7 Reasons Why You Should Know The Notes on Your Fretboard

The guitar was not designed to make learning the notes of music easy. Despite the difficulties, it is important that you learn to recognize where the notes are on your guitar in order to grow both as a guitarist and as a musician. Here are 7 reasons why you should know the notes on your fretboard.

Ultimate Guitar
As many frustrated guitarists know, the guitar was not designed to make learning the notes of music easy. Even for more advanced players, the notes on the fretboard seem to be placed in a completely random order. Despite the difficulties, it is important that you learn to recognize where the notes are on your guitar in order to grow both as a guitarist and as a musician. Here are some of the benefits that you will gain once you know where your notes are on the fretboard:

1. Understand The Music Your Are Playing

When you are aware of the notes on your guitar, you will start to notice the notes that are being used for the different things that you play. This, in turn, will give you a clearer picture of what you are actually playing and why those different notes and concepts work together. The various chords, riffs, licks, and patterns that you are used to using will start to have more depth to them. This will allow you to more easily work with new songs and ideas on your guitar as well as give you the ability to analyze music and learn from you favorite artists.

2. Simplify Reading Standard Notation

When you are aware of the notes on the guitar, reading standard notation becomes a lot more manageable. You will no longer have to abstractly relate the dots on the page to seemingly random frets and strings. Now the name of the note on the page will line-up with the name of the note that you are playing on your guitar and you can focus on playing the music.

3. Translate Parts to Other Areas of The Fretboard

One of the biggest headaches on the guitar is the fact that most of the notes may be played in a variety of different positions. For example, Diagram #1 below shows various places to play the same E note across the fretboard starting with the open 1st string. On a 24 fret guitar, there are 6 different places where this note may be played. If you aren't familiar with your notes, this type of situation will cause a lot of problems because there doesn't seem to be any relationship between the different locations. However, when you know your notes, this can be turned into a huge advantage. Having trouble with the fingering for that difficult solo? Don't worry about it, just translate some of the notes to a different position to make the fingering easier. The guitar is one of the few instruments where you can explore different ways of playing the same idea. This means that if something is challenging to play one way, you can change it to many other possibilities to try and make it a little simpler. If a pianist runs into a difficult passage, they can't adjust it to make it easier. They are stuck with the difficult fingering and must work it out no matter how hard it might be. The guitar will allow you to adjust a part in the hopes of finding a more effective way of playing it, but you can only do this if you are aware of your notes.

4. Improve Your Improvisation

Improvisation is an area where knowing your notes can be critical. If you are used to improvising using scale patterns, you will likely have run into a situation where a key change, or a strange chord causes your pattern to no longer work. When you know the notes of your guitar, you can use the chord changes as a way of creating your solo which will allow you to play over any chord, any key, and even changing keys. This will also open you up to seeing the notes that you are playing and how they fit against the chords. You will start to notice the relationships that exist between a given note and a chord and the effect that it has on the sound of your solo. For example, an Eb played over a C Minor chord will sound very intense while an A against an E Major will sound awkward. You'll be able to learn to predict these types of things and use them to your advantage.

5. Open Up Creative Possibilities

When it comes to creating ideas whether in an improvisational or compositional form, being aware of your notes will open you up to a world of possibilities that you probably didn't know existed. You will no longer have to rely on the same set of patterns and shapes that you always use and will be able to branch out into new directions. You will be able to pull influence from any song, artists, genre, and even from non-musical sources like the sounds in nature.

6. Apply Concepts from Music Theory

One of the reasons that many guitarists hate working with music theory is because they are never really sure how to use the concepts on their instrument or with real music. When you know the notes on your guitar, you will be able to bridge the gap between theory and reality. This will allow you to use new theory concepts to create ideas, licks, patterns, and even entire songs. Theory will no longer feel like a chore but will be like acquiring a shiny new toy that will let you explore amazing new sounds and ideas on your guitar.

7. Improve Communication With Other Musicians

Have you ever had to speak with a person who is still learning English? Trying to communicate the simplest of ideas can be extremely difficult. Their sentences are fractured, words are used in the wrong context, and they struggle to understand what you are saying. Musicians speak in their own language and the majority of this language is built out of notes. By learning the notes of your guitar, you will be better equipped to communicate with the other musicians that you play with. Not only will this make the process of working together much more enjoyable for everyone, but you will find that the work that you produce will improve in quality as well.

