Every beginner guitarist starts off with some simple chords & music pieces. Which, of course, works well for most of the guitarists. However, very soon, they find themselves in front of a crossroad. Learning chords & playing along a song is fine, but once you know your guitar and the notes on each guitar fret, you would always want to improvise & create your own music or give your own touch to the same song.
To be a better-educated musician, it is highly recommended to know not only the physical anatomy of your instrument but also the musical anatomy of the instrument as well. Here, in this article, we shall read about the note distribution on the guitar fret board and memorize them. Don’t forget to tune your guitar right, before we start.
The Guitar Fret Board
Above are the various notes distributed all over your guitar. Here is the complete view of the twelve frets of the guitar. In the previous article, we have already learned the cycle of notes & the chromatic scale. We shall have a quick revision of the same by using them to analyze our guitar fretboard.
Here in the diagram, we see that the guitar is in standard tuning. Hence, the open notes are E, A, D, G, B & E(higher). In the fretboard, we see some #(sharp) messages, also known as b(flat) notes. The note is the successor of the previous note, hence termed as sharp. It is also the predecessor of the next note, thus termed as flat. For example, the note between A & B will be the sharper note of A & the flatter note of B. Therefore, it is termed as A# or Bb.
However, if you put a closer look at the fretboard, you would notice no notes between E to F and B to C. If you had read the previous article on music notes, you would know that this how traditional music works. To be more technical, there no notes between E to F or B to C because there is no identified pitch between the pitch of the two consecutive notes.
The Chromatic Scale
We have already discussed in the musical notes article that there are 12 natural notes in traditional western music. The twelve notes together form the chromatic scale. Let us see the chromatic scale at a glace, starting from the C note.
Now, according to implement this scale on the guitar, consider the above chromatic scale to be a pattern. The same pattern will repeat itself over and over again. The same thing also duplicates in the guitar fretboard, and each note is a fret apart.
Pick any note on the guitar fretboard, you would notice that the consecutive notes follow the pattern of the chromatic scale. For example, if you choose to play the second fret of the A string. It is the note B. If you play the next fret, it will C, the C# & so on. It exactly replates the chromatic scale cycle.
This is the first step in memorizing the fretboard.
The Next String Technique
If you know how to tune your guitar string concerning the other strings in the guitar, you may already know the technique. However, if you don’t, this information may prove to be a deal-breaker for you.
Now let us consider the open string standard tuning of the guitar. We know that the sixth string is the lower E, the fifth string is the A & then comes D, G, B & gain the higher E. Now, take a look at the fretboard picture above. Did you observe something? Well, let me explain the technique.
You would see that the 5th fret of the lower E string is the note A, which the open note of the next string. Similarly, the 5th fret of the A string is the D note. The same is for all the strings except for the G string. In the case of the G string, the 4th fret is the B note, which is the open note of the next string. Let us summarize it below.
1) 5th fret of E = A
2) 5th fret of A = D
3) 5th fret of D = G
4) 4th fret of G = B
5) 5th fret of B = E
Once you are done with a thorough understanding of the chromatic scale cycle, this the next technique to memorize your guitar fretboard. It is easy & this technique can even be used to tune your guitar.
Once you have fully understood the above two techniques. Let us read the next best technique of memorizing the guitar fretboard.
Octaves are the same repetitive notes having a different frequency. If the frequency is lower, it is called a lower octave & vice versa if higher. We can use the octave technique to learn the notes on the guitar fretboard as well.
First, let us understand what an octave is in a guitar. Play the open G string. Now play the 12th fret of the G string. They both produce the note G, however, in different frequencies. The initial note is a lower frequency & the later one is of the higher frequency.
Now, let us consider the note A#. Where can we find the note? The thinking pattern should be followed in this manner. A# is the successor note of A. Hence it can be found in the 2nd fret of the A string. It can also be found in the 6th fret of the E string. It can be found in the 3rd fret of the G string & so on. Always try looking for as nearby note, if not the actual note itself.
However, all these notes are of different octaves and should be used with the harmony of the music. But, when it comes to memorizing fretboard, this is one of the most effective techniques. We will discuss more on the octave in a guitar in the next articles.
Baby Steps In learning
Taking baby steps in learning the guitar fretboard notes will prevent you from getting overwhelmed & putting too much pressure on yourself. Most guitarists start off by learning the notes of the low E & A string first, as this helps in understanding the chord structures.
However, in my opinion, it is better to learn the notes by dividing the fretboard. Aim for the first 5 frets in the 1st week. Once you are through with the first 5 frets, aim till the 8th fret. Learn memorize & relearn all the notes of the first eight frets. Once done with the eight frets, start remembering the last 4 frets. If you successfully learn the notes of 12 frets, learning the notes post 12th fret will be a cakewalk as it will the same repetition of the notes from 1st to 12th fret.
Practice makes you perfect
Learning the fret board is comfortable & is a must for every beginner guitarist. This should be learned even before the chords, as this will help you understand what you are playing when you play a chord.
Learning the notes of a guitar fretboard sounds way more challenging than it really is. All you need is to follow some patterns. However, no matter what technique you follow, to have a smooth & fluent grip over the fret, you need to practice & memorize the notes in a consistent manner.
Learning the guitar fret board will level up your skill from the very basic & will help you play & understand guitar at a higher level. Investing time in this will be an excellent investment & will help grow your knowledge, which will, of course, reflect in the way you play your guitar.