Are you interested in learning guitar notes for beginners? Or maybe you’re not a newbie, but you want to learn guitar string notes so you can improvise rock solos or play perfect classical etudes. No matter where you are in your guitar-playing journey, having a clear understanding of guitar string notes on a guitar is crucial.
This guide will show you where you can find the notes on a guitar and how to memorize them so you can take your playing to the next level. You’ll also learn a few shapes to help you play scales and chords in any major key you want. No matter what your goals are as a guitarist, this guide will help you learn new guitar techniques more efficiently.
Why Should You Learn the Notes on the Guitar?
- Learning guitar notes will help you gain a strong musical foundation that helps you fingerpick, read TABs, play chords, improvise, and jam with other musicians in any genre.In short, you should learn to read notes on a guitar because it will help you:
- Learn to fingerpick
- Build chords and chord shapes
- Play scales
But you should also learn guitar notes because it will help you:
- Become a musician everyone wants to play with
- Get more professional gigs
- Communicate with bandmates and collaborators
- Translate your work on guitar to other instruments
For many beginning guitarists, learning guitar fretboard notes 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. Some even turn to guitar tabs to determine the finger positions for certain songs. While this is fine in the beginning, you’ll eventually want to get a grip on the note locations!
Once you master guitar music notes, you can start challenging yourself and expand your musical skills. Get ready to be unstoppable when it comes to your guitar-playing skills! Follow along below and get ready to jam.
Want to learn how these guitar notes work together to make guitar chords? Check out this helpful tutorial:
Guitar Notes for Standard Tuning
If you’re wondering where to begin when it comes to learning guitar music notes, a great place to start is by memorizing the notes of each string played open. “Play open” means without holding down any of the frets. If your guitar is tuned to standard tuning, these notes should be E-A-D-G-B-E, starting from the lowest pitched string and moving up to the highest.
How to Memorize Guitar Notes
An easy way to remember the guitar string notes clear in your mind is to memorize the sentence “Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears.” This will help you remember the order of the open strings in standard tuning.
The guitar, like the piano, is based on a chromatic scale. In chromatic music, there are 12 notes in an octave, each a half step apart. Each fret on the fingerboard of the guitar raises the pitch of the string by one-half step. If you were to hold down all strings on the 12th fret, the notes are the same as the strings played open, just an octave higher.
Learn Guitar Notes on Each String
One way to figure out what the notes on the guitar are is to think about each open string as the base note of a scale. Below, you’ll find guitar TABS for the notes on each guitar string.
A guitar TAB shows you where your fingers belong on each fret. If you need help reading charts like the one above, check out this article on how to read guitar tabs.
Notes on the E String
Take a look at the guitar tab below to see what a scale looks like on the low E string:
Following this tab, you will play the notes E, F, G, A, B, C, D, ending with E an octave higher. We call these “natural” guitar notes. If you were playing the piano, these notes would be the white keys. Sharp and flat notes occur between the natural notes.
Notes on the B String
Just as with the E string, you should notice that going up to the guitar notes on the twelfth fret takes you back to the note you started on, one octave higher. This is true for all guitar strings: the 12th fret is always exactly one octave higher than the same string open. This means that the same patterns and shapes repeat above the 12th fret. If you learn your notes from open, up to 12th fret, you get the rest of the neck for free. Just imagine that the 12th fret is the nut, and the 13th fret is the 1st fret, etc.
Notes on the G String
So what about those guitar notes in-between the natural notes? What is 1st fret on the G string, or 4th fret on the B string? Those notes are called accidentals and can be described using either flats (b) or sharps (#). We’ll talk more about these later, but for now, just know that when you describe a note as flat, that means the note is one half-step (one fret) lower than the reference note.
For example, if the 2nd fret on the G string is A, then the first fret on the G string is Ab. Knowing this should allow you to name the rest of the guitar notes that are not included on this tab. On the G string, 1st fret is Ab, 3rd fret is Bb, 6th fret is Db, 8th fret is Eb, and 11th fret is Gb. Because E & F and B & C are on consecutive frets, there’s no note between them to name.
