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Know your fretboard – every note!

22. Jan 09 | Guitar

One of the first things you will have to learn if you really want to play the guitar are notes on the fretboard. If you now them by heart you will see how everything falls into place and you will actually understand what you are playing (you better not learn licks just by reading tabs  – you have to know which notes you play!).

But how to learn all these notes on the fretboard? Just in the first 12 frets you have 78 positions (counting in open strings)! But there are actually only 12 notes (C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B). Each repeats itself at least 6 times on the freatboard (at least once on each string) and each open string (fret 0) repeats itself on the 12th fret.

I have gathered some of the most popular methods you can use to learn all these notes.  But first of all you must know that you will learn notes much faster if you say them out loud. Yes, SAY them as you play them – even guitarists/guitar teachers like Dave Weiner and Danny Gill emphasize this.

1st method – Note by string

By this method you start on open string and go up to 12 fret and play/say every note on that string.

For example on 1 string e:

  • e open string
  • f 1st fret
  • g 3rd fret
  • a 5th fret
  • b 7th fret
  • c 8th fret
  • d 10th fret
  • e 12th fret

Use the picture above to do the same for all strings.

2nd method – Note by fret

You can use the same picture above to do note by fret. This method is not so popular, because it’s harder to do, but whit this method you can really test yourself if you know the notes.

For example, go to 5th fret and play/say every note on that fret:

  • A 6th string
  • D 5th string
  • G 4th string
  • c 3rd string
  • e 2nd string
  • a 1st string

3rd method – Note by note – vertically

By this method you learn each note at the time. You learn its position on every string and play them one after another vertically.

For example, you can play note C in the following positions:

  • 8th fret on the 6th string
  • 3rd fret on the 5th string
  • 10th fret on the 4th string
  • 5th fret on the 3rd string
  • 1st fret on the 2dn string
  • 8th fret on the 1st string

UPDATE: I found it beneficial to learn notes by this method in groups. First two groups are similar to each other so the learning process is easier.

  • 1st group are notes C B D
  • 2nd group are notes F E G
  • 3 group is note A

4th method – Note by note – horizontally

If you know some rules, you can also play all the notes horizontally (without knowing their position from the previously described methods).

The rules for each string are (be aware that lower strings mean lower by tone and higher frets mean higher by number):

  • 1st string – 3 strings lower, 2 frets higher
  • 2nd string -  3 strings lower, 2 frets higher
  • 3rd string -  2 strings higher, 3 frets higher or 3 strings lower, 3 frets higher
  • 4th string -  2 strings higher, 3 frets higher
  • 5th string -  2 strings higher. 2 frets higher
  • 6th string – 2 strings higher, 2 frets higher

For example: play/say note C

  • 1st fret on 2nd string
  • 3rd fret on 5th string
  • 5th fret on 3rd string
  • 8th fret on 1st & 6th string
  • 10th fret 4th string

5th method – Note by Pattern

As you might know there are 5 patterns that cover the whole fretboard and by playing them you can also learn where the notes are.

On the picture below are the patterns for C major scale (C A G E D are the names of the patterns).

I would advise you to first play these patterns (+ say the notes out loud) and then start practicing by playing a song/lick in different positions on these patterns. It doesn’t have to be a long melody but make sure that all notes are included. This is also an advanced method for those who master the first two methods.


Now that you know all these methods go and practice them on your guitar.

And of course write me some feedback. I’ll appreciate it!