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Getting Started Learning Notes on the Fretboard

Installment #1: "Important Guideposts on the Guitar Neck"

By Mark Hanson

May 31, 2009

Students ask me how to learn the names of the notes all over the guitar neck.

The system I have devised uses certain frets (5th, 7th, 10th, 12th) as guideposts, from which I suggest my students extrapolate to find other notes. Here is how to get started using my system for standard tuning:

1. I know the open strings: E A D G B E (bass to treble)
2. I know the 12th-fret notes because they are the octaves of the open strings: E A D G B E
3. I know the fifth-fret notes because they are the same note as the adjacent higher-pitched string (the time-honored “Fifth-Fret” tuning technique):
    Sixth string, 5th fret = A (same as open fifth string)
    Fifth string, 5th fret = D
    Fourth string, 5th fret = G
    Third string, 4th fret = B *
    Second string, 5th fret = E
  * The one exception is the 4th fret of the third string.
4. I know the 7th-fret notes because they are an octave higher than the adjacent lower-pitched string:
    Fifth string, 7th fret = E (one octave above open Sixth string)
    Fourth string, 7th fret = A
    Third string, 7th fret = D
    Second string, 8th fret = G *
    First string, 7th fret = B’    
    (Sixth string, 7th fret is also B, like the first string)
  * The one exception is the 8th fret of the second string.
5. I know the 10th-fret notes because I can count backwards in the alphabet (at least up to G!). The 10th-fret notes are all “white” notes (no sharps or flats), one letter in the alphabet before the name of that open string:
    Sixth string, 10th fret = D (the open string is E; D is the letter prior to it in the alphabet)
    Fifth string, 10th fret = G
    Fourth string, 10th fret = C
    Third string, 10th fret = F
    Second string, 10th fret = A
    First string, 10th fret = D

That’s enough for the first installment. In subsequent installments I will explain how to learn the other notes on the guitar neck.

Mark Hanson

Copyright © 2009 Accent On Music, LLC, and Mark D. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.