Memorizing the Fretboard for Beginners

Basic tips for memorizing the fretboard for a beginner.

Ultimate Guitar
Today we're going to learn some tricks to memorize fretboard. This is often a daunting task and many musicians don't go past learning the names of the strings. Learning the fretboard is super important though if you want to be able to improvise solos. Knowing where all the notes are is like having a mental map of the musical possibilities on the fretboard. I'm going to teach you guys a trick I used to memorize where everything is. The brain learns things better by association. I used colors to remember the notes and it actually worked surprisingly well.

Step 1: Learning the string notes

Learning the string notes is a natural first step in guitar learning and its likely you'll have this much learned already. If not don't fret though... The string notes are as follows, thickest to thinest (lowest to highest) E A D G B E.

Step 2: Repitition

No, don't worry not the boring kind, though that helps. The string names start to repeat themselves at the 12th fret and after that the whole fret board is essentially higher version of itself. With this in mind we can stop at the 12th fret because when you learn everything inside these frets, you can just treat 12 like 0.

Step 3: The E String

The next thing to do is learn the full E string. Don't worry about all the notes between the ones in this step, we'll get to those later. Once you get this far a fun exercise is to put on a backing track in C major (just YouTube it and you'll get one) and to play around on these notes you learn on the E string. What your playing is actually the C major scale but we'll get into that at a later lesson. For now just use it as a fun way to memorize these notes!

Step 4: Repetition

Hopefully at this point you messed around with the notes you learned with a C major back track playing. That should have all the notes on the E string embedded in your memory. You'll start to feel what players call muscle memory (the feeling of the scale) as well as just remembering the diagrams in your head. Remember the way the notes repeat themselves at the 12th fret? Well this trick is kind of similar. You probably noticed the string names start and end in E right? Well everything you learned on the low E string applies to the high one to so now you know 2 strings!

Step 5: The E Notes

So at this point we've created a box. Now we need to learn everything in the middle. What some students click better with here in to learn the A string like we did with the E. However I found I had a much easier time learning where all the E notes were. I think this is because there are only four of them so it's less to take in all at once. However I do recommend if you try this method, that after you learn all the individual notes that you also do the string by string method. It will only reinforce your learning.

Step 6: Continuation

Follow this pattern as you see fit. Learn in order of the alphabet for the sake of structure. First where all the A's are, then the B's etc. Eventually you will have all the note locations learned. This could likely take a week or two of hard work, doing it for about an hour a session. If you keep at it though it will really pay off. Knowing where all the notes are is a huge advantage when soloing or playing with other musicians. It makes learning things like scales super easy. What I'd recommend again is if you took the note by note approach to then follow it up with the string by string approach. Learn them in ascending and descending order and doing all these things will mean you can point anywhere on the fret and call the note.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    also if you can lear your e string and you know your 5ths or 3 string power chords the root note is the same as the third things finger
    Cool! I like the way that was explained. Gonna try it and check back in 2 weeks ( it is christmas new year LOL- give me a break here)