Navigating the Fretboard

Fretboard - All Strings

Guitar fretboard

It’s no fun to get lost.

Have you ever gotten lost? Maybe as a little kid you found yourself separated from your parents in a store. What a horrible feeling to look up and realize that you are lost in a sea of clothes racks and mannequins. What about the first day at a new school? Do you remember the fear of losing your way between classes, anxious that you will lose your bearings and be completely lost?

Whether you are a little kid, a freshman, or a guitarist, it’s no fun to get lost. In fact, it can be downright scary.

As you begin to explore the fretboard, it will feel a bit like wandering into unknown territory. It will take an investment of time to memorize every note on every string. Don’t be discouraged – it’s not that difficult. Here are a few steps that will help you.

1. Do the work and memorize.

Use the chromatic scale to memorize every note up every string from open to the twelfth fret. Once you get past the twelfth fret, it repeats itself. There are patterns and landmarks to help you remember where you are, but you must start here.

2. Look for patterns.

Notice the octave pattern between the sixth and fourth strings and the fifth and third strings. Use patterns like this to help you remember where you are.

3. Beware of the B.

Notice the modified octave pattern between the second string and the fourth string. It’s extended one fret from the pattern in step #2… because the B string is hard-headed and insists on doing things its own way.

4. “E”asy-peasy.

The first string is the same as the sixth string. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

5. Pay attention to landmarks.

The fret markers are there for a reason. You’ll notice that commonly used notes fall on these markers, especially on the sixth and fifth strings. For instance, on the sixth string the markers remind you where to find G, A, B, C# and the octave E (up to the twelfth fret). On the fifth string, they help you find C, D, E, F# and the octave A. These guys give you nice reference points so you don’t get turned around as you move up the neck and away from first position.

Congratulations! You now know every note on every string of the guitar and you are exploring without fear of getting lost! Breathe a sigh of relief… this is much easier than finding the algebra classroom on the first day of school.

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