No matter what your goals are as a guitarist, knowing the notes on the guitar will be a huge help in your journey. This roadmap will show you where you can find each note, so you can take your playing to the next level!
Are you familiar with the musical alphabet? At some point along your guitar journey, you’ve probably wondered, “What are the notes on the guitar?” Whether you want to learn how to improvise rock solos or play perfect classical etudes, knowing the notes on the guitar will be a huge help in your journey!
This roadmap will show you where you can find each note, so you can take your playing to the next level. No matter what your goals are as a guitarist, knowing which notes you’re playing will help you communicate musical ideas and learn new techniques in a more efficient way.
The musical alphabet goes from A to G (there is no “H, I, J” etc.)
Half-steps / Whole-steps
A half-step is the distance between one fret and the next on the guitar
A whole-step is equal to two half-steps or two frets distance
Sharp (#) / Flat (b)
A sharp(#) is when we raise a pitch by a half step
A flat(b) is when we lower a pitch by a half step
Every note from A to G has a sharp, except for B and E:
Together, these 12 notes form the chromatic scale. A scale is a sequence of notes in which no note is repeated and all notes are played in ascending order from lowest to highest.
Seven of the notes – C, D, E, F, G, A, B – have unique letter names. These notes are called natural notes. Five of the notes do not have unique names, but are instead named for where they fall in relationship to these seven. Notes like C♯ (C sharp) or G♭ (G flat) are called accidentals.
The 6 open strings on your guitar for standard tuning are E, B, G, D, A, E (from high to low)
Memorize the sentence “Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears” or “Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good-Bye Eddie”. This will help you remember the order of the open strings in standard tuning!
So now that you know which each note each string starts, you can look at the musical alphabet in the wheel above and find all the ones notes!
These are all the notes that you have on the fretboard:
On the 12th fret, you’ll go back to the same letter/ note that you played with the string open, but now you’ll be playing an octave higher.
You can try to learn what the notes on the guitar are in a fun way. Try a game of guitar note hide-and-seek! This game is simple: Pick a note and try to find where it is on every string. Then, see if you can play them one after another in rhythm! It may sound easy at first, but it takes some practice.
Major Scale: W W H W W W H
(W= whole-step / H= half-step)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (or 1)
Have you heard the vocal exercise “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do”? Those are the musical steps for the major scale…or “Do Re Mi” by Julie Andrews in “Sound of Music”? That is a song based on the Major Scale steps. It is VERY important to learn the major scale if you want a good foundation for learning everything else on the guitar. It is the basis of music theory which is the field of study that deals with the mechanics of music and how music works.
An interval is the distance between two notes.
The interval from a low “C” to a higher “C” is an octave. The octave is the basic source of pitch, with all other pitches created by dividing it into smaller pieces, called steps.
A chord is formed when 3 or more notes played together
An arpeggio is a broken chord, or notes from a chord played apart from each other
Major Chord / Minor Chord
Major Chord: 1st, 3rd and 5th scale steps / notes from the Major Scale 1,3,5 (sound is happier)
Minor Chord: 1st, b3rd and 5th scale steps / notes from the Major Scale 1,b3,5 (sound is sadder)
For many beginning guitarists, learning the notes on the fretboard is not a priority. While many other musicians learn the note names for their instruments from the very start, new guitarists can rock out basic chords without ever learning what the notes on the guitar are.
While this is fine in the beginning, you’ll eventually want to get a grip on the note locations and when you do, this post is here to help!
You can learn more about the guitar notes in this video
Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog