How to Memorize the Notes on the Guitar Neck

Updated on April 21, 2016
Guitar Wizard profile image

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

What's Missing?

There are so many things one must do to become good at playing guitar. You've got to learn your chords, scales, rhythmic patterns, licks, riffs and so many other things that are required to allow you to play this instrument.

The one thing that is almost universally lacking in most guitarists, especially rock oriented players, is the knowledge of where every single note is on the fretboard.

The Quickest Way to Memorize the Neck

As difficult as this may appear to many, this is absolutely a must-do step that will bring you even closer to guitar mastery. The good news is that it's not really difficult and requires about 5-10 minutes a day for a month or two to master.

Even if it takes twice as long it's but a drop in total time you will spend on the guitar especially if you love it. I say this because this task is so easy not to do and I speak from the experience of teaching good players with 20 or more years under their belt who come to me with great playing ability and yet they've failed to master this basic skill.

One of the reasons for this is that guitar is actually a very pattern based instrument which makes it easier to learn and memorize music visually. Where players (in my experience especially composers and improvisers) get caught up and run into problems is when they are trying to move stuff to different parts of the neck, transpose and re-finger chords or scales.

There's nothing worse for some to be all caught up in a creative space and then have it ruined because of not being able to quickly calculate where something is.

Enough talk! Here is of the basic exercises I learned at a music school long ago and far away.

BEADGCF Memorize this sequence or at least have it in front of you.

You will play these notes in that order on each string one string at a time while saying them out loud.

Here they are notated string number/fret. For example B-6/7 means B is on the 6th string (Low fat E) at the 7th fret. Ready?

E string B-6/7 E-6/0 A-6/5 D-6/10 G-6/3 C-6/8 F-6/1

A string: B-5/2 E-5/7 A-5/0 D-5/5 G-5/10 C-5/3 F-5/8

D string: B-4/9 E-4/2 A-4/7 D-4/12 G-4/5 C-4/10 F-4/3

G string: B-3/4 E-3/9 A-3/2 D-3/7 G-3/0 C-3/5 F-3/10

B string: B-2/0 E-2/5 A-2/10 D-2/3 G-2/8 C-2/1 F-2/6

E string B-1/7 E-1/0 A-1/5 D-1/10 G-1/3 C-1/8 F-1/1

Remember to say them out loud! Some of my students like practice tremolo picking and vibrato while they are doing this exercise. I will show some more exercises and variations in a future post but this should get you going for now. Feel free to let me know your progress.

Sharps and Flats

Once you have the natural notes memorized it's no problem to know the sharps and flats. Just spot the BEADGCF's and remember one fret away from the guitar is flat (Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb) and 1 fret toward the guitar is sharp (B# E# A# D# G# C# F#).

BEADGCF on Chords

Same idea as the single notes. Take a chord shape and run it horizontally through the BEADGCF sequence.

Example using CAGED chord shapes

C shape bar chords (pinky on the root)

  • B fret 14
  • E fret 7
  • A fret 12
  • D fret 5
  • G fret 10
  • C fret 3
  • F fret 8

A shape bar chords

  • B fret 2
  • E fret 7
  • A fret 12
  • D fret 5
  • G fret 10
  • C fret 3
  • F fret 8

G shape bar chords (3rd finger on the root)

  • B fret 7
  • E fret 12
  • A fret 5
  • D fret 10
  • G fret 3
  • C fret 8
  • F fret 13

E shape bar chords

  • B fret 7
  • E fret 12
  • A fret 5
  • D fret 10
  • G fret 3
  • C fret 8
  • F fret 1

D shape bar chords

  • B fret 9
  • E fret 2
  • A fret 7
  • D fret 12
  • G fret 5
  • C fret 10
  • F fret 3

Fun With Old School Marketing

Just having fun after reading one of those perfect pitch ads :-)

(This is not real)

Guitarists! What is the one thing that will put you light years ahead of all guitar players?

Regardless of your technical ability, there is one skill you need to make amazing progress no matter how good your playing is already; something so simple and basic that all guitarists should know, yet most don’t!

This is the absolute key to your ultimate success on the guitar.

Most guitarists are held back their entire career because of their limited knowledge of this basic necessity even though it’s so unbelievably easy to master. It is the primary key to understanding scales, chords, music theory, improvisation and reading music on the guitar. So what is it? “The single most overlooked skill for guitarists is the complete knowledge of where the notes are on the fret board.” That’s it. Period! Get this fundamental knowledge down now and you’ll be stunned at how fast your guitar skills will grow.

Guitar players usually end up doing it the hard way.

Why? Well one of the reasons is because the guitar is so visual that a player can learn everything by patterns and shapes. Is this a bad thing! No. But the problem is that because everything is a pattern or shape, you could easily never know what you are really playing. Sound familiar? Think of where you are right now. Is it easy for you see the overall picture? Can you see the connections? Does everything make absolute total sense? If the answer is no, then read on.

My musical butt was kicked, and I never saw it coming!

Imagine this. I’m getting my degree at a music school. My thinking was “It’s going to be a breeze since I’ve already got 20 years of professional experience behind me.” I had already been bumped up a couple of levels in all of my classes and tested out of others. Yes, I was a little cocky. Then it happened! One of the classes was a fundamental’s of guitar that was required to graduate. After looking at the class materials I asked the instructor if I could test out since it was pretty basic stuff I already knew (or so I thought). He smiled and said “No problem, but come to my first class because I still think you might learn something.” Well I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t but came to the first class just to show him and the other students how well I knew my stuff. What followed was one of the most humbling experience’s I’ve ever had I my life.

