Is there anything more intimidating to a beginner guitar player than even considering learning every note on the fretboard?
Let’s face it: if you are not a musical prodigy, or if you never took music lessons as a kid, the odds are that even viewing the musical notes that make up the fretboard is going to make you want to give up immediately.
This may be a task that you have been putting off for some time: after all, why do we need to know every note on a guitar fretboard? As long as we have tabs to follow, it is not necessary to know all the teeny, tiny details, right?
Well, if we’re being honest, knowing each note placement will make your guitar playing experience so much easier in the long run.
While it is not completely essential, and there are many successful guitarists in the world that never learned every note by heart, playing the guitar will be much harder without knowing them.
It is something that, unfortunately, you will probably need to learn for future reference if you truly want to master this art.
There are twelve notes that need to be memorized in total, which sounds easy enough, but not when you consider that they are spread out and repeated, several times, over six strings and twenty four frets.
In order to remember the placement of every note, you will need to memorize a grand total of 144 note placements.
If only there was some kind of helpful guide that could help you learn these placements so that you could learn every note within a short amount of time, huh?
That is where we come in.
In this article, we are going to give you some tips that will help you not only memorize each and every note on your guitar’s fretboard, but will help you learn them in a much shorter amount of time than you would expect.
This task does not have to be a difficult one – seriously! As long as you take the time to read through our three steps, you will soon find yourself on the path to guitar strumming greatness.
So, enough wasting time! Let’s look into how you can quickly memorize every note on your six string’s fretboard through three, simple steps.
Why Is It Important To Learn The Notes On A Fretboard?
So, before we get into the three steps that will help you remember each note, you may need a little more convincing into why you should do this.
It is so important for every guitar player to have the skill to locate every note on the fretboard. Why? Well, by learning the location of every note, you will open yourself up to so many more opportunities while playing the guitar.
You will be able to:
- improvise riffs with ease.
- play along to music, targeting specific notes that pair up with the chords being played on the track that you are listening to.
- create your own chords from the ground up.
- create your own scales from the ground up.
- easily find barre chords all over your fretboard by using your own intuition.
As we said, it is completely possible to become a skilled guitarist without being able to instantly locate each note, but your life will become so much easier if you take the time out to do it.
It may seem like a daunting challenge that will take forever to perfect, but, trust us, we promise that you will be able to nail this task much sooner than you think you would.
We are not saying that reading this article will supply you with miraculous powers, and that you will be able to instantly remember every single note once you have finished reading it.
Learning to play the guitar, the same as learning to play any kind of musical instrument, requires patience, persistence, and a whole lot of tough grinding.
Just like everything else in life, this skill requires you to put the hard work in, and this hard work will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.
Luckily, you are perfectly capable of doing this! It is not going to be completely easy and straightforward – nothing in this life ever is – but, hey, we have faith in you.
The Music Notes On A Fretboard
On your average six-stringed guitar, the standard tuning typically used is EADGBe: this means that, starting from the top string, the individual strings should be tuned to play the notes E, A, D, G, B, and E again (in a higher key) while strumming downwards.
You would assume that the tuning would be known as eBGDAE, as this is the order of the strings from top to bottom rather than the other way around.
The reason that the standard tuning of a guitar is generally recognized through the abbreviation of ‘EADGBe’ is because this is the way that you would view the strings as you are physically playing them, viewing them upside down.
You can tune your guitar differently in order to play in different keys, but as a beginner, you should solely focus on playing with the standard tuning for now.
Below, we have placed a simple(ish) diagram of each location of every single note on your guitar’s fretboard:
Yes, we know this may seem overwhelming at first.
Right now, you are looking at 144 note placements, spread across twenty four frets for each of the six strings.
This means that each string, in standard tuning, has the ability to play twenty four different notes depending on where you place your fingers on the fretboard while strumming.
You may notice that there may be two dots placed on the twelfth fret and the twenty fourth fret of your guitar.
This is because the notes begin repeating themselves after these frets: when you get to the thirteenth fret you return to the first note on the fretboard, and each note following repeats in the exact same order for the following twelve frets.
Check the above diagram, and you will notice this pattern.
When it comes to learning anything, finding patterns throughout the process is key. While learning the different notes on the fretboard, you may find patterns of your own.
These will aid you through the process, allowing you to memorize the notes in different ways.
Three Steps To Easily Learn (And Memorize) Each Note
As we promised, here are our three easy steps to aid you through this seemingly impossible process.
While these steps will not turn you into a musical prodigy overnight, by thoroughly reading through and studying each step, you should be able to remember each and every note within no time at all.
Like we said: patience and persistence are required!
1. Learn Each Open String Note
So, as we said previously in this article, the standard tuning for a six-stringed guitar is EADGBe.
The easiest part to remember about the tuning of the strings is that the top and bottom strings should both be tuned to E: the top string being tuned to a lower key, and the bottom string being tuned to a higher key.
Both strings, while being played openly (without the strings being held down on any of the frets) should play the same note.
Knowing this fact will prove to become extremely beneficial to you as you become more familiar with your guitar, aiding you through tasks such as simply being able to accurately tune your strings.
Once you have remembered the two E strings, you will need to learn and remember the middle four strings: A, D, G, and B.
A great way to memorize the order of the strings is by using a mnemonic, a pattern of letters which will help you make an association between the order of the notes.
