This topic certainly applies to the blues guitar, but no matter what style of music you play it is important to know all the notes. It takes a lot of effort and determination to play guitar well, and learning every note on the guitar fretboard is essential.
So in this post I am going to outline a simple 3-step process for learning all the notes on the guitar. The best thing about this method is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time working on it. All you need is about 10 minutes a day.
It’s too much to learn every note on every string at once, so I suggest that you start with the 6th and 5th strings. This works out great because the notes are the same on the 1st and 6th strings. Once you get a grip on the E and A strings you are half way there. Then you can apply the same technique to learn the other 3 strings.
I think you will find that once you learn the notes on these strings you will have an easier time learning the others. And the E and A strings are the first place for you to see the roots of your chords so learning these first will help you right away.
Step 1: Learn The Guitar Notes Ascending
Starting in the first position, play all the notes on the E string from the open E note to the E note at the 12th fret. Play them using the fingering written at the side of the fretboard chart. You should only have to move your hand 2 times: from the open position to the 5th position, and then to the 10th position.
At this stage you are only going to play the notes in the C major scale, no accidentals (sharps and flats).
Now do the same thing on the A string. If you take a look at the guitar fretboard chart you’ll notice that the patterns of the two strings are almost identical, the exception being the F note on the 6th string and the B note on the 5th string.
Say the notes out loud as you play them. This is to help reinforce what notes you are playing.
Pay attention to the dots on the fretboard. Use them to help you see the notes. Most guitars have single dots on frets 3, 5, 7, and 9, and two dots on fret 12. The pattern is usually different at the 12th fret guitars with inlays. The 12th fret is the octave point on the string. This is where the notes start over on the guitar. So the 12th fret on the E string is an E note, on the A string it’s an A note etc.
Your goal for step 1 is to be able to play all these notes, ascending (from lowest to highest), with the fingering indicated, while you say the notes out loud, by heart. For most people this comes pretty fast. You may be able to do it after only a few minutes.
Don’t move on to step 2 until you can easily do step 1.
Step 2: The Guitar Notes Descending
Playing the notes in a descending manner (from highest to lowest) is a little more difficult. For one thing it’s much easier to say the alphabet forwards than backwards. This makes you think a little harder about the notes.
It is very important to do this with the same fingering as before. To help improve technique it’s a good idea to make sure your fingers are all down behind their respective frets on the fingerboard before you begin to play the notes. To move from one note to the other all you have to do is lift up one or two fingers.
The goal here is to be able to play all the notes with the fingers marked on the guitar fretboard chart to the right while saying the notes out loud from the highest to the lowest notes.
Don’t go on to step 3 until you have a pretty good grip on steps 1 and 2. It might take a few days working on steps 1 and 2 before you are ready to go on to step 3. That’s fine. The goal is not to learn things fast; it’s to learn them right. Just keep plugging away and you will get it. The secret to success in learning to play guitar is to practice the right things and to keep at it. It’s that simple.
Step 3: The Circle of 4ths
Here is where you really get going. Now you are going to play all 12 notes on each of the strings around the Circle of 4ths, and say them out loud while you do it.
The circle of 4ths is all the notes in this order:
C F b♭ Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G
You may have heard of the circle of 5ths. This is the same thing only in reverse.
For this step you can use one finger. If you don’t know where a note is, go back to steps 1 and 2 to find it. Then take a moment to look at it closer. Notice the fret number. Try to see it in context. What are the notes around it?
Remember, being able to find a note is not he same as knowing it. In a playing situation by the time you figure it out everyone else will be way ahead of you and you will be lost. The goal here is to be able to play all the notes while saying them out loud very fast. You should do this everyday until your head is faster than your hand.
Once you have a pretty good grasp of these strings make a chart for the other strings and do the same thing. When you do these strings you will find that the fingering patterns have to be different. Figure out what works best and go with it.
Follow these steps and you will know all your notes like the back of your hand. This will open up the fretboard and make it easier to understand chords, play melodies, improvise, to do everything you do with your guitar.