In this article we’ll have a look at a simple yet very effective way to learn all the notes on a guitar fretboard. This is very important for every guitarist to know, in order to not get lost while playing both chord progressions and solos.
Before we start I want to point out that there are plenty of methods you can use to learn all the notes on the fretboard. The first time I saw this exercise it was presented by Joe Satriani many years ago in a guitar magazine. I tried it and it did work really well for me, so here it is re-proposed and slightly updated with my experience on it.
Here below there is a picture I have drawn for you to refer to. At the beginning of this method you’ll need this picture, while the more you practice, the less you should look at it.
For the very beginner student: This picture represents the first half of a 6 strings guitar’s fretboard (precisely from fret 1 to fret 12). Notes on the second half of a guitar fretboard are the same as on the first half but with a higher pitch (precisely an octave higher than the counterpart on the first half). The black thick line on your left of this drawing represents a guitar nut (or capotasto), and the lowest E letter (just before the guitar nut) represents the lowest (thicker) E string on the top of a 6 strings guitar.
The exercise we are going to perform consists of reading the above diagram until we have a fairly clear idea of where a specific note occurs on the fretboard (let’s say note F for example) and then performing the steps below on our guitar in order to find the note we have chosen. To make the exercise more effective and simulate a real case we are going to add a metronome that will give us the time (and so the speed) at which we need to find all the occurrences of a given note on a string of our guitar.
Here below is an example:
As said this exercise requires the use of a metronome (if you don’t have one, you can download an app for your computer or your smartphone).
If this is the first time you are going to practice this exercise (and, most of all, if you are still not practical at all with finding notes on your fretboard) I recommend to set your metronome to something between 50 to no more than 60 BPM (and if it feels too fast while practicing, please slow it down even more, as much as you need to perform the exercise correctly = clean and precisely, you can improve speed with the time!).
- Choose a note to find on your fret board (let’s say F)
- Start the metronome.
- Now, try to find (and play) that note on all its occurrence on the 6th string of your guitar.
- Repeat point 3 on the 5th string always pressing the note you have chosen on all it’s occurrences
- Repeat point 3 on the 4th string
- Repeat point 3 on the 3rd string
- Repeat point 3 on the 2nd string
- Repeat point 3 on the 1st string
- If you haven’t missed any occurrences of your chosen note and you have played them all clean and precisely, then repeat the exercise using a different note.
- If you have practiced this exercise for all the 12 notes, you haven’t missed a note and you played all of the occurrences precisely and clean, then increase the speed of your metronome and repeat the exercise until you reach a speed not slower than 120 BPM. This because, by experience, you generally need to be able to find a note at that speed on most songs. If you are planning to play fast music then you’ll need to be able to find notes at even faster speed, so, if this is the case, repeat the exercise until you reach the speed you want to play at.
Here some tips that may help some of you to learn faster:TIP (1): What we can immediately grasp from this exercise is that, on a 6 strings guitar (with 24 frets fretboards), we always have two occurrences of any given note per string.TIP (2): The distance between a note and the following occurrence on the same string is always 13 frets.TIP (3): The distance between a note and the following occurrence on two subsequent strings is always 8 frets (so, F note on Low E string is 7 frets from following F note on A string) with the exception of the B string where the distance of the following occurrence of a note on G String is always 9 frets.TIP (4): The distance between a note and the preceding occurrence on the subsequent string is always 6 frets (so, F note on Low E string is 5 frets from preceding F note on A string) with the exception of B string where the distance is 5 frets with the same note on G string.
Hope this will help you and have fun! 🙂