For example, a couple of commonly used mnemonics for the strings of a standard tuned six-stringed guitar are:
- Every Apple Does Good Being Eaten
- Every Amp Deserves Guitars/Basses Everyday
- Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears
You can always create your own mnemonic device if it makes the learning process easier for you: just make sure that you choose a sentence in which the words start with the letters E, A, D, G, B, and E in that exact order.
Once you remember the notes openly played on each individual string, it will become much easier to learn the individual notes along the fretboard: the notes continue from the open notes of the strings, e.g. the note played while holding down the first fret of the E string is ‘F’, followed by ‘F#’, ‘G’, etc.
In addition to one of the first points made in this section, it is worth remembering that you only need to learn five out of the six strings: once you remember that the top string is ‘E’, you will know the notes for the bottom string, which is also ‘E’.
Take the time to learn and remember the notes of each open string, and you will already be set on the right track.
2. Learn The Difference Between ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ A Fretboard
Do you remember when we mentioned that the standard tuning is known as ‘EADGBe’ rather than ‘eBGDAE’ because it makes it easier for a guitarist to view while physically playing the instrument, even if it makes less sense while viewing a guitar upside-right?
Well, there are many other factors similar to this that can make guitar playing seem a little confusing. Once you get the hang of it, however, your guitar playing experience will become much easier.
As a guitarist, you will need to know the difference between moving up a fretboard and moving down a fretboard.
This may seem like common sense, but musicians will end up getting these two directions confused a lot more than you would realise. You may be one of them!
One of the easiest ways to remember the directions of a fretboard is by listening to the pitch while you are playing: when you are moving up a fretboard, the pitch of the notes will get higher, whereas when you move down a fretboard, the notes will lower in pitch. Up = higher, down = lower. Simple enough, right?
Another hack to remembering the difference between ‘up’ and ‘down’ is by simply remembering that if you are moving up the fretboard, your fingers will be moving towards you.
If you are moving down the fretboard, your fingers will be moving towards the headstock, moving away from you.
Lastly, an easy way to visually view which way without having to remember anything – which we do not recommend you doing, as you should be learning these methods for yourself – is by simply reading the numbers along the fretboard itself.
The fret numbers will get higher when you move up the neck of the guitar, and the numbers will get lower as you move back down.
While we do not recommend you rely on the last suggestion, it can be useful to remember if you ever get stuck. By using the two previous suggestions, you should find it simple to remember whether you are moving up or down a fretboard.
This will help you remember which way the notes are moving.
3. Learn the Musical Alphabet And The Chromatic Scale
If you never had music lessons as a kid, now is the time to do a little learning to catch everyone up to date.
So, as a musician, you should know the ‘musical alphabet’: this is the collection of all the musical notes that you will use while playing the guitar.
There are twelve notes in the musical alphabet, in order:
- A# (B♭)
- C# (D♭)
- D# (E♭)
- F# (G♭)
- G# (A♭)
You may be familiar with A, B, C, D, E, F, and G if you, like most people, happened to learn the alphabet at a young age.
The notes that probably stand out to you are the ones that end with a ‘#’ or a ‘♭’: these notes are called ‘accidentals’ (e.g. A#/B♭) and are played the same, but are known through different terms. A ‘#’ stands for the word ‘sharp’, and a ‘♭’ stands for the word ‘flat’.
An accidental note is one that either raises the previous (#) or lowers the following (♭} note by a semitone.
Each of these notes are in an ordered form that creates the chromatic scale, a pattern that starts with the note ‘C’ and continues in the order of the list that we mentioned above.
Once you have learnt the chromatic scale by memory, it will become much easier to identify the locations of certain notes along a fretboard.
If the notes were listed in a consistent order, e.g. ‘A, A#, B, B#, C, C# […]’ throughout, it would be so much easier to remember: unfortunately, some of the notes do not have a sharp variation, so you will need to remember which ones do and which ones do not.
There are only two notes that do not have a sharp variation: E and B. It is still unknown to this day why the notes E# and B# do not exist, but this is not an issue for you to worry about.
All you need to remember is that there is no E# or B#.
By remembering the chromatic scale, you will be able to count your way through the fretboards in order, using the first two steps that we taught you, and after a little while of practice you should be able to roughly estimate the whereabouts of each note.
Time to Practice!
Now that you have read our three basic tips on how to memorize the notes along a fretboard, why not put this knowledge to the test? With a little time and practice, you should be able to locate every note and identify which numbered fret and string they belong to.
So, go ahead! It is time to take one step further to become the world’s greatest guitarist. We believe in you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take To Learn The Guitar Fretboard?
According to certain sources, it is believed that it is possible to learn the location of every note on a fretboard within ten minutes. However, this may be a far stretch, especially for those who have had no previous musical training.
Everyone learns at their own pace, and it is important not to put a time frame on these things: just take your time, and don’t rush yourself. You will get there eventually!
Do You Have To Memorise The Notes On The Fretboard?
It is possible to become a successful guitarist without memorizing every single note on a fretboard, but it will prove to be a more difficult task. Learning each note and knowing their location is a very important skill for a guitarist to have.
Are There Sharps Or Flats On The Fretboard?
There are five sharp/flat notes on the fretboard of a six-stringed guitar with a standard tuning: A#/B♭, C#/D♭, D#/E♭, F#/G♭, and G#/A♭.
Why Is It Important To Learn The Fretboard?
By learning the positions of each note on the fretboard, you will be able to improvise riffs with ease, play along to music while recognising which notes/chords are being played, create your own chords from the ground up, create your own scales from the ground up, and find it easier to locate the position of barre chords all across your fretboard by using your own intuition.