Learning the Notes and Neck

SMG_Guitar_Neck

Think of the guitar neck as the street you live on or the roads you take to get around town. At first they seem confusing and you have to use google maps to find your way around, but after awhile they become the norm and what you are used to seeing. I think this analogy is fair when compared to a guitarist learning the neck.

At first you can’t remember where E is and you have no clue how the strings work together or why that one string is tuned at a different interval than the others. The goal of this post is to give you a few tips and tricks for learning the neck and notes on the fretboard better and easily.

In most cases, your guitar will have 6 strings. Two of those strings will be tuned to “E.” So if you learn the notes on one of those strings, they will be exactly the same on the other. The only difference is that they are in a different register and octave. At this point, I like to think of music as basic math. In this case, can you count to 7? Can you count to 12? I hope so, and if so, you’re in luck because the rest is just memorization.

Open is E
1st fret is F
3rd fret is G
5th fret is A
7th fret is B
8th fret is C
10th fret is D
12th fret is E

Before we go further, lets look at this basic point in music. Between E and F as well as B and C, there is only a half step or ONE fret. Otherwise every other interval such as G to A, or D to E is a whole step or TWO frets. This will never change and this simple guide should be committed to your long term memory. It will make learning the rest of the guitar neck easy.

Now to review what we just learned, on the highest and lowest string we have:

E F G A B C D E

That was easy and now we’re a third of the way done since we only have four other strings to learn. The other strings from low to high are A, D, G and B. If you follow the simple guide shown above you can see these intervals are still the exact same!

B C D E F G A B
G A B C D E F G
D E F G A B C D
A B C D E F G A

Just look for the half step intervals of B and C as well as E and F and you should be able to locate the notes. In between whole step interval notes such as D and E there is either a sharp if you are ascending or flat if you are descending. So you can go either D D# E or E Eb D. Either way they are the same pitch as far as how they sound.

As I mentioned above, if you ignore sharps and flats, you have seven notes that make up the notes to the octave. The 8th note is the same note, just an octave higher. On the other hand, if you count sharps and flats, you have 12 notes to reach the octave higher note. I’m sure on paper this seems a bit confusing but grab your guitar and follow along and it will make perfect sense.

Once you identify the notes on the neck, work to remember where they are and repeat the process. It’s good practice to be able to identify every A or C# or whatever note on the neck. Doing this helped me unlock the neck and play licks and scales comfortably in patterns anywhere on the neck in what ever key I was looking to play. Sort of like the way you learned the streets of your neighborhood when you first moved there, and within no time, you were able to find your way around town like a pro.

Thanks for reading.

  • SVH

    Great post! I think this simple concept can help alot of people open up their abilities. admitedly I have gotten really lazy over the years in regards to reading and theory and I find myself having to look at the guitar sideways and count spaces in my head to figure out note values! hehe Pretty Scary. I think I’ll spend a little time with this and see if I can figure out what the hell I’m playin! 😉

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