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36 comments sorted by best / new / date

    "Even for more advanced players, the notes on the fretboard seem to be placed in a completely random order." wait, what, who, when?!
    you are NOT advanced if u think the notes are random thats like saying that the order of numbers are random, tits all in relation to its surroundings
    Lol Tits :3 Andy way I agree. They're placed in a specific order. Starting out though, it was kind of confusing for me.
    The placement of the notes are certainly not random, however to someone who does not yet know them, it can appear that way. The layout of the notes across the fretboard is not as easily learned compared to the keyboard. Most people can learn all the notes of the piano in about 5 minutes, while it can take weeks even months to learn the notes on the fretboard. The point of this article is to try and provide those people who have not yet learned the notes on the guitar with some strong reasons to stick with the process of learning. It is to help keep them motivated and encourage them to work through the frustration.
    The notes in the guitar have a quite understandable way they are placed, the way the relate to each other like: the note above will always be an 5P(except for the 2nd to 3rd string) the below will always be an 4P (except...) Understanding this relations may be the first step to visualize the notes in the fretboard. This phrase make it appear to be way harder than it is...
    Is it possible to ba a "more advanced player" without knowing the fretboard layout? I think not. Apart from this, this article points out some good ideas for guys who still don't want to get into fretboard mastery just for sake of being afraid of that "maze"
    I don't know, I knew a player who would blow players out of the water, but didn't know a lick of theory, or should I say, he played with theory but could not articulate it. At the time I had only been playing for a few months and I would explain what he was doing using theory. Eventually I showed him how to find notes and why knowing them are important. I probably feed a musical monster, or not, because like I said, he seemed to not really need it. You can be pretty advanced with little to no actual musical knowledge.
    A little interval training can clear this right up. Instead of memorizing every single note on the fretboard, I found it easier to think in terms of "I have a power chord starting on 'A'. Power chords are a just a perfect fifth, five letters up starting from 'A' is 'E'. I know that note is an 'E' now, and I know my alphabet from A-G, so I can visualize the rest." People sometimes forget that learning the notes in order is as easy as knowing the first 7 letters of the alphabet with sharps/flats in between.
    What I did to start off was to learn the natural notes and then sharps and flats can be inserted from there. Or beginners can start by learning the notes on each string at the fretboard markers. Whatever makes them happy.
    theTYTAN - Do you always play in E Phrygian? What if you want to play E Major, or E Mixolydian, etc.? I think your "skip a fret" sequencing will change. It is good to know the notes of the whole fretboard.
    Before I started taking guitar seriously, I would end up finding things by ear without really knowing the notes I was playing. I can say with no uncertainty that knowing what in the hell you're playing both saves time and effort. Who doesn't want to play effortlessly?
    I don't use much theory at all. I'm not amazing but I'm not terrible. So here's just a small tip to get moving on learning your fretboard and adapting to any key 1. Learn the pattern: WS, WS, HS, WS, WS, WS, HS, WS. (WS is Whole Step, HS is half step) this will allow you to adapt to any song in a major key. And if you didn't know a whole step is two frets up or down, and a half step is one fret difference up or down. 2. Learn where the notes are within the first five frets. Remember that all strings (excluding the B string) are just five half steps apart. so if i were to play an open A you could play the same note on the fifth fret of the E string and get the same pitch. A|0| E|5| If i play an open B you could play the same note at the same pitch by playing the fourth fret on the G string. B|0| D|4| 3. Learn Your Octaves! Learning your octaves isn't hard and it is extremely helpful! To play a notes octave, for example open E, go up two frets and up two strings: D|2| A|-| E|0| See the relationship? You could also go up seven frets and up one string. A|7| E|0| For the G string to the B string it would have to be up eight frets and up one string because of the tuning of the B string. B|8| D|0| These three tips will help!! So use them!!
    Tiago Sa
    Not knowing the notes on the fretboard is like a pianist not knowing the notes on the keyboard, or a racing driver not know where the gears go... I.e., it's just stupid.
    It is a hell lot easier to learn the notes on a keyboard. If it was as easy as you implied we wouldn't have this issue.
    Well, for some guitarists who are just starting out, this might not seem all that important to learn "just yet". I remember just learning riffs and licks myself when I started out. Only later did I actually try and figure out what the hell those notes were really called.
    i started the same way, within a year though i think its necessary, i thought it was one of the most helpful things to learn right next to modes, scales, and how to make chords
    I can't really say I have all the notes on the fretboard memorized but as an amateur guitarist I can tell you that that the notes on the guitar are arranged anything but "randomly". In fact there's a perfectly logical pattern.E F skip a fret G skip a fret A skip a fret B C skip A fret D skip a fret E. The only problem I've got is applying the pattern while I play.
