Names of the notes on the fretboard

Knowing the names of the notes on a particular string in a particular fret becomes a necessity when one desires to go beyond learning the easiest things to learn, and takes that turn down the road twords the mastery of the instrument.

Recall that standard tuning is given (from thickest to thinnest) as EADGBE.

E|---1
A|---2
D|---3
G|---4
B|---5
E|---6
(*note: the numbering of strings 1-6 from thinnest to thickest)

Recall, also that in the western system we are using that there are 12 chromatic notes : A,A#/Bb,B,C,C#/Db,D,D#/Eb,E,F,F#/Gb,G,G#/Ab. In this conext, the notes A# and Bb (also C# and Db, etc.) are considered "enharmonic" which in the modern meaning of the word means that the notes A# and Bb are actually the same note.

We call the collection of notes without accidentals (no #, no b, etc.) the natural scale . A,B,C,D,E,F,G.
I suggest when learning the notes on a string to first learn the notes of the natural scale, and then once they are learned to go back and learn the enharmonic notes (the rest of the chromatic scale) on the string.

Frets are numbered from 1 to 24 going from the nut to the bridge (head to body) going from the nut to the bridge (head to body).As notes go higher up the neck, the string is shortened and the pitch rises. At the 13th fret, the note is one octave higher (meaning it has the same name) as the 1rst fret. In practical terms, we can use this to cut down on the number of frets that we need to learn the names of (individually) and we can think of higher frets (13-24) as being the same as those 12 frets lower. (15th fret = 3rd fret, same letter name).

Looking at the nmaes of the notes on the frets of the strings in standard tuning...

The E strings (both 6th and 1rst strings).

The natural scale

E|F|-|G|-|A|-|B|C|-|D|-|E|F|... etc.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910 11 12 13

the chromatic scale

-E|-F-|F#/Gb|-G-|G#/Ab|-A-|A#/Bb|-B-|-C-|C#/Db|-D-|D#/Eb|-E-|-F-|
0   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9    10   11   12  13

The A string (the 5th string).

The natural scale

A|-|B|C|-|D|-|E|F|-|G|-|A|... etc.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910 11 12

the chromatic scale

-A|A#/Bb|-B-|-C-|C#/Db|-D-|D#/Eb|-E-|-F-|F#/Gb|-G-|G#/Ab|-A-|
0   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9    10   11   12

The D string (the 4th string).

The natural scale

D|-|E|F|-|G|-|A|-|B|C|-|D|... etc.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910 11 12

the chromatic scale

-D|D#/Eb|-E-|-F-|F#/Gb|-G-|G#/Ab|-A-|A#/Bb|-B-|-C-|C#/Db|-D-|D#/Eb|
0   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9    10   11   12  13

The G string (the 3rd string).

The natural scale

G|-|A|-|B|C|-|D|-|E|F|-|G|... etc.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910 11 12

the chromatic scale

-G|G#/Ab|-A-|A#/Bb|-B-|-C-|C#/Db|-D-|D#/Eb|-E-|-F-|F#/Gb|-G-|G#/Ab|
0   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9    10   11   12  13

The B string (the 2nd string).

The natural scale

B|C|-|D|-|E|F|-|G|-|A|-|B|C|... etc.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910 11 12 13

the chromatic scale

-B|-C-|C#/Db|-D-|D#/Eb|-E-|-F-|F#/Gb|-G-|G#/Ab|-A-|A#/Bb|-B-|-C-|
0   1    2    3    4    5   6    7    8    9    10   11   12  13

If you know how octaves map out on the fretboard, you can use them to help you learn the names of the notes.

ex.

E|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|-E-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-E-|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|
E|---|---|---|---|---|

Another good way to learn the notes is to practice barre chords in one shape switching chords (maybe a circle of 5ths) where you're matching up the root in the chord with the letter name.

ex.
Try playing the maj7 chord with the root on the 6th string.

ex.

X|---|---|
 |-O-|---|
 |---|-O-|
 |---|-O-|
X|---|---|
 |-R-|---|

(Place the root,R, on the fret with the same name as the root of the chord)

Amaj7-Dmaj7-Gmaj7-Cmaj7-Fmaj7-Bbmaj7-Abmaj7-Dbmaj7-Gbmaj7-Bmaj7-Emaj7-Amaj7.

It can take quite some time to learn the notes, don't despair. We're building skills which will lead twords mastery of the instrument.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


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Last updated January 11, 2003
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