This is equivalent to the spaces where black keys are missing on the piano. There are situations in which you might use Fb or Cb to describe guitar notes you are playing, but this is a more advanced theoretical concept and you can name all of the notes on the neck without resorting to using such descriptions at all. For now, just pretend Fb and Cb don’t exist. You’ll be 99% right.
Notes on the D String
Sharps work the same way as flats but in reverse. A sharp note is 1 fret higher than its reference note. Hence, if you look at the D string as an example, you can name all of the in-between notes as follows: 1st fret=D#, 4th fret=F#, 6th fret=G#, 8th fret=A#, and 11th fret=C#. Once again you’ll notice that the proximity between E and F, and between B and C means that E# and B# are not typically used to describe notes.
It should also now be clear that the notes between the natural guitar notes can all be named in two different ways. D# and Eb are the same fret for example, as are A# and Bb. You should know how to name the notes on each string using both flats and sharps, and should work to quickly recognize which sharps and flats refer to the same pitches (we call this being “enharmonically equivalent”).
Notes on the A String
By now, you may have noticed a pattern. If you look at the natural notes on each string, they always follow in the same order, with the same spacing between notes, and with each string beginning four notes lower than the previous string (with one exception, see below). For example, B is four notes lower than E, D is four notes lower than G, and A is four notes lower than D.
In music theory terms, we would say that each string is tuned a perfect fourth above its neighbor. Or, to think of it a different way, each string’s open note is identical to the next lower string at the fifth fret. We can call this a guitar-playing hack because learning guitar fretboard notes because it means that if you learn the pattern for the natural guitar notes on one string, you already know that pattern on the next lower string, starting at the fifth fret. This is a huge benefit in cutting down on memorization time.
There is one string that breaks this pattern however, the G string is only 3 letters (or 4 frets) lower than the B string. In this case, the musical pattern still repeats from one to the other but starts at 4th fret instead of 5th.
Notes on the E String
Having already learned the high E string, the low E string is a freebie. Because it begins on the same open note, all of the strings are in the same places. Congrats. You already know the guitar notes for this one. It also continues to follow the rule outlined above, by being 4 notes (5 frets) below A.
Which Are the Most Important Guitar Notes to Memorize?
For many beginners, the notes on the E and A strings will be the most important notes to memorize. This is because these notes are the root notes for the most common movable chord shapes.
To memorize the guitar notes on the E and A strings, practice playing just the natural notes going up and down the strings. Say the name of each note as you play it. Repeat this a few times at the beginning of your guitar practice each day until you feel comfortable. Repetition is the key to ensuring these guitar notes stick in your mind. Practice them daily. You just might be surprised how quickly you master them.
Guitar Fretboard Notes
You can continue learning the natural notes on the guitar one string at a time, following along with the guitar string diagram below. Note that this diagram shows sharp notes (i.e., F#) but not flat notes (i.e., Gb).
So, what is the difference between a sharp and flat note on the guitar? A sharp note is a half step higher than the natural note. The “#” symbol indicates the sharp version of that note. A flat note is a half step lower. When you see a “b” next to a note, it is representing a flat note. Depending on what key you are playing in, the same note may be referred to as F# or Gb.
Flat Notes on the Guitar Fretboard
Here’s the same diagram, this time showing flat notes instead of sharps:
Practice Guitar Notes with Movable Scales & Chords
Simply memorizing each note on the guitar won’t improve your playing as much as you’d probably like. It’s also very important to understand how the guitar notes relate to each other! The guitar layout of notes on a guitar may seem random, but these simple scale and chord shapes will help you to remember them.
Practicing the G Major Scale
Try this guitar tab for a scale in G major:
Notice that the scale starts on G, on the third fret of the low E string. For your left-hand fingering, we recommend using your index finger for all guitar notes on the second fret, your middle finger for all notes on the third fret, your ring finger on the fourth fret, and your pinkie on the fifth.
