Guitar Neck Theory Understanding How The Notes on the Neck Work

Updated on April 21, 2016
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Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.

ABCDEFG: The Natural Notes

ABCDEFG are known as the natural notes.

Three things to notice:

  1. As you look at the natural notes on the neck, notice there is no space between E & F, or B & C.
  2. Otherwise there is a skip between F & G, G & A, A & B, C & D, and D & E.
  3. The open string notes repeat at the 12th fret. This is called the octave because it takes 8 pitches to get to the pitch you started with. After the 12th fret, the pitches repeat themselves in the same order as they occurred after the open string.

Although there are only seven letters used in the musical alphabet, there are actually a total of 12 different sounding pitches (and 21 ways to name them), that make up our musical language.

Look at the guitar’s fingerboard, and notice that every open string’s pitch repeats itself at the 12th fret.

So, the open string, plus the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th fret equal the 12 different sounding pitches.

There are more than 12 ways to name these 12 pitches because of flats and sharps.

The spaces between the natural notes can be either flats or sharps.

The whole-step interval is also referred to as a major second.

Sharps & Flats


The symbol for flat is b

Flat means lower the sound of any of the seven natural notes ABCDEFG, by 1/2 step,

(1 fret away from you, same string)

to get the seven flats: Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb and Gb,


The symbol for sharp is #

Sharp means raise the sound of any of the seven natural notes ABCDEFG, by 1/2 step,

(1 fret toward you, same string)

to get the seven sharps: A# B# C# D# E# F# and G#,


Notice how the sharps and flats overlap. A sharp can be renamed as a flat, or a flat can be renamed as a sharp. When two notes are the same pitch but written differently they are known as enharmonic pitches.

For example, the note F when raised a 1/2 step becomes F# and is the same as the note G when it is lowered a 1/2 step which becomes Gb.

There are nine enharmonic possibilities;

Five sharps that can be renamed as flats, or vice versa,

A# = Bb, C#= Db, D#= Eb, F# = Gb, G#= Ab

Two natural notes that have flat enharmonic equivalents, or vice versa,

E = Fb, B = Cb

Two natural notes that have sharp enharmonic equivalents, or vice versa,

C = B#, F = E#

Half Step Intervals

An interval refers to the distance (in sound) between two pitches.

There are many intervals in music, but the first one to learn is called the half-step.

Each fret on the guitar is a half-step.

The half-step interval is also referred to as a minor second.

Whole Step Intervals

The next interval we will learn is called the whole-step.

A whole-step is the distance of two half-steps which is the equivalent of two frets.

On any one of the six strings (EADGBE), the sound of a whole step interval would be heard by playing the open string (zero fret) followed by the 2nd fret,

or, playing the 1st fret followed by the 3rd fret, playing the 2nd fret followed by the 4th fret and so on.

As well, this could be done in the opposite direction.

The whole-step interval is also referred to as a major second.

Intervals on Adjacent Strings

It is useful to know what a whole step and a half step look like when played on adjacent strings. The following examples use the 5th fret as a reference.

Whole Step

  • E-A String = 5th to 2nd fret
  • A-D String = 5th to 2nd fret
  • D-G String = 5th to 2nd fret
  • G-B String = 5th to 3rd fret
  • B-E String = 5th to 2nd fret

Half Step

  • E-A String = 5th to 1st fret
  • A-D String = 5th to 1st fret
  • D-G String = 5th to 1st fret
  • G-B String = 5th to 2nd fret
  • B-E String = 5th to 1st fret

This will be extremely useful when learning your scales as it will allow you to see the intervals that create them.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      So useful for begginers! Thank you :)

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      5 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Informative Hub. Stella


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