Sunday, 11 March 2012 16:18

Lesson 2. Notes on the guitar fretboard

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Hello, my friends guitarists! It's a good day to learn some notes from this guitar basics course. We will quickly run next essential topic after our guitar is tuned. We'll cover how to learn notes on the guitar. This is essential step in learning because knowing notes is the same as starting with ABC in school.

We’ll take a brief look how the guitar fretboard looks like. We’ll learn how we can find these notes, what is the formula to make everything easier and why it's important. From my opinion, learning notes is the first which needs to be done because it will allows building chords easily, see notes right away and master playing skills quickly. Why quickly? That’s because this will open the structure which makes practice easier. This will help building up finger memory. But finding notes quickly from first sight takes some time. I’ll teach you how to do it much quicker.

Here I’m not mentioning sheet music. It’s up to you to learn notes traditional way. This lesson will show to how to see notes on the guitar with peripheral vision.

Ok, let’s go!

As in Physics, Math or Chemistry, there's also notes formula to fend them. It's a "magically" simple structure. It will make everything much easier.

The formula starts from the C note and ends also on B (image example on B string).

Here's the formula:


Tone > Tone > Semitone > Tone >Tone > Tone > Semitone


Take a look at this image example below. Find the C note on B string (second string from above).

Got it? OK, after the C is the D note, etc.

Guitar fretboard notes

D is 2 frets away from the C, which is:


The tone  =  2 frets


Next, after the D comes E note (which is tone away from the D).

After E comes F which is one fret away. It's a semitone:


The Semitone  =  1 fret


Ok, let’s review what we have here:


C (tone) > D (tone) > E (semitone) > F (tone) > G (tone) > A (tone) > B (semitone) > C


Remember that:

  • tone is distance of 2 frets from notes;
  • semitone is distance of 1 fret (the next box after note);

If you consider this is complicated, then take a look at everything from other point. More easily to learn this is to understand that formula consists of 5 tones and 2 semitones. And once again let's repeat it:

Tone > Tone > Semitone > Tone >Tone > Tone > Semitone


If this is familiar or you have noticed - this is major scale formula. Yes, learning the guitar fretboard is hard. Fretboard is built on major scale basis. It’s seen on every string.

A while ago I didn’t believe my teacher when he said that guitar fretboard built on major scale basis. So, I tried to prove it. I couldn’t do that. If you want to make sure about it, then you can make test. Do you remember the guitar standard tune from the first lesson? Here how notes are built:

  • 1. String – high "e"
  • 2. String – high B
  • 3. String – middle G
  • 4. String – middle D
  • 5. String – low A
  • 6. String – low E


Try to find notes on every string (from open low E, from low open A and so on…) by using the major scale formula. You can use the image above but the better way would be to do it without. This is good training which will grow up peripheral vision. I’ve done this a while ago and I quite liked it.

At the beginning of this article I have mentioned that it takes some time to learn "seeing" notes visually on fretboard. This is the first step how to do it - finding notes with the help of major scale. For me it was quite complicated to name every note spontaneous. For example - name 8th fret on G string; name 10th fret on D string and etc. It takes some time to learn it. You can do it for about 10 minutes several times a week, it doesn't require for hour or even more daily. No! Learn with smaller portions than big ones, because it lays in head much better.

The second good practice is naming notes in every played chord. For example play C major chord, look at notes and name them. Name – C; E; G. Play another chord and do the same. I practiced the same way. I played for about 5 to 6 chords and named which notes they consist of. Yes, it is taught. But like good musician Mr. Frank Gambale said:



It doesn’t matter what chords you play. You can play simple minor or major, Cm7 or C7, or B dim (diminished) chord. Just name notes!

Ok, here’s the full guitar fretboard with all notes on the guitar. First picture (above) showed strong notes (with no sharps and flats). Here’s is the full “map” of fretboard. It shows all notes on all 24 frets on every string. Colored notes are strong or stable and grey ones are flats or sharps ( ; #)

Guitar fretboard



For the conclusion of guitar fretboard lesson, let’s overview what we have learned about notes and what we need to know:

  • Knowing guitar notes on fretboard is essential, because it opens easy fingering, trains hand memory and peripheral vision;
  • There’s simple musical formula fro finding them;
  • Formula is based on major scale basis;
  • One fret is semitone;
  • Two frets build a tone;
  • Guitar notes end on 12th fret (fretboard starts all over again);
    • Helps building intervals, scales, chords, arpeggios and everything else in music!


The last but not least what I would like to mention here is that notes end up on 12th fret (on every string) and repeat – start all over again. Keep that in mind! Don’t waste time learning everything from 12th up to to 22nd fret (or 24th) because they start all over again. Peripheral vision sees learned notes anywhere.Smile

My personal suggestion for any musician is – learn finding notes on the fretboard, if you don't see them or think it's a rush. It’s not right way to learn the guitar if you can't find simple notes.

Ok, I hope this was informative and helped finding answers.

Next time, we’ll cover essential topic about what are guitar intervals what they do and how to learn them as simple as possible.



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