All You Need To Know About The Notes On The Guitar Fretboard
To play the guitar and make up your own songs, solos and riffs you don't need to memorize the names of the notes on the guitar fretboard. But it's a good idea to be able to name them.
What are the names of the notes on the guitar?
There are 12 repeating notes in music and on the guitar. I call it the 12 note cycle. The are named using the first 7 notes of the alphabet.
Some notes have two names. They are called sharps (#) or flats (). For example, A# (A sharp) is the same note as B (B flat).
No sharps or flats here
There are NO sharps or flats between B and C, or E and F.
What are whole steps and half steps?
A distance of one note is called a half step and a distance of two notes is called a whole step.
What's an octave?
A distance of 12 notes is called an octave.
What's the difference between each string?
Each string is tuned to a certain note.
The thickest string is tuned to the note E, the lowest note on the guitar.
The next string is tuned to the note A, then D, G, B and the thinnest string is tune to the note E again, but two octaves higher than the low E string.
The strings are numbered from 6, the thickest string, to 1, the thinnest string. When you pluck a string without pushing it down with a finger, you are playing the string "open". For example, when you pluck the D string without pushing it down, you are playing the D string open.
How do you name the notes on the low E string?
To figure out the names of the notes on the low E string use the 12-note cycle.
Start on the note E, at the nut of the low E string, and call out the rest of the notes as you go up the guitar neck: "E, F, F#/G, G, G#/A, etc." Look at the figure above to see the notes on the low E string.
The small black dots on the middle of the guitar neck are fret markers for reference. Notice that there are two dots on the 12th fret where the 12-note cycle repeats over again.
How do you name the notes on all the strings?
You do the same thing that you just did for the low E string above. You start the 12-note cycle on the first note of each string and call out the rest of the notes.
The notes on each string overlap. So you can play most of the notes in more than one place. Some you can play two places, some in three places, some in four places and some even in five different places.
The A note played by placing a finger on the 5th fret of the low E string, is the same A note played by plucking the A string. See the figure on the right.
The notes on the A string
To figure out the notes on the A string use the 12-note cycle.
The notes following note A are the same on both strings.
The notes on the rest of the strings overlap in the same manner
D to D
The D note, played by placing a finger on the 5th fret of the A string, is the same D note played by plucking the D string.
G to G
The G note, played by placing a finger on the 5th fret of the D string, is the same G note played by plucking the G string.
B to B
The B note, played by placing a finger on the 4th fret of the G string, is the same B note played by plucking the B string.
E to E
The E note, played by placing a finger on the 5th fret of the E string, is the same E note played by plucking the E string.
Summary: Overlapping Notes
With almost every pair of strings, the note played on the 5th fret of the thicker string is the same as the thinner string played open.
The only exception is the 3rd string where the note B is on the 4th fret.
Can you name all the notes on the guitar?
By using the 12-note cycle you can figure out the name of any note on the guitar.
But you don't need to memorize them all. You only need to know the notes on the low E (6th) and A (5th) strings, so you can play chords up and down the guitar neck. You can learn how to do that in Guitar On the Spot - Understanding the Code. Click here if you want to learn more.
The reason you don't need to memorize the notes on the other strings is because the guitar looks like one big movable repeating code. This code "floats" on top of these letters and moves depending on what key you're song is in.
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