Fretboard Knowledge

How to Find Notes

The easiest way to break down finding notes on the guitar is to simply learn the dotted notes on the lowest two strings (E and A), and then learn the basic shapes to help you find all the same notes.

The dots on the Low E and A strings are the first thing to learn. Each fret moves you one note higher or lower. The notes on any string are determined by the open string, that is, what note the string is when you don't fret it (e.g the Low E string is an E note when played open, therefore the first fret of the Low E is an F note). The order of notes in music are as follows:

A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A etc..

Remember: Sharp (#) = UP  Flat (b) = DOWN

Blue Cats Eat Fish = No Accidentals between B and C, or E and F

From each note on the Low E and A strings, if you just go up two strings and up two frets, you will find the exact same note an octave higher. This can also be done in reverse (if you're on the D or G string, go down two strings and back two frets and you'll find the same note an octave lower). Because the B string is tuned slightly different, this shape just increases by one fret when you use the B string. All that is shown here:

The 5 Root Shapes

Across the fretboard there are set shapes between one note and the next (like the octave shape above). On the diagram below are outlined the 5 basic root shapes we can break these down into. These shapes apply no matter the starting note, and always follow eachother in the way displayed here. These shapes are very important to learn as they are the basis for all of our chord and scale shapes.

Finding Intervals and Building Scales

As there are ever-present shapes between the same note across the neck, there are also consistent jumps across strings to reach the next note. A 'Whole Step' (2 notes) is 2 frets on the same string, but to make the same jump from one string to another, you have to go back by 3 frets on the higher string. To do the same but for a 'Half Step' (1 note), you need to go back by 4 frets on the higher string. As the B string is tuned differently, these jumps are all reduced by one fret when crossing from the G string to the B string, as shown below.

The Minor Scale

Using everything we have looked at on this page, we can now build our minor scales all across the fretboard. We only need to know two things; root and the jumps between the notes (degrees). We will use G Minor.

G Minor Intervals - R W H W W H W W

G Minor Degrees - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (8)

G Minor Notes - G A Bb C D Eb F 

Using all this information, here are all of your minor scales across the fretboard, between all of our root shapes:

Minor Arpeggios

As we know, the minor arpeggio is made of up a root, b3 and 5. Using the root shapes we can play these all over the neck. One of the main reasons this is important to learn is that when soloing you can begin to follow the chords more closely, as opposed to just using a key scale. In a minor key, the i iv and v chords are all minor, so you can be soloing in any position, and when any of those chords is played, you can use your arpeggio shapes to see what notes will make the best melodic and harmonic sense. 

Learning Shapes

The two best ways to learn single note shapes on the fretboard are:

- Sequences

- Key Changes

Practice running through the shapes in groups of three notes or double picking each note to really test that you know the shape. Also try moving your scales and arpeggios into different keys to make sure you're relying on the shapes and not the fret numbers! Here are some examples of playing sequences for the first position full minor and minor arpeggio shapes:

Major Variations