Lesson 2: How To Memorise The Notes On The Guitar Fretboard

Download the accompanying e-book for this lesson here.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

I admit that when I first started playing guitar I was intimidated by the amount of notes on the guitar fretboard. I thought I would never be able to remember them all. After all, a guitar with 24 frets will have 144 different note locations to remember. Luckily I found out that there are really simple ways to to memorize all the notes on a guitar fretboard within a couple of days… if you know the right way to go about it.

First of all we can cut the number of positions that need to be remembered in half because the guitar fretboard repeats after the 12th fret (the first 12 frets are an octave, the next 12 are the octave above it). The notes appear in the exact same order from the 12th to the 24th fret as they do from the 1st to the 12th. This means there are now only 72 note locations to remember.

In total there are 12 different notes in western music, these are: C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/, A, A#/Bb and B. As you can see the #’s and b’s (sharps and flats) lie between the notes C and D, D and E, F and G, G and A, A and B. So we can now cut the number of notes we need to learn down to just 42 because we will automatically see the sharps and flats appear between the other notes once we’ve memorized the positions of C, D, E, F, G and A.

Now find an image of all the notes on the fretboard (you can find one in the free e-book that you get when you join the Guitar Theory Revolution newsletter) and find the universal note pattern that every note follows. Between the 1st and 12th fret each note appears once on each of the six strings. If you take the start of the pattern to be the notes appearing on the low and high E string then you’ll see the pattern repeat over and over for each note.

Learning this note pattern is probably the quickest way to learn all the notes on the guitar fretboard, although there are others. For example if you know the circle of fifths and fourths then you’ll easily be able to find all the notes because the strings on the guitar are tuned in fifths. The circle of fourths and fifths will be covered in future articles and lessons.

As I mentioned earlier it is best to focus on the notes C, D, E, F, G, A and B first because that way you’ll automatically start seeing the sharps and flats between them. In addition you should always sing the notes that you are playing in order to improve your ability to recognize notes by ear.

Finally make sure you learn the locations of the notes without reference to other notes. Although it’s helpful in the beginning it’s not good to keep doing this as it will slow you down because you’ll always be checking where other notes are before you can find the one you really want.

To memorize all the notes in the proper way check out the exercises and diagrams in the free e-book How To Learn All The Notes On The Guitar Fretboard which you can download when you sign up for the Guitar Theory Revolution newsletter.