If you are reading this article you are probably starting to play the guitar and want to know how to find notes on the guitar neck. If this is your case, let me tell you that you’re in the right place!
In this post you will learn what are the notes on a guitar neck. And best of all, you only have to learn 4 tricks.
Intro and previous concepts
As you can see in the image below, it seems very difficult to learn all the notes on the guitar fretboard:
So don’t do It!
Don’t learn the notes by heart, because it’s an unbearable task. Instead of that, the idea is to learn some tricks or rules that help us find them.
By the way, if you look at the fretboard above you will see that there are empty frets (spaces). Why is that?
This is because in addition to the 7 natural notes there are 5 alterations, which are the ones you see below:
As you can see, the altered notes have 2 names (example A# and B♭) but don’t panic. Right now, if you start from scratch, don’t worry about it.
Open Strings and Guitar String Notes
The first and easiest thing to do when learning how to read guitar notes is to learn the sounds of the open strings, that is, the guitar notes on fret zero. In other words, the notes that sound when we play the strings without holding down a finger on any frets.
You probably already know this because this are the strings names, but it is good to remember it.
By the way, this configuration is called standard tuning. It is true that there are other types of tunings but if you start from zero with this one you cover 99% of the music.
It is also important to remember that from the 12th fret onwards everything repeats. That is to say, the 12th fret has the same notes as the 0 fret (with the strings in the air), the 13th fret has the same notes as the 1st fret…etc.
Same notes? Yes, but an octave higher than the original sound. Again, if you are a beginner don’t worry about it and focus on the guitar notes.
The important thing is that, with that in mind, you can think of the guitar as having only 12 frets.
Musical notes on the thicker strings (6th and 5th)
This section is for me, with the next one, the key point. Learn the notes on the first frets of the guitar neck and you will make a big leap forward.
As you can see in the image above, I am only asking you to learn 10 musical notes, corresponding to the first 8 frets of the guitar.
Of course, and very important, remember that each fret you move is one half-step or a semitone, so between F and G there are two semitones, or one tone difference. On the other hand, between B and C there is only one semitone (if you don’t understand this concept very well, I strongly recommend you to read this article about whole and half steps on guitar).
Find the same note all over the neck of the guitar
Both the previous point and this one are the key of this post. Why? because now we are going to “move” the notes that we have learned along the whole neck (better said, fretboard).
Look at the image below and notice the notes on the fifth and sixth string (colored yellow). A note on the fifth or sixth string will always be found again if you go down two strings and then to the right two frets (you may already know this from power chords).
This new note is, by the way, an octave higher than the starting note.
And if you have analyzed the image in detail, you will have seen that for the fourth and third string this changes slightly. Notice the notes in yellow now, to find these notes again we have to go down two strings as well, but move three frets to the right.
This is because between a string of your guitar and the next higher there is a distance of 5 semitones difference. However, for every rule there is always an exception, which is also the case here.
Between the second and third string there are 4 semitones (see the picture below for a better understanding).
Having understood the previous point, let’s continue looking for the same note on the neck of the guitar.
For example, if we have a note on the sixth string, we will find it again if we go down three strings and move three frets to the left. For the fifth and fourth strings we would have to move three strings, but only two frets to the left, example in green.
Therefore, thanks to the previous steps we can create a triangle that will always tell us the position of a guitar note in 3 different places of the neck:
Learn this triangle and you will make a huge leap in learnig the guitar notes on the fretboard.
Finally, as an extra bonus, another way to find the same note on the neck is to go down one string and go four frets to the left:
And now, if you have been paying attention to all the previous steps, you will have realized that by now we can spot any note wherever we want on the guitar fretboard.
For example, we take F for example and apply everything we have learned.
Congratulations! You are now an expert at finding musical notes on guitar. But wait, do you want to go a little further and learn even more?
Would you like to be able to find all guitar notes?
Sharps and flats on the guitar fretboard
At this point, we know how to find all notes on a guitar fretboard or better said, all the natural notes, because we still need to learn how to read the altered ones.
So let’s move on and explore the fretboard in greater depth.
And the truth is that this is very simple since we only have to remember that each increment of a fret corresponds to an increment of a semitone or half step.
So, if we have, for example, the C note on the guitar neck and we move down one fret (semitone) towards the bridge we raise the note up a half-step and get C# (C sharp):
And in the same way, if we move one fret towards the spade (left) we reduce one semitone and we obtain C♭ (C flat):
Therefore, if we take the guitar notes chart that we have seen at the beginning of the post and apply what we know we get all sharp notes on the guitar:
And, in the same way, if we reduce one semitone we get all flat notes on the guitar:
The fourth and fifth degree on guitar strings
We will always find the fourth scale degree one string below and the fifth, one string below and two frets to the right.
Always?… well, remember that in the case of the third string, everything is shifted one fret to the right.
This section is for those who want to improvise with the pentatonic scale or the major scale. The reason is that the fourth and fifth degree appear in both scales, so it is good to have them always located.
But not only that, in the case of harmonizing the major scale, it comes in handy to have these degrees on our mind to be able to build the major chords quickly.
And with this we have finished finding notes on the guitar neck.
I know it has not been easy but now you are able to find all notes on the guitar neck and this is huge.