Learning the notes on the guitar neck is an important part of learning guitar, but is often overlooked in guitar lessons.
Because the guitar is a pattern based instrument, many guitar teachers and students focus on learning chord shapes, scale patterns, and sometimes feel like they can get away with not knowing what the note names on their fretboard are.
Learning the notes on the fretboard will help prepare you for more advanced guitar playing skills like movable chord and scale shapes that let you play freely all over the guitar
Without knowing the notes on the guitar fretboard, you are only using a tiny percentage of the instrument.
There is a simple process you can use that will help you learn all of the note names on every string, and it only takes a few minutes a day to master.
In this lesson you will learn:
The Musical Alphabet
The first thing you need to know is what letters actually get used for note names. Luckily, this is simple: you use letters A through G. Just 7 letters.
A BC D EF G A BC…
The 7 letters of the musical alphabet repeat themselves. Once you’ve gone all the way to G, you start back over at A.
This might take a little bit of time to get used to if you’re just getting started with music, but it will become easier before too long.
Spacing And Frets
You may have noticed that some of the letters in the alphabet example are closer together than others. That is because in music, some notes are closer together than others.
You’ll notice that A and B have a space between them. In music this is called a whole step.
You’ll also see that B and C are right next to each other. in music this is called a half step.
I’m going to re-write the alphabet example with vertical lines to represent frets. This way you can see how the musical alphabet applies to a guitar string.
A| |B|C| |D| |E|F| |G| |A| |B|C|
If you are playing the note A and move up the neck 2 frets, you will now be playing the note B. If you are playing the note B and move up one fret, you will be playing the note C.
No need to think too hard about this, we’re going to apply it to the guitar in our next step.
Note: you might be wondering what happens in those empty frets. Don’t worry about that too much right now. We will cover that in a future lesson.
Application To The Strings
Now we get to the good stuff - applying this idea to our guitar strings. Doing this exercise is going to be the best way for you to understand the concept, so let’s get your fingers moving!
The process here is simple:
That’s it! It’s a simple exercise but if you do it regularly you will start to learn your way around the guitar neck pretty quickly.
Especially when you are getting started, double check with the handout frequently. It’s even ok to just read through the diagram as you go every time.
I don’t recommend actively trying to memorize this. The memorization will come naturally the more you do the exercise.
Think about when you’ve had to use directions to get to a new restaurant. Each time you go back to that restaurant, you need the directions less and less. That’s the same way this exercise will help you learn the guitar neck.
6th String (E)
Play and say the note names starting with the open 6th string (E), reading left to right. Double check that you are on the right string and fret each step of the way.
5th String (A)
Play and say the note names starting with he open 5th string (A), reading left to right. Double check that you are on the right string and fret each step of the way.
4th String (D)
Play and say the note names starting with the open 4th string (D), reading left to right. Double check that you are on the right string and fret each step of the way.
3rd String (G)
Play and say the note names starting with the open 3rd string (G), reading left to right. Double check that you are on the right string and fret each step of the way.
2nd String (B)
Play and say the note names starting with the open 2nd string (B), reading left to right. Double check that you are on the right string and fret each step of the way.
1st String (E)
Play and say the note names starting on the open 1st string (E), reading left to right. Double check that you are on the right string and fret each step of the way.
Things To Think About
Learning the notes on the guitar fretboard is an important part of improving your guitar skills but it is easily neglected, leaving you to scramble and try to cram the information into your brain so you can move forward in guitar lessons.
These exercises will set the stage for learning more advanced techniques and concepts like barre chords, movable scale patterns, and arpeggios all over the guitar neck.
With practice, you will know all of the natural notes on the guitar pretty soon. Just go through the exercise regularly and you will start to know what the notes are without really having to think too hard about it.
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