Learning the Guitar Fretboard — Finding the Patterns

It’s easy to learn the notes on a keyboard instrument because one octave is repeated all the way along. Once you can identify the notes in one octave, you can find them in all the octaves. With the guitar there are no obvious repeated patterns that can help us to locate the notes. So we need to find the patterns that are on the fretboard.

On the guitar we don’t have visual clues like we have on the piano so we need to know the names of the notes that are on the guitar and then work out our own formulas for finding and remembering the notes we need.

The notes are A, B, C, D, E, F, G. The six strings on the guitar sound the notes E, A, D, G, B, E. So we have seven notes on six strings. The most obvious way to learn the locations of the notes on the guitar is to count from each of the notes on the open strings. If we look at the letters as an octave the notes go in a set pattern. The notes on the guitar always have a definite distance between them. The distance between the notes A and B, C and D, F and G is two frets. All the other notes go from fret to fret.

The fifth string on the guitar sounds the note A so let’s start with that. The open string is A, B is on the second fret, C is on the third fret, D is on the fifth fret, E is on the seventh fret, F is on the eighth fret and G is on the ninth fret. It might be easier to visualize the octave if I write it out as: A BC D E FG. The extra fret always appears between the same notes.

Now that you know the names of the notes on the open strings you can see that the first and the sixth strings both sound the note E, so once you know the notes on the sixth string, you know them on the first string. You could then proceed to find all the E notes on the other strings, and you will be able to identify the notes as they go up the fretboard because you already know the pattern of distances between the notes.

You can make an exercise of finding all the instances of any note on the guitar. You can see how different the notes sound in there various positions because of the different thicknesses of the guitar strings. The notes found in the spaces between A B, C D, D E and E F are sharps and flats which is a whole other area of study. Basically the note above C is C Sharp (written as C#) or D Flat (written as Db). You should be able to do a search on the internet and find a guitar fretboard chart that you can download for free.

Do you want to learn to play the guitar? Learn How To Play A Guitar For Free is a constantly updated blog which contains all the resources you need for: learning to play solo guitar, how to learn guitar chords, how to learn to read and play easy acoustic guitar tabs, finding a free online guitar tuner, looking for free guitar lessons online, and how to learn guitar scales.

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