    What is the reason for the B-string being 4 half-steps above the G, why not keep it to 5 half-steps, and make the top E an F? It is far easier on bass; move one string across, move 5 frets along.
    Also, imo, music theory is a lot easier to grasp once you have the skills down. I turned a bunch of friends on to guitar by just teaching them technique, not the science and theory behind it. What good is knowing everything about something, and not having the skill to apply it? Its like practicing BEFORE you preach.
    While I think learning music theory is not the ticket to success, I admit its useful mostly because of number 7. I took a semester of Music Theory in college, and it helped me communicate at least on basic level with other musicians, especially those who played different instruments (i.e. drummers, keyboardists, singers). When it comes to other guitarists, tho? Calling out fret numbers and using your ear is just as a effective, imo.
    unless you have the ears of old blues legends you are probably going to wanna learn music theory lol...just remember if your guitar is tuned to standard itll go from the note when you play the string open and up a half step with every fret so if your high e is tuned to E its going to Open E, 1st F, 2nd F#, 3rd G,...and so on... really learn music theory...my writing has become incredibly easier since i learned basic music theory...particularly i recommend learning how to read sheet music and then buy Scales and Modes in the Beginning by Ron Middlebrook...it gives you tons of info on scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.
    A good way can save your time, so if there is that way, I'm willing to try it. and I found a fretboard book have an efficient way to memorize notes, it use "Image Memory Method", I think it is useful, if you want to try, you can find that book on Amazon, search "fretboard secret handbook".
    One reason you should know the notes on your fretboard: 1: You're trying to be a guitarist. Also, "even for more advanced players, the notes can seem to be in a random order"? Are you shitting me? There is nothing random about it, and you couldn't even come close to being an "advanced player" without understanding that. There is a pattern, and it's actually a very simple one. Takes about 3 minutes of studying it to figure out that pattern. Hardly "advanced" stuff, here.
    Not to mention another reason to get more familiar with your fret-board; If you are wanting to take your music experience and career to the next level and go to collage. It is REQUIRED! And essential to know your music theory if you are interested or are planning on being a part of a "String ensemble" Or any ensemble in that matter. If you are playing guitar, you are going to have to know about your own instrument. Especially if Music Performance is going to be your major/minor. The moment you apply to any collages' to be a part of their ensemble? THEY WILL EXPECT YOU TO KNOW YOUR THEORY! And Welly. Yes, collage is a school. And you come to learn and further your education. But the moment you get in that room, sit down with your music directors, and get thrown a sheet of music. They will expect some sort of performance. And if not, please try out next year.
    I am a mere beginner with not much experience, but the notes don't appear to be in a random order.
    I don't think memorizing notes as important as understanding your tuning and knowing where all the intervals are. People who didn't study theory, know this intuitively. If you play a wide range of music as a guitarist, you're gonna use several different tunings and it doesn't serve much purpose to memorize all the notes. Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, octave etc of whatever it is you're playing are always in the same place regardless of where you are on the fretboard in standard tunings. For dropped, the only thing that changes is one string being in a perfect 5th.
    there are more that 6 place to play each note on a 24 fret guitar. you can play E three times on each E string alone...
    Yes, but then it isn't exactly the same note, on that example the note has exactly same pitch so you can play exactly same note from 6 different position.
    There can be up to 3 places where the notes are the same pitch yes. But if you tried that concept with the crazy train intro on the 7th fret B string it would sound a little off. Same notes, different pitch
    I think it's a good article. Guitar players can be "lazy" and just stick to familiar shapes and scales. Of course there's nothing wrong with that if it suits the player. But.. if you want to be able to understand the music you're playing on another level and the relationship between notes and chords you're choosing the article above is spot on. Especially if you're a guitar player that improvise A lot and play over chords(thinking arpeggio based) instead of just using familiar scales. I've been one of those guitar players that was a bit "lazy" before so i understand if theory is boring. But of course you can be a great guitar player and at the same time don't know much theory. You should do what suits you the best.. Cheers!
    notes on fretboard is placed copletely normal C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C i think ammmm yeah from more that 200 years all notes are the same in violi,piano,guitar or botle they cant be ****t up or no one can make nel note mhmmm \m/ and yes it's good to know what are you playing not only on you fretboard and it's good to read them...and i can't read all of them it's hard :'(
    Not that I have any experience with pianos, but it seems to be easier to associate notes with keys there. White ones are "standard", black are sharp. Identifying different octaves is also easier than guitar, since you have black keys as references.