Guitar Notes for right & left-handers

Learning notes on the fretboard

When learning to play the guitar, it's a good idea to be able to identify the guitar notes on the fretboard. This will give you a great advantage in navigating your way around the guitar as well as constructing chords in a variety of positions - especially movable chords.

Guitar Notes for Beginners:

Guitar Notes

Please note that the first string on a guitar is Top E (string 1 - highest sounding open string), sometimes written as a lower-case 'e' to distinguish it from Bottom E (string 6 - lowest sounding string), written as 'E'.

↓ Guitar Notes

Guitar Basics: Notes & Frets

  • Frets are set into the fingerboard along its entire length at right angles to the strings.
  • One of the factors that determines the pitch of the note is the length of the string.
  • Every time you move upwards 1 fret you are shortening the length of the string and raising the tone of the string by 1 semitone.
  • If you play an open E string and place your finger on the first fret of that string, you are playing an F; move up another fret and you play an F#; another fret, G, etc. This is displayed on the chart above, and the same applies to all strings.

12th Fret - Halfway mark

12th fret - halway beteen nut and saddle
12th Fret - half-way between Nut & Saddle
  • The 12th fret is situated half-way between the nut and the saddle, dividing the vibrating string in half, therefore when we fret any string on the 12th fret, it will be the same note as its relative open string but one octave higher in pitch.
  • Once you fret notes beyond the 12th fret you begin the cycle for each string all over again, except all the notes will be one octave higher than all the notes before the 12th fret, e.g., if you fret either E string on the 13th fret, you play an F;  14th fret, an F#;   15th fret, a G etc., all 1 octave higher than the same string on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd frets.
  • We have included enharmonic notes in our chart. This means the same note with 2 different names, e.g., F#/G♭, D#/E♭, A#/B♭ etc. This becomes handy when working with different scales and chords.
  • When working with scales that have flats in the key signature, you will need to know the names of the flat notes. When working with scales that have sharps in the key signature, you will need to know the names of the sharp notes.

Guitar Notes & Fret markers or fret inlays

Marker No. 1 2 3 4 5 6
Fret No. 1st 3rd 5th 7th 9th 12th
String 1 - e F G A B C#/D♭ E
String 2 - B C D E F#/G♭ G#/A♭ B
String 3 - G G#/A♭ A#/B♭ C D E G
String 4 - D D#/E♭ F G A B D
String 5 - A A#/Bb C D E F#/G♭ A
String 6 - E F G A B C#/D♭ E

Fret inlays or fret markers are a great guide for playing guitar whether you are playing chords, scales, or lead guitar. They are situated on the 1st (sometimes), 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12, 15th, 17th, 19th, 21st and 24th frets of most guitars. At the very least, learn the notes of the 1st string markers which are the same as the 6th string markers.

Fret markers are extremely handy for playing barre chords, e.g., if you are playing a barre chord with an E major shape, and want to play an A barre chord, you simply go to the 3rd fret-marker (5th fret); a B chord, the 4th marker (7th fret); a C chord; one fret after the 4th marker (8th fret); a D chord, one fret after the 5th marker (10th fret), etc.

The same applies if you are playing a particular scale or a lead riff and wanted to start on a D note higher up the fretboard. Using the chart above you could start on the A string, 5th fret (3rd fret marker), or on the G string, 7th fret (4th marker), or even the D string 12th fret (6th marker). As a developing guitarist, you will find yourself using fret-markers time and time again... think of them as a GPS for your guitar.

Classical Guitar - Fret Markers on the top side

Fret Markers on a classical guitar
Fret Markers along top of neck

Some guitars have a marker on the 1st fret, with the majority of guitars having their 1st marker on the 3rd fret... see guitar above. Some classical guitars don't have a marker until the 5th fret which is usually situated in the form of a dot on the top-side of the guitar, and not on the actual fretboard as the picture above shows.

The 5554 Rule

If you know the notes on the 6th string, here's a handy tip:

As long as you know the notes on the 6th string (fattest string) of each fret, you can determine each note on the other 5 strings of the same fret using my 5554 rule: This only applies to strings 2-5, as the 1st string is the same note name as the 6th string. Let's use fret 5 as an example... String 6 - fret 5 = A (see chart at top of page)

  • From string 6 count 5 half-steps (semitones) upwards... A + 5 semitones (Bb - B - C - C# - D) = D (5th string)
  • From string 5 count 5 half-steps (semitones) upwards... D + 5 semitones (Eb - E - F - F# - G) = G (4th string)
  • From string 4 count 5 half-steps (semitones) upwards... G + 5 semitones (Ab - A - Bb - B - C) = C (3rd string)
  • From string 3 count 4 half-steps (semitones) upwards... C + 4 semitones (C#  -  D  -  Eb -  E) = E (2nd string)
  • String 1 & 6 share the same note name, therefore string one is also an A
  • There you have it: A (string 6) - D - G - C - E - A (String 1)

This gets you out of trouble if you don't have a chart or some other type of reference material close-by.

One Fret at a Time

If you know the open notes of each string, here's a handy tip:

As long as you know the notes of each open string from the lowest sounding E string (E) to the highest sounding E string (e) or vice versa, you can determine each consecutive note travelling up the fretboard, by simply counting up 1 semitone for each fret. Here's an example: Open 6th String (bottom E)

  • Place your finger on the 1st fret & count 1 half-step upwards = F ( Open E to F = 1 semitone)
  • Place your finger on the 2nd fret & count 1 half-step upwards = F# ( F to F# = 1 semitone)
  • Place your finger on the 3rd fret & count 1 half-step upwards = G ( F# to G = 1 semitone)
  • Continue in this manner until you reach your desired string...
  • You can do this on each string as long as you know the note names of each open string... keep in mind that string 1 and string 6 share the same note name.

This also gets you out of trouble if you don't have a chart or some other type of reference material close-by.

Free software is available to view guitar notes and chords over the entire fretboard along with some other handy features including modes, scale-tone chords, intervals etc. Beginners will find this tool extremely useful along with musicians from all levels of playing experience... can also be used by bassists and mandolin players.

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