Here’s the Guitar Fretboard EXPLAINED. Learn The Notes On The Electric Guitar!
Yours truly! Will Ripley (Campfire Guitar Star)
Notes on the Fretboard
This is a big chapter. We’re going to unlock your fretboard. You’re going to be able to play the same major and minor chords in up to 3 different ways…without even thinking about it! Of course that last bit will take some practice… but I hope you find the idea of this to be motivating and exciting!
So, I’m going to show you how to find every single note on the guitar. We know the names of the strings (E, A, D, G, B, e), and these are the notes when the strings are played open. Say if you play the first fret of the E string – it’s not longer an “E” note. We’ve just changed the pitch. That note now sounds different and altered. So, let’s get into this easy-to-remember formula and unlock the mysterious guitar grid!
There are only 2 sets of notes that you need to remember:
*E to F
*B to C
This is important because they don’t have a sharp (#) or a flat (b) between them. Every other note does.
In general musician terms, when you sharpen (#) a note it means you raise the pitch. Conversely, when you flatten (b) the note you’re going to lower the pitch.
Let’s talk about semitones and whole tones for a second. Getting a grip on this concept will deepen your knowledge for what we’re about to get into.
On the guitar you can grab any ol’ fret on any ol’ string. Go ahead – grab any note. When you play a fret above that note, we just sharpened it (#), or “raised the pitch”. Another way of saying it is we just “raised the pitch by a semitone”. Now, if we are to go back to that original note we started on and play 1-fret lower, we just made it flat (b). We could also say that we just lowered the pitch by a semitone.
So 1 fret = 1 semitone. Got it?
Whole tones get the same treatment and breakdown, but whole tones are always 2 frets on the guitar.
1 whole tone = 2 frets. Ok?
Let’s talk about the 1st fret of the E string again. Starting with your low E string and sharpening the pitch by one fret/semitone, you would play the 1st fret of the E string. Now we can reference the sets of notes above. The first one, (E to F) is exactly what is happening here. We just went from E to F! As you know, there is no sharp or flat between them. The next note up on your low E string is an F.
That bares repeating. The next note up on your low E string is an F.
Got it? Where do we go from here?
Now you’re on the F, raise that pitch one more time and you’ll be on the second fret of the low E string. Referencing the sets of notes again it seems as though we should now use a sharp or flat… but which one?
We’re talking about raising the pitch of that 1st fret to the 2nd fret… so we’re taking a F note and making it sharp. We end up with a F# – That’s the note on the 2nd fret of the low E-string!
Again – the 2nd fret on the low E-string is a F#. Got it!
Ok, so It’s a F#, but could it be something else too? Could the same note have 2 different names? Yes, check out this term called Enharmonics:
Enharmonics: “a note, interval, or key signature that is equivalent to some other note, interval, or key signature but “spelled”, or named differently.”
So let’s just forget about enharmonics for a second and get back on the 2nd fret of the low E-string – the F#, right? What’s the note 1 fret above that?
You want to ask yourself – “What’s the letter after F in the alphabet?”
A, B, C, D, E, F, G!
Going up one more fret, you’ll find a G.
Ok awesome, and hey, your G chord actually starts from that 3rd fret of the low E-string, doesn’t it? Yup, no coincidence there!
Now that you’re on your G – let’s talk about lowering the pitch of the G. Like, if we were to make it “flat”. What direction would we go?
That’s right, if we were to make the Gb, we’d just go ahead and go down 1-fret, back to the 2nd fret on the low E-string…wait a second… That note was F#, wasn’t it?
F sharp (#) can also be called G flat (b). They are enharmonically the same note. Yup, F# = Gb
Moving on, what is one note higher than the G? G, raising the pitch will give you G#. What’s one note higher than that? A. Ok, what about if we were to make A flat? Take A and lower it one fret. Same idea – G# = Ab which is the 4th fret of the low E-string.
Going up your strings, follow this same concept and fill out this blank fretboard diagram that you’ll see here in this book. Grab a marker, pencil or pen and start filling this thing out!
Some Important Notes About This New Skill Of Yours:
THE KEY: You’ll notice that the blank fretboard diagram has the notes at the 12th fret written in. This is designed so that you cannot fail when filling this chord chart out. You’ll notice that the notes at the 12th fret are E,A,D,G,B,e – just like your open strings. So this is where the notes repeat. As long as you fill our your chart and they line up at the 12th fret, you’ll know you’ve filled out the chart correctly.
- The musical alphabet goes A-G (A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D, etc…) but has sharps and flats between most of the notes.
- B-C and E-F don’t have a sharp or flat between them.
- Music only has 12 notes!
(*This Picture must be located adjacent to previous page.)
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Thanks and keep on rippin it! – Will Ripley & Mike B