How many guitar players have a clear picture ofall the notes on the guitar fretboard (sometimes also called “neck”)? Many guitar players have no idea what notes are there on the guitar fretboard even when looking at it. You don’t want to be one of them!
How To Read Guitar Tabs and Chord C...
How To Read Guitar Tabs and Chord C...
You should learn the guitar fretboard and know by heart every single note on every single fret and every string cold! It might sound like a daunting task, but it is not that hard to memorize all notes on the guitar fretboard. You can do it in 10 minutes or less.
Memorizing the notes is really the first step toward being able to play all over the fretboard with confidence. While you don’t have to learn the notes right away, it is worth doing it. It really doesn’t take much time. Let’s talk about how to learn the notes on the fretboard quickly!
Guitar fretboard notes chart
Before we get into the actual strategy of learning the fretboard, let’s take a look at thefretboard diagramwith all notes.
This chart covers only half of the guitar neck as it goes to the 12th fret. This same pattern of notes repeats starting from 12 fret just an octave higher and continues all the way to the end of the guitar neck which is usually 22 or 24 frets long. Note that only diatonic notes (no sharps or flats) are named on the fretboard chart above. Those are the notes you should learn first!
Here is a simplified diagram that shows only diatonic notes:
As you can see it does not look that intimidating! There are only 7 notes to learn, which is definitely doable in 10 minutes! Let’s get into it!
How to learn guitar fretboard notes quickly
Learning notes on the fretboard might seem like a dreadful task as the fretboard might looks a lot like a multiplication table that you have to memorize row by row and item by item…
Don’t worry you won’t have to learn the fretboard one string and one fret a time… that’s boring, timeconsuing, and very inefficient way to learn. There is a better way to learn!
We can divide and conquer! This is by far the best strategy to learn the whole fretboard.
Where to start?
You might be tempted to start learning the fretboard from note C, or A… but I find that the best way to learn is in this order:
E, D, C, F, G, A, B
It seems a bit random, but there is a good reason for learning the notes in this particular order.
To make the best use of your 10 minutes, I’d suggest you spend them to read through this article (preferably with a guitar in your hands) and understand the principles of how the notes are laid out and how they relate to one another. You will need to practice more to really drill each note into your long-term memory and memorize the fretboard cold.
1. Learn the Es
I find that the best way to start learning the fretboard is from the note E. Let’s look at a fretboard diagram showing E note across the fretboard to see why:
There are couple things that you should immediately notice looking at the diagram above. Yes, low and high strings on the guitar are both Es (just different octaves). So that already simplifies the task of memorizing the fretboard!
Notes on the 12th fret are the same as the open string notes just one octave higher. So there is that to simplify the learning too!
Now take a look at Es on other strings. See how notes relate to the fretboard markers (those little dots on your guitar). Sometimes the dots are placed right on the fretboard as well as on the upper part of the guitar neck. It helps a lot that most of the Es fall right on the frets with markers. Use them as a visual reference!
Take some time to really drill note E into your memory visually. Play an open 1st or 6th string and then locate and play all the other Es across the neck one by one. Use an open E string as a reference sound. All Es you play should sound like that (some will sound exactly the same and some in a different octave). You will easily hear whether you are playing the right notes or not (make sure your guitar is tuned properly before you start!).
If you like a divide and conquer approach, I’d suggest you focus on the first half of the neck (up to 12th fret). Once you learn all the notes up to 12th fret it will be very easy for you to move beyond it as the patterns of notes repeats itself all the way to the end of the neck.
Print out a dozen ofblank guitar fretboard diagramsand use them to draw the notes you learn! Later on you can use these to study note patterns on individual strings, groups of string, different positions, etc. You will discover that fretboard is an exciting place and is not that weird after all.
2. Continue with Ds
Es should become a nice anchoring point for learning other notes on the fretboard. Once you memorized your Es, I’d suggest you move to Ds next. You shouldn’t even need to look at the chart to find Ds. Just move 2 frets down from any Es you already know.
Here is a fretboard diagram with Es and Ds:
You can use open 4th string to give you a reference for D sound when you practice finding your Ds across the neck.
3. Move on to the Cs
It is logical to move next to the note close to D, which is C. Again, it should be very easy to find Cs once you know your Ds (just move down 2 more frets).
Here is a fretboard chart showing Cs with Ds and Es:
There is not much new to say here about memorizing C notes. Remember to relate notes to the fretboard markers as well as the nut and other notes you learned. For example:
- there is a C on the 2nd string 1st fret (right next to the nut)
- there is a C on the 3rd string 5th right on the marker there
- there are Cs on both 1st and 6th strings on 8th fret (between 2 markers)
Also notice how close C and E are when you look at the neighbouring strings. Notice and memorize little patterns like this. It will make it so much easier to master the fretboard, especially if you can relate them to music theory (C and E form a major 3rd interval).
You might have already discovered that some notes sound exactly the same while others sound an octave higher or lower. It might be premature to talk about it in detail here, just know that it is possible to play exactly the same note in different parts of the fretboard, and start noticing patterns like this.
Now when you have several notes to play with, you can try and practice small scale patterns across the neck. Something like C-D-E or C-E-C-D-C. Start playing on a single string first, and then look for ways to play the same thing on 2 neighbouring strings.
4. Learning other notes on the fretboard
Once you have Es, Ds, and Cs down things should start falling into place more quickly. I’d suggest you move to F next:
Then add Gs
And finally Bs
And there you have it! You should be able to find any note on any string. No one will expect you to do that instantly, so take your time. Feel free to cross reference other notes to locate the one you need. Eventually, you won’t have to do that, and you will be able to call out notes without even looking at the fretboard: “3rd string 5th fret – C”, “5th string 9th fret – E”, and so on…
How to practice finding notes on the fretboard
Using a reference note is kind of a crutch. You should try and find the notes without having to rely on other notes. A great exercise for that would be to pick a note, and then find it all across the fretboard.
To make it extra challenging try doing the same exercise with a metronome. Start slow and adjust the tempo as necessary:
- Set the metronome to 50-60 bpm
- Choose a note (let’s say E)
- Start on the 6th string. With every tic of the metronome locate an E on the given string. First one will be an open string, second on 12th fret. Next move to the 5th string. E will be on 2rd and 14th frets there. Next move to the 4th string, and so on. You can also start from the 1st string and work your way up. The idea is to find all the possible locations for the given note. And remember open strings!
Learn note patterns on the fretboard
Once you learn individual notes and feel rather comfortable with the fretboard (you can find and name any note on any fret), start discovering how notes relate to each other by looking for patterns.
For example, I already pointed out how Cs and Es tend to be close together. To take it one step further, you can find that you can play a C major triad (C-E-G) in different parts of the neck by following a very simple pattern:
And another set of patterns for C major triad:
See if you can discover even more patterns by connecting the dots between C, E and G notes in other ways! And of course try other notes too! Grab some free printable blank guitar fretboard diagrams for that. Once you learn your way around the fretboard you will be able to play all over the guitar neck and freely move from one position to another.
As you can see learning guitar fretboard in 10 minutes is doable. I hope my method was simple enough, but if you have any questions let me know in the comments.