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Guitar Fretboard Notation

OK, were almost ready to get on with making some sound! First we need to look at the notational organization of the fretboard. That may sound complicated, but its not, just follow along! It will be helpful if you can print this page for future reference. We will be referring to it repeatedly in the coming lessons.

fretboard notation chart

As you can see, every possible fretting position on the neck is identified with one distinct note. A string plucked without a held fret will sound out in its open tuning, as we discussed previously. The held string will sound out in the note indicated on the diagram (if you are correctly tuned to the standard guitar tuning.) Notice the recurring pattern of notes across the strings. If we start on the open E at the sixth string, and move up the fretboard to the fifth fret, the resulting held string note is A. Notice that the open fifth string is tuned to A. So, the sixth string held at the 5th fret makes the same sound as the fifth string played open. Now move up the fifth string to the 5th fret. Notice this is the same note as the open fourth string. So the fifth string held at the 5th fret makes the same sound as the open fourth string. See the pattern? Look at the 5th fret of fourth string and the open third string. See it? Now let me throw you for a loop. Look at the third string, 4th fret, and notice this is the same note as the open second string. This is the one exception to the general pattern and you will understand why this happens later. For now just memorize it. When you get to the fifth fret on the second string, the pattern reverts to the norm. The second string, 5th fret is the same note as the open first string.

As a result of these relationships, you may tune the guitar to itself without the aid of external frequency references, such as an electronic tuner. Tuning the guitar to itself is quick, and is fine for playing alone, as will typically be the case when practicing. You merely need to hold the sixth string at the 5th fret, and tune the fifth string to the same sound as the held sixth string. Do the same for the successive strings, remembering the anomally between the third and second strings: third string, 4th fret is the same note as the open second string.

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