Natural Notes

Learning the Fretboard

Tips on learning the notes on the guitar

Memorizing the notes on the fretboard is helpful for a lot of things.  The two most important reasons to do this are to be able to easily find barre chords up and down the neck, and to know where to play scales when improvising.  The good news is, you don’t have to memorize every string and fret location on the guitar, you can just start with getting more familiar with the fifth and sixth string up to the twelfth fret.  There are three approaches you can take to accomplish this.

Memorize the dotted frets

The dots on the fretboard are there to help you navigate, like signposts on a trail.  You can start the task of memorizing the notes by just memorizing what the notes are on those dotted frets.  So in this case, the notes you would memorize would be


Notes on dotted frets








This approach is good if you don’t know any of the notes and are looking for a way to learn the fretboard without any specific goals in mind.


Memorize the natural notes

If you’ve played other instruments and have some familiarity with music theory, this might make more sense.


Natural Notes







Once you’ve learned the position of the natural notes, the enharmonic notes will be relatively easy to identify.


Memorize notes based on barre chords

If you’ve started learning some songs already that use barre chords, this approach builds on what you’ve already learned.  The idea behind this is that a lot of rock songs are based on the keys C, G, D, A, E and F, and you learn the location of root notes for barre chords that get used in those keys.


Common Barre Chord Notes








This method of memorizing the notes on the fretboard is a little more haphazard, but if you’re already using barre chords, it’s probably going to make finding those chords easier.


Once you have mastered on of these methods, you should learn all the notes on the fifth and sixth strings.  Once you’ve done that you can use your knowledge of octaves to find notes on the other strings.  Also, the notes on the first string are the same as the sixth string, but just up two octaves, so once you’ve learned the notes on the sixth string, you’ll know the notes on the first string as well.


Questions?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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