Memorizing notes on a guitar… How do we get started at doing this? There are so many frets and it can get pretty complicated and overwhelming, especially with all the sharps and flats. Some guitars have over 140 frets…
It’s one of those things every guitarist has to do at one point, but few of us actually like having to study a guitar chart. Luckily there are many structural repetitions and similarities hidden all over the fretboard. This means there are many shortcuts and tricks that make the process a lot easier.
In part one of this lesson, we’ll focus on which notes there are on a guitar, and in which order they appear. After that, we’ll make a start at memorizing the most important notes on our fretboard. In lesson two we’ll start building from there.
So without further ado, how to memorize notes on a guitar:
Notes, Notes, Notes
The guitar you’re playing is a western instrument built for western music. Western music has twelve notes. Seven of those notes are really familiar:
The other notes are in between those notes and are referred to as sharps.
♯: This is called a sharp. When you see this symbol, it means this note is one semitone higher in pitch than the note it follows. C♯ is one semitone higher than C.
♭: This is called a flat. When you see this symbol, it means this note is one semitone lower in pitch than the note it follows. D♭is one semitone lower than D.
-Between C and D is one note. This note is called C♯ as well as D♭. It will depend on the context of the scale what this note is called.
-Between D and E is one note. This note is called D♯ as well as E♭.
-Between E and F are no notes. E♯ and F♭do NOT exist.
-between F and G is one note. This note is called F♯ as well as G♭.
-Between G and A is one note. This note is called G♯ as well as A♭.
-Between A and B is one note. This note is called A♯ as well as B♭.
-Between B and C are no notes. B♯ and C♭do NOT exist.
E-F and B-C are the exceptions you will have to remember. For the rest, there’s always a noot in between. This means these are the 12 notes that Western music uses.
These 12 notes repeat and repeat, so after B there’s a C and we start all over.
We now know which notes we can find on our guitars, and in which order they appear. Now, where do all these notes appear on our guitar and how do we memorize this?
The first step to memorizing the neck of our guitar is to memorize the names of the notes of the open strings. Memorizing these notes is really valuable, even if you have no intention of memorizing the rest of the neck.
Starting from high to low, the names of the strings are: E B G D A E
An easy way to remember the names of the strings is by using the mnemonic: Every Boy Gets Dinner At Eight. Making up a sentence for yourself will make it even easier to remember.
Notes On The E strings
As you can see, the upper string and the lower string both have the same name. This means they will have exactly the same note. The fourth fret on the low E string will be same note as the fourth fret on the high E string.
For now, I only want you to remember three more notes. These notes are all located on the E strings.
-E is the open string.
– We learned that there are no flats or sharps between E and F, so F is on the first fret of the E strings.
-There is a sharp/flat between F and G, so G is on the third fret of the E strings.
-There is a sharp/flat between G and A, so A is on the fifth fret of the E strings.
In between those notes are our sharps and flats. When you know where to find a G, it’s just a matter of going on fret lower or one fret higher if you have to find a Gb or a G#. Focus on the regular notes first, and work from there.
Fifth Fret – Open Strings
You can see in the last picture that there’s an A on the fifth fret on the E string. The string above is an A string. These are the exact same notes.
So if you take an open string, go one string lower and five frets up, you have exactly the same note. The only time this doesn’t work is on the B string. Here you have to go four frets up.
This means we know almost all the notes on the fifth fret, just from remembering the names of the open strings. We only need to know what note the fifth fret of the G string is. We know the fourth fret is a B. If we look at our 12 notes, we see there’s no flat or sharp in between B and C, so the fifth fret of our G string is a C.
We remembered the open strings with the mnemonic: Every Boy Gets Dinner At Eight.
Alternatively, we can remember the fifth frets with the mnemonic: And Every Cat Gets Dinner After.
That’s just a suggestion though. Understanding the relationship between the open strings and the fifth/fourth frets is the most important here.
We’ve now covered a small but very important part of the fretboard. In lesson two, we’ll start applying some tips and techniques, which will make the rest of the neck less of a mystery.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.