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Learn the Guitar Fretboard – The Rubik’s Cube of Guitar Music

One way of learning the guitar fretboard and positions is through learning songs and chords. This can take a while learning in a random order and you usually only remember the root tones for chords.

I suggest you make learning the fretboard as part of your daily practice routine.

You can learn the notes on one or two frets or learn the notes up the neck on one string or other ways that you may think of or read about.

If you spend 5 minutes of your practice time learning the fretboard it will pay-off in the near future.

The software at the bottom of this page or in the right column will make learning the fretboard easier and faster.

Take Little Bites – Guitar Fretboard

Remember it’s easier and you will remember it better if you learn in small sections. It also makes it easier to go back to an area that you have a problem with.

Everybody gets a problem now and then or a mental block about something that you have to work out.

There is more to learning the fretboard than just memorizing the notes. There are positions that work better for different scales and many other aspects of playing.

Why Learn the Guitar Fretboard?

If you just want to play a few chords you don’t have to know the fretboard but you will never get any better until you do.

There are many different ways to play the same chords and notes on the guitar. You should know all of them.

The advantage is there may be easier and smoother ways to play a certain chords or licks. If you only know one way your playing will be limited and get boring fast to the listener. This goes for all aspects of playing guitar.

There are positions that make fingering certain chords easier and positions that are better for certain solo work.

It makes figuring out songs by ear easier. You will have to do this for a lot of songs even if you have the sheet music. They don’t include everything in the sheet music.

Twelve Notes – That’s All

There are only twelve different notes in music and on the guitar fretboard. You only need to learn 12 notes plus their octaves.

Octaves are the same notes, 8 notes (12 frets) higher or lower. A higher or lower pitch.

The Musical Alphabet

The musical alphabet is; A – B – C – D – E – F – G. These are the only notes used in western hemisphere music. They are just repeated but higher or lower in pitch.

There are notes in between all these notes except for B-C and E-F. They will be called sharp and use this symbol ♯ or flat and use this symbol ♭.

There will be times when you see a B♯(C), C♭(B), E♯(F) and F♭(E).E♯(F) is a note in the F sharp scale because you cannot use the same note name twice in a major scale. Other uses are for learning purposes. The note name in parentheses is the pitch on the guitar and in music notation.

The Octaves

Octaves are the next higher or lower set of notes from a given note. On the guitar octaves occur every 12 frets up or down. To get an idea of this play an open string and then play the note on the 12th fret. The 12 fret is usually marked by two dots instead of one.

Sharps and Flats

If you are completely new to music this is our shorthand for writing sharps and flats.

Sharps are written like this ♯

A sharp raises a note one semi-tone higher, 1 fret on the guitar.

Flats are written like this ♭

A flat lowers a note by one semi-tone or 1 fret on the guitar.

Sharps and flats are much like plus and minus signs are in math.

The Musical Stairs

A good way to visualize the scales and notes on the guitar neck is to think of a set of stairs with 12 steps, each step will represent a fret on the guitar.

If you play every note on any string from the open position to the 12th fret you will have just played an entire octave. This is also the chromatic scale, all semitones or half ½ steps, 1 fret apart.

The note at the 12th fret on the top E string equals the note on the 7th fret of the A string just below it…. They are both E’s and 1 octave higher than the open top E string.

The notes just start over at the 12th fret but they are one octave higher.

The Note Possibilities

Here are all the notes; ♯ = sharp, ♭ = flat, Rare = not really used much, just an education point

B – B, B♭(A♯) or B♯(C) Rare

C – C, C♭(B)Rare or C♯(D♭)

E – E, E♭(D♯) or E♯(F♭ Rare)

F – F, F♭(E)Rare or F♯(G♭)

These are the only notes used in our music, the octave part will be easy after you learn the first ones.

Enharmonic Notes
Same Pitch – Different Name

You’ll see the word enharmonic in your music studies. Just so you know what it means.

These are notes that are spelled different and written different in music notation but are the same pitch. In other words an F♯ is equal to a G♭ and a B♭ is equal to an A♯.

