Last updated on September 15th, 2023
Whether you are just starting to learn to play guitar or you have been playing for several years, there will eventually come a point where you need to learn all of the notes on the fretboard if you really want to further your understanding of the instrument and music in general.
There can be several reasons why you haven’t learned the notes yet. It can seem overwhelming, confusing or you simply haven’t got around to it. The good news is that it’s not as hard to learn them as it seems!
Once you learn the notes on the fretboard, you’ll be able to move around the fretboard more freely and will help you to play guitar with more confidence.
In this post, we’ll cover 7 tips to help you learn the notes on the guitar fretboard more effectively. Grab your guitar and let’s get started!
1. Know all the 12 notes (sharps, flats, steps between notes)
There are 12 notes in music when you include all of the notes with sharps and flats. A sharp (#) indicates a note is raised by a half step while a flat (b) indicates a note is lowered by a half step.
The trick is to remember which notes don’t have a sharp or flat note in between them.
The two exceptions of notes without a sharp or flat note are B to C and E to F.
Check out all of the notes in order here below:
By the way, this can also be called the chromatic scale when you include all the notes which are all equally a half step apart.
This basic theory will be very important to know as the foundation for learning the notes on the fretboard.
Remember that each fret apart on the fretboard equals the distance of a half step and 2 frets apart equal a whole step.
See the image below to better understand the distance of whole and half steps on the guitar fretboard. (First note on the left of the fretboard represents the open string note name.)
2. Memorize the 6 strings using acronyms
Now that you know the 12 notes, we have to memorize the string names because it will be the starting point to find other notes on the same string.
Memorizing the string notes can be done by learning acronyms. From low to high strings you have the notes E, A, D, G, B, and E.
Going from low to high strings, some common acronyms I’ve seen used are:
- Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie
- Eat All Day Get Big Easy
- Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually
- Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually
Otherwise, you can try coming up with your own acronym to remember the strings. You can also make one from highest to lowest strings which would be E, B, G, D, A, and E.
For example, Every Boy Gets Dessert After Eating.
3. The notes on the 1st and 6th strings are the same
The fact that the highest and lowest strings have the same notes gives you a head start so you actually only need to memorize 5 strings. The register or sound of the notes are different but the notes are the same.
Check out the image below to show you what I mean.
3. Open strings and the 12th fret are the same
Here is another little trick to help you learn the notes quicker and more efficiently. Every open string repeats the same note on the 12th fret. This is often the double dotted marker on the side of your guitar fretboard.
This also helps you to navigate when looking for other notes that are higher up on the fretboard.
4. Find the octaves above through shapes
Another trick is to find your notes an octave higher above any note. For example, any note on the 6th string repeats by skipping a string and skipping a fret.
You will see examples of these octave shapes with different notes in the image below:
The same shape applies to the 5th string.
For the 4th string you have to skip a string but skip two frets like this:
The same goes for the 3rd string above (skip a string and skip two frets)
5. Learn the fretboard notes by sections
Now that you have a better grasp of finding the notes on the fretboard, you want to and try to and memorize one section at a time.
For example, start by learning the notes up until the 6th fret really well and then move on to the next section of notes.
Once you have these notes down, try memorizing the notes on frets 6 through 12.
The good news is that after the 12 fret, all the notes repeat again. For example, fret 1 is the note as 13, fret 2 is the same note as 14, and so on.
All of the guitar fretboard notes
Finally here are all the notes on the fretboard from the open strings to the 12th fret.
Easily look up scales with the Essential Major Scales Guitar Chart!
This chart shows you the 5 essential Major scale shapes on guitar and how to play the Major scale starting on all 12 root notes.
There’s no need to stumble on what notes to play… Get the Essential Major Scales Guitar Chart printable to motivate and guide you on your musical journey!
6. Random fretboard notes game
Once you’ve gone through all the previous tips, you should be way more confident in finding any note on the fretboard.
A fun and simple game you can play on your own is to randomly press down on any fret or string and then ask yourself what note it is.
It might take you a few seconds at first but with some practice, you’ll get quicker at naming any given note!
Also, here is a link to a cool and helpful resource called music theory.net where you can play and customize this type of game to test your knowledge of the notes.
Here is a screenshot of what the note game looks like below:
7. Review the notes every time you pick up your guitar
Like any new information that you want to retain, reviewing material is the best way to keep the information fresh.
Consistency is essential to making new material stick so it would be a great habit to test your knowledge of the notes every time you pick up your guitar.
Regardless of how you like to structure your practice like the ones I discuss in the 7 minute practice session, this can help you to review and master learning the notes on the fretboard.
By learning the notes of the entire fretboard, you can gain a better understanding of what you are playing as well as give you the flexibility to play in any area of the guitar.
There are many benefits to learning the notes on the guitar such as learning new scales, chords, getting more comfortable playing melodies as well as improvising.
In this post we covered 7 tips to help you learn the notes on the guitar fretboard more quickly and efficiently. To recap, they are:
- Know all the 12 notes (sharps, flats, steps between notes)
- Memorize the 6 strings using acronyms
- Open strings and the 12th fret are the same
- Find the octaves above through shapes
- Learn the fretboard by sections
- Play the random note game
- Review the notes every time you pick up your guitar
It will be worth reviewing the notes on the fretboard from time to time because it will end up helping you in many other areas related to your instrument such as learning scales. For example, you can check these posts on how to play a Major scale, minor scale, pentatonic scale or blues scale.
I hope these tips will give you more confidence to play the right notes and help you navigate fretboard more clearly!
All the best,
JG Music Lessons