Fretboard with notes

The fretboard (also called fingerboard) is the top part of the neck on a guitar, between the body and the headstock. On the diagram below you can learn all the notes on the guitar fretboard – after the 12th fret it's all repeating (the 13th fret is the same as the 1st, only one octave higher).

It's important for your development as a guitar player to learn the position of every note. This helps the understanding of chord theory and makes it easier to play melodies, solos and licks.

It starts with the open strings, when continues with the notes on fret 1 to 12.

fretboard with notes
The fretboard on the guitar illustrated. From the 12th fret, it's all repeating again.

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In the fretboard diagram, sharps (#) are used and not flats (b). If you for example are looking for the note Ab (A flat) this is the same as G# (G sharp).

Learning the fretboard – note location

To memorize the fretboard will take some time. An easy way to start is to recognize repeating patterns and first learn some notes to use a reference. For example, when you know that the lowest string on the fifth fret is A, you could find another A two strings up and to frets to the right. The same method can be used for the fifth-third strings. For example, when you know that the second lowest string on the fifth fret is D you could find another D two strings up and to frets to the right. Keep looking at the note locations and you will find more patterns.

A note is present on many locations, or positions. On the first 12 frets you could find most of the notes on six positions, one for each string.

The story behind the dots

Between some of the frets there are inlays, most often displayed with dots. The function of these is to help you orient in a horizontal direction and making it easier to find the right fret fast. The inlays on the fretboard are placed schematic on a guitar and the typical formation involves single dots on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 21st frets and double dots on the 12th and 24th frets (the reason for double frets on 12th and 24th frets is because the notes starts over on these frets: the notes on the 12th fret are one octave higher than on the open strings, and the notes on the 24th fret are one octave higher than the notes on the 12th fret).

Octaves

On the guitar fretboard, the same note is represented many times, seven to eight times to be precise, but in different octaves. For example, the C note is represented six times on the first twelve frets. If we start counting from the left on the lowest string the first two C notes are in one octave, the next three are in a second octave and the last in a third octave.

If you find it very difficult to learn all the notes on the fretboard, you should at least start by learning the tones on the low E and the A strings because the roots of chords are often on these strings. As you can observe, the lowest and the highest strings are identical.

Fretboard note decals

If you still are uncertain, there are ways to get around. For example, you could tape some notes on the side of the guitar neck or, if you want it to be a little fancier, you could use special made note decals as in the picture below.

fretboard with note decal

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