2/4/7/]2 [3/5/8]/3 2 [5/8]/3 4/6 1/3/5 3 [4/6]/2 1 [1/4/6]

[4/6/8 5/8]/3 2/4 1/3/5 4/6 1/3/5 3 [3/6/8] 3 [2/4/6]/2


[2/4/7 1/3/5/8 2/5/7]/2 [3/5/8]/3 2 [5/8]/3 4/6 1/3/5 3 [4/6]/2 1 [1/4/6]

[2/5/7 4/6/8 5/7/]2 [3/5/8]/3 [4/6]/2/4 [5/8]/3 2 [5/8 5/7]/2 [1/3/5/8]


[5]/1/3/5 1/4/6 2/4/7 1/3/5/8 3/5/7 1/4/7 6 1/3/5 4/6 1/3/5 3 1

3/5 1/4/6 2/4/7 1/3/6/8 3/5/7 4/7 6 1/3/5 3 [4/6]/2


[7]/2/5 5 5 3/5/8/(3) 5/7/(2 2) 4/6/8 1/6 1/4/6/8 1/3/5 3 1

[2/5/7 3/5/8 2/4/7]/2 [3/5/8]/3 1/4/6 1/3/5 3 [4/6]/2 1 [2/4/6 2/4/7 1/3/5/8]/3/5/8


The second song we’ll practice is one you already know. It’s “Tale as Old as Time” from Beauty and the Beast. If you’d like to try the melody without any chords, you can find it in Lesson 6.


Tale as Old as Time


[3/5]/1/3 578 [4/6/8]/4 [3/5]/1/3 5 7 3/5/8 2/4/6/(2)

3/5/8 (234) 3/5/7/(5) 3/5/7/(5432) 1/4/6/8

4/6/8/(4 32) 4/8 [5/7]/2/5

[3/5]/1/3 578 [4/6/8]/4 [3/5]/1/3 57 3/5/8 5/7/(2)

3/5/7/(3 23 1/5) 1/4/6/8 1/3/5/8 7 3/8 5/7/(3) 2/4/6 5/7/(34) 7/(2) 5/(3) 1/3/5/8


1/8 (23 1/4) 3/5/7(5) 1/8 (23 1/4/6) 3/5/7/(5)

1/8 (23 1/4) 3/5/7/(5) 3/5/7/(5 432) 3/6/8

1/3/6/8 (23) 1/8 2/4/7/(2)


Repeat the first section


1/3/5/(3 2 1/3 3/5) 1/4/6/8 1/8 7 1/4/6/8 (3) 2/4/6

5/7/(3 4) 7/(2) 5/(3) [1/3/5/]1/3/5/8


Enjoy practicing these songs! Remember that a good rule of thumb for dedicated practice is to move on only after you can comfortably play this song three times in a row. Once you feel comfortable with these tabs, you are ready to work on advanced harp songs.


Originally written for the Musician’s Guild of Tyria

Guild Wars 2 Guides

General guides category image
Strike missions guides category image
Strike missions
Fractals guides category image
Raids guides category image
PvP guides category image
WvW guides category image

Latest video

Latest Hardstuck video


We use cookies to provide necessary website functionality, improve your experience and analyze our traffic. By using our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our cookies usage.
Got it!