In tablature they would be on the same string and fret. No change.

There is one thing I want to point out on the guitar. The distance between notes are called steps or tones, in case you read about this somewhere else you will know what they are talking about.

This can be confusing because ½ step is sometimes used. For us guitar players a ½ step or a semitone equals one fret. A whole tone or whole step equals 2 frets apart.

No in Between Notes

Always remember that there is ½ step or tone(1 fret) between the following two note groups. B to C and E to F. On a keyboard or piano you will see two places where the white keys do not have a black key between them, B-C and E-F.

The Notes

C

C♯
D♭

D

D♯
E♭

E

F

F♯
G♭

G

G♯
A♭

A

A♯
B♭

B

C

The Fretboards

Below are images of the guitar fretboard for right and left handed players.

I made them in two parts because of the software I was using.

I didn’t put the flats and sharps in to make it easier to view.

A flatted note is one fret lower and a sharp is one fret higher.

The nut is on the top, 6th string is on the left.

Right Handed Guitar Fretboard

Left Handed Guitar Fretboard

Everything from above applies to the left handed versions except

The nut is on the top, the 6th string is on right

Learn the guitar neck so it becomes second nature to know where notes are anywhere on the neck. This will help you from getting lost when playing things.

Also using open strings when you are playing in higher positions gives you another option they also last longer than a fretted note.

Learn the notes and you can play it in other positions giving you a different sound texture.

All the E Notes – Guitar Fretboard

Below are the 4 different E notes you will learn to play on the guitar.

Left Handed View

The First E Note

The 1st E note is the 6th string open. This is the only place this E can be played.

The 2nd E note can be played…

These are the only places this particular E can be played on the guitar.

The 3rd E note can be played…

The 4th E note can be played…

The only other way to play these notes is by stretching a string up from a lower fret. This is a technique you will learn later.

I hope this makes the notes on the guitar a little easier to understand.

Guitar Fretboard A Notes

Here is where all the A notes are and what they look like written in music and tab

Left Handed View

The First A Note

The Second A can be played…

The 3rd A can be played…

The 4th A can only be played
1st string – 17th fret

If you play an acoustic guitar just play what you can reach. That last A note only gets used in rock and blues solos.

The D Notes

Left Handed View

The first D note can be played…

The second D can be played…

The third D can be played…

The last one can only be played on the first string and if you have 22 frets on your guitar or want to stretch up.

Guitar Fretboard G Notes

Here are the G notes in notation and tab

Left Handed View

The first G can only be played
6th string – 3rd fret

The second G can be played…

The third G can be played…

The last G can be played…

B Notes on the Guitar Fretboard

Left Handed View

The 1st B note can be played…

The second B note can be played…

The Third B note can be played…

The Last B note can be played…

F Notes on the Guitar

Here are the F notes in notation and tab

Left Handed View

1st F can only be played
6th string – 1st fret

The second F can be played…

The 3rd F can be played…

The 4th F can be played…

C Notes on the Guitar Fretboard

Left Handed View

The 1st C can be played…

The 2nd C can be played…

The 3rd C can be played…

The Last C can be played…

Reading Guitar Notes

It starts with E and just goes through the music alphabet A B C D E F G and repeats but the tone is one octave higher.

Guitar Fretboard Layout
Open Strings

The guitar fretboard layout is fairly simple. The strings will be labeled like below no matter where you see a neck or chord diagram.

The only way they would be different is if the music was in an open tuning like E or G or something else.

The 6th string is the top heavy string.

From these open strings you should be able to figure out the notes on all the strings if I didn’t confuse you somewhere.

Learning Software

Although I think I have explained the fretboard enough for you to understand, this software will cut your fretboard learning time in half and make it fun at the same time.

It also improves your playing and timing after you know the fretboard. It doesn’t become obsolete after you know the fretboard and it’s also good to come back to now and then to refresh your memory.

It will provide years of service for tightening up your playing and music reading skills.

I hope you found this page useful.