What Are The Notes On A Guitar – They Aren’t That Bad (Or Are They?)

Sheet Notation

So you’ve read all of my previous posts (Yay, well done) and now you find yourself here asking me yet another question (it’s ok I don’t mind). You ask me “Renton dear boy, old buddy, old pal, just what are the notes on a guitar” My answer to you my friend is…down in this article with the nice pictures and carefully chosen words. Go enjoy them at your leisure.

What Kind Of Notes Are They? – Don’t Take Them To The Bank.

Since you have read all of my other posts you should be quite familiar with the concept of standard tuning. For my new friends here, that is E, A, D, G, B, and E. These are the only ones I have mentioned for the sake of simplicity, however today we shall expand your mind just a bit ( don’t worry it shouldn’t hurt too much).

The Standard tuning notes mentioned above are the musical notes or specific sounds heard when you play the guitar strings open (not fretting or pressing down any fret). When you play the guitar, however, you move your fingers all over the fretboard to a variety of notes and today I will show you all of them and a few ways to learn their names.

These musical notes are the foundation of your musical journey.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – See What I Did There?

One of the most common ways to learn things is to do them, over and over until they have become ingrained in your mind. This is probably how many of us here learned how to count and recite the alphabet, however, this is not always the most efficient or successful way to learn.

I find it easier to learn things out of interest or because I want to rather than because I have to or risk failing some predetermined test. Repeating the same thing over and over can be boring and perhaps even offputting to some people but in the end, if you persevere you can’t go wrong with this method (well you can just try your best not to).

It is worth noting that the playing the guitar, like many things in life requires dedication and perseverance. You more than likely will have to repeat things several times to get them right (like learning a song for example). This is because you have to make mistakes to know when you’re not making mistakes, or when you get things right.

While repetition is part of learning to some degree, there are many other methods which can facilitate a much more enjoyable learning experience. You will become accustomed to starting out slowly and favouring accuracy over speed as you progress.

That being said, something like learning the notes on your guitar, can and should be more fun, and I will try to help you find your way by showing you what I do.

The Notes Revealed – The Secrets Of The Fretboard.

Gretsch Electromatic

Above you can see the notes of the fretboard. While it may seem overwhelming at first there are patterns that can be found and learned. Every fret represents a half step or semitone, so that means moving two frets will give you a whole step or tone.

The Sharp (#) of one note is the flat (b) of the next note, for example, A sharp (A#) is the same mathematical pitch as B flat (Bb). Another interesting pattern is the “Fret Pairs” (let’s call it that). An example of this is the notes on the 12th fret which are identical to the open string notes. We say the 12th fret notes are an octave (8 notes) higher than the open string notes.

The pattern is as follows for the other strings:

  • 0 and 12
  • 1 and 13
  • 2 and 14
  • 3 and 15
  • 4 and 16
  • 5 and 17
  • 6 and 18
  • 7 and 19
  • 8 and 20
  • 9 and 21
  • 10 and 22
  • 11 and 23

You can see this pattern in the picture below.

How Am I Supposed To Remeber All Of Them? – Story Time.Note Names On Marked Frets

While you could buy or print fretboard stickers with the names of every note on them and place them on your guitar there are other ways to remember the note names. An easy way to process this information is to think of each string as a person, and every note on that string is a different item of clothing.

When you change the person’s clothes you can change the way they behave, feel and interact with others. Similarly changing from one note to another changes the sound you hear from your instrument. You may have noticed that you can see some items of clothing (notes) are common to multiple people (strings)

The way I remember them is to target the notes in a single fret for every fret with a marker (Fret 3,5,7,12). Once you help your brain learn these simple notes you can easily figure out the notes to the left or right of the note you know. I use little stories to help me remember the names of the notes but please feel free to learn them however you feel comfortable.

Note Stories

This would be like a guitar with the strings removed for simplicity sake. 1 to 6 indicates string numbers, while the numbers at the top represent fret numbers. You would read my “stories” from 6 to 1 otherwise they don’t make sense. You can make your stories run from 1 to 6 or even create words that make sense in both directions if you can.

Please note these are the words I have chosen and make sense to me. I would advise you to try and come up with your own words that make sense to you in order to make this your own and therefore easier to remember. For sharps, I try to use words ending in “sh” eg flash. You should try to use one word if possible, just try not to make an essay for each fret 🙂

Note Aficionado – You Have A Bright Future Ahead Of You.

So now you know (or know how to figure out) every single note on your guitar. Great work friend, you and I are one step closer to achieving our desired level of guitar mastery. If you have any tips to share on how you have learned the notes or would like further assistance with your note learning endeavours, please comment below. Happy learning friends.





4 Replies to “What Are The Notes On A Guitar – They Aren’t That Bad (Or Are They?)”

  1. Finally, someone addressed breaking down what all that stuff on the FRET means and related it to something that I would retain! You hit on a key point of learning, when its something you want to learn, you will pick it up quicker and retain it longer. Those thought of failing test never come to the mine.

    Are you a teacher? You come across as wanting to inform but wanting to be sure it’s understood without further questioning.

    The manner in which you addressed the fret layout and relating it to a story, now that I can handle. It reminded me of my electronic studies remembering the resistor code. With your stories, you nailed it for me.

    You broke down the positions that make the notes changing understandable for me. The mere fact that you spelled out the little things in detail, pulled the total concept together.

    What gave you the idea of this presentation?
    Was this something that has be shared with you or others?

    I was able to follow you all the way through this read, never questioning, “what”, but enjoying at new twist on a subject that had me looking at it once again!

    Thanks for the request, time well spent!

    1. Thank you so much. The fact that I was able to help you really makes it worth all the effort. I am not a teacher but I am still learning and I figured the best way to learn is to teach. This presentation was my Idea (but I learned the notes from some wise old men) and those pictures of the are of my guitar fretboard. 

      Just between you and me putting the notes on the image took me a while but I enjoy doing stuff like that and now those hours spent are justified because you enjoyed this post. Thanks for reading and commenting. All the best.

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