Practice the G# Major Scale
Now, try starting on the 4th fret and play this scale pattern again, moving each note up by one fret. Congratulations! You just played a scale in G# major. Even if you weren’t able to name all the guitar notes you just played, knowing the correct intervals ensures you’re playing notes within the correct key. Practicing different scales is a great way to familiarize yourself with the guitar string notes and begin to recognize relationships between the different notes.
Using the same fingering, you can play a scale starting with any note on the fretboard. The first note of this scale is the root note and determines the key of the scale. Practice this scale by moving it up and down the fretboard, one fret at a time.
Practice the D Major Scale
Here’s another movable scale pattern for you to practice, this time starting on the A string. This scale is shown in D major, but it can also be moved all over the fretboard.
Movable Chord Shapes With Power Chords
You can also learn chord shapes that can be moved around the fretboard. The simplest of these shapes are called “power chords.”
To play a power chord in F with the root note on the low E string, place your index finger on the first fret of the E string. Next, use your ring finger to hold down the A string at the third fret and use your pinky to hold the D string at the third fret. Strum just the three strings you are holding down.
Maintaining the same shape with your left hand, move each finger up one fret. Strum only the strings you have fretted. Now you’re playing a power chord in F#.
Now move each finger down one string, so that you are holding the second fret on the A string with your index finger and the fourth fret on the D and G strings with your ring and pinky fingers, respectively. Strum these three strings. You are now playing a power chord in B.
You can move this power chord shape up and down the fretboard as long as your root note starts on the low E or A strings. Remember, the root note is the note your index finger is fretting. This note will determine the key of the chord.
Other Easy Tips for Learning Guitar Notes
One of the quickest ways to master the locations of guitar notes relative to one another is to practice position playing. Instead of playing all the notes on a single string, assign one finger to each fret.
To start with, let your index finger play the first fret, your middle finger the second, your ring finger the third, and your little finger the fourth, regardless of what string you are picking. Because each string’s fifth fret is the same note as the next higher string played open, you’ll simply use the open note instead.
- Start on the low E string and play open E, 1st fret F, and 3rd fret G.
- Instead of playing A at fifth fret, go up to open A and continue in this manner all the way up to high G on the E string. If you’re doing it right, you should be playing three notes on each string (other than the B string, which will only have two notes).
- Once you have mastered the notes in this position, move your left hand up by one fret, so that your fingers are playing the frets between 1st and 5th. Then, repeat again finding the natural guitar notes while moving to a higher string each time instead of reaching out of position.
- Continue this process all the way up the neck.
Ultimately, you’ll begin to develop a good understanding of the guitar fretboard notes and the shapes both vertically (all notes on one string) and horizontally (all notes in one left-hand position).
You’ll quickly start to notice patterns repeating. When you do, pay attention and internalize them. These are shortcuts to memorizing the fretboard. Continue to practice and you’ll feel like a pro in no time!
The Guitar Note Game
Ready for another fun way to learn what the notes on the guitar are? Try a musical game of guitar notes 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. The more you challenge yourself with games like this, the more familiar you will become with the guitar notes. With some daily practice, you’ll have each of the notes and their position memorized in no time.
For example, let’s find all the C notes on the guitar. On the low E string, the C note is found on the eighth fret. If you have any doubts, start at the open E note on the guitar and count the half steps (frets) all the way up to C.
On the A string, C is found on the third fret. On the D string, C is found at the tenth fret. And so on! Check the fretboard diagram above if you get stuck.
Next, put on your metronome and try to play each C note, on every string, in rhythm! Though it may not sound very musical, jumping all over the fretboard like this is a great way to get to know your instrument.
Now, It’s Time to Learn Chords, Scales, & Progressions!
Now that you’re more familiar with guitar notes, take some time everyday to practice and you’ll be a pro in no time! With your new knowledge of guitar string notes, it’s time to learn chords and scales.
Do you want to really take your guitar-playing skills up a notch? Conveniently work with a private guitar teacher online! This will allow you to receive lessons customized for your music level and goals.
Continue to practice guitar notes and grow your skills. Before you know it, you’ll be channeling your favorite guitar heroes and dreaming up guitar anthems of your own!