Learn the Entire Fretboard in Days, not years!

As we know, the Open Strings in Standard Tuning are:

E - A - D - G - B - E

If you know something about music theory, G to B is a 3rd, the rest are 4ths, making it easy to remember. This pattern of notes repeats itself in many places.

In our very first lesson, most of us learned how to tune a guitar using the 4th and 5th frets.

fretboard tuning

You probably learned the notes in the first position very early as well. Perhaps in conjunction with learning to read music. If you missed it, we covered it in First Position Notes.

fretboard first position

Do as much sight reading of sheet music as you can to reinforce these notes.

When your fingers get tired, you’re away form the guitar, or you are drifting off to sleep, close your eyes and imagine the fretboard. Call out the names of the notes at each location. Call out the scale degree of each note. e.g. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1 …

We learned that it all repeats at the 12th fret.

fretboard twelth

We learned the pattern of the major scale. Whole Steps / Half Steps (W – W – H – W – W – W – H). So let’s map out the natural notes starting at the 7th fret.

fretboard Seventh position

Our Seventh Position Notes lesson covered this and reinforced it with sight reading.

Practice Tip: It helps you learn them faster if you say or sing the note names out loud as you play them.

Practice scales, melodies, riffs, improvisations, sight reading, etc. all in this little box. Practice for a week. This has become my favorite position.

Let’s see what we know so far.

fretboard whole

That’s pretty much the whole fretboard. The sharps and flats are obviously in between the natural notes.

Day 1

This next part will really help you with instant access to any note on the fretboard at a moment’s notice. I’ve tried many approaches including flash cards and even wrote an app, and nothing has worked as well or as quickly as this next approach.

  • Start on the thin E string, find C
  • On the B string, find C
  • On the G string, find C
  • On the D string, find C
  • On the A string, find C
  • On the E string, find C

We’ll call that descending order, since we go from a high pitch to a lower pitch. Repeat this descending and ascending for 1 day, a couple minutes at a time, several times a day. Try to get to 60bpm on the metronome. We’ll call this finding all the Cs.

Day 2

Find all the Bs, which are one fret below all the Cs that we learned yesterday. Exception, always use the 12th fret instead of the open string.

Day 3

Find all the Ds, which are a whole step, or two frets above the Cs that we learned on day 1. Remember to use the 12th fret on the D string instead of the open string.

Day 4

Find all the Fs.

Day 5

Find all the Es, which are one fret below all the Fs that we learned yesterday. Exception, always use the the 12th fret instead of the open strings.

Day 6

Find all the Gs which are a whole step, or two frets above the Fs that we learned on day 4. Remember to use the 12th fret on the G string instead of the open string.

Day 7

Find all the As. Remember to use the 12th fret on the A string instead of the open string.

This really does work best if you take one note per day. It gives your brain time to make the connections before overloading it with more notes.

Now, can you do them in this order ( F, C, G, D, A, E, B ), at 60bpm on the metronome?

Extra Practice: You really want to know your notes don’t you?

Start at the first fret, find all the Fs in increasing fret order, no matter what string they are on. Like this:

  • F is on the 1st fret on the E strings
  • F is on the 3rd fret on the D string
  • F is on the 6th fret on the B string
  • F is on the 8th fret on the A string
  • F is on the 10th fret on the G string

Repeat for F, C, G, D, A, E, B. You should find 5 frets per note because 5 of the 6 strings start on a different note and the note you’re looking for will occur once in the 1st 12 frets or “octave” of that string.

Occasionally playing in different boxes on the fretboard and thinking about which notes you are playing is an important maintenance activity to help keep these notes in your head.

Join the discussion and share your tips.

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