Humiliation

So there I was, ready to be bored out of my mind. Sure enough, the instructor starts going through the basic chords and I’m thinking “Get me out of here!” Then suddenly it happened. Somewhere between me falling half asleep and wondering what was for lunch, he announced that he was now going to test the class’s knowledge of the finger board. “I can do this no problem” I thought as he started calling out notes, first slowly, then quicker and more and more random. Soon he was calling out notes on all of the strings and frets and I was left in the dust. When he got to the chords my heart sank. There was no way I could even begin to keep up with him. I left that class dejected and feeling worthless as a musician.

How?

When I got home I immediately took out my guitar and started working on “learning” the notes. I went through all of my previous instructional books, tapes and videos and realized that there was really nothing out there specifically to teach this most important aspect of guitar. How many times have you sat there trying to memorize your notes?

If you are the way I was in the beginning, you might have randomly tried to go over some of the note names. Then, as your eyes started to glaze over; you then either put the guitar down or started playing some riffs you already knew. I remember trying to work this stuff out, but then saying to hell with it, I’m going to jam. I fell back on relying on the patterns and shapes that I was used to.

I knew I had to conquer this. I had to get it down. I’d like to say that I just woke up one day and I had an “ah ha” moment. But no, the methods I teach are a result of humiliation and a realization that I had to find a way to learn my notes.

Still frustrated, I came back to that class. (Let me tell you, that was really hard to do because my ego was crushed.) What was the instructor’s secret? Had he just practiced memorizing this stuff for years and years? He certainly seemed to have it down. I needed to learn. What I finally learned astounded me! How could I have been playing this long and not even ever have heard of this technique.

Why? Well one of the reasons is because guitar is so visual that a player can learn everything by patterns and shapes so that’s what they end up doing.

It became my mission to find out the quickest, most efficient way to memorize all of the notes and chords on the guitar, and in the shortest amount of time.

If only I had known

Let me ask you this. Would it be worth the price of a single guitar lesson for the ability to instantly find any note or chord on your guitar, even without looking at a guitar or having a guitar in your hands? I know I keep thinking to myself “If only I had known about this when I was first learning. How much farther along would I be now?” I can tell you. Way farther!

So listen to this. For a limited time I am offering this package for $29.99. That’s an incredibly low $1.00 a day for knowledge that will affect your guitar playing for a lifetime!

Warning!

I’ll be totally honest with you. I believe I have an excellent product and I stand behind it 100%. But please, please don’t even consider buying this if you can’t commit to 15 minutes a day for 30 days. It makes me look bad and I want my customers to get major life-changing results so they brag about me (and I about them). Buy it when you are ready and the results will blow you away.

I’ll make this guarantee: (if this were a real product)

If you are not entirely satisfied with your ability to instantaneously find any note on any string of your guitar immediately after 30 days of using my “Notes on the Neck” program then return it for a full refund. I’ll even give you an extra 10 days just in case something comes up and you forget.


Questions & Answers

  • Was it difficult to memorize the notes on the guitar neck when you first learned?

    Yes, there were challenges, but I kept practicing.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Phillip 

      2 weeks ago

      People ask about that note sequence. Its a 4th sequence.So that's a bonus. Helps to cement that. E is the 4 chord of B. A 4th of E .....

    • profile image

      Dave 

      3 months ago

      Why that sequence of notes? Why not just abcdefg?

    • profile image

      Tyler 

      6 months ago

      This seems like a good jumping off point, I've now got the BEADGCF pattern memorized on every string but it's not helping me much. If I wanted to jump to a certain note then I'm lost without going through the pattern on the string. The B notes are the only notes I can play offhand. Do you have any recommendations on how to make more of this stick?

    • profile image

      Em 

      7 months ago

      I've just found this page. Looking forward to getting stuck in

    • profile image

      Sal 

      9 months ago

      This is helping me out TREMENDOUSLY!

      Thank you so much for posting this, Mark.

    • Guitar Wizard profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Edward Fitchett 

      14 months ago from Long Beach

      Re Phil Evans question. BEADGCF on a chord is simple Just take any chord and move it horizontally landing on each of those notes. Just like the single notes

    • profile image

      Eric SMITH 

      14 months ago

      I absolutely love the GUITAR but I've always felt intemedated by others who WHERE better than me or who knew music thiery I've been waiting on this all my life I'm more than ready to get started

    • profile image

      Phil Evans 

      15 months ago

      What is the "BEADGCF on Chords" thing. It makes no sense at all to me. Maybe I'm missing something, LOL?

      There are no chord shapes there. For each "shape" listed there are only fret numbers for the BEADGCF notes that correspond only to a SINGLE string.

      Perhaps it could have been better explained?

      For example:

      C shape bar chords - "pinky on the root" - root of what???

      B fret 14

      E fret 7

      A fret 12

      D fret 5

      G fret 10

      C fret 3

      F fret 8

      All of the fret positions above for the BEADGCF notes are only for the A string. You need more than one string to have a chord shape.

    • profile image

      FoRealeon 

      16 months ago

      I have struggled with small hands my entire life...

    • profile image

      Jim Isham 

      23 months ago

      It works for bass, too. A lot more logical and useful to learn in parallet than perpindicular. knowing about the circle of fourths/fifths helps a lot. Understanding WHY BEADGCF is invaluable.

    • profile image

      Emd 

      23 months ago

      Why BEADGCF? What is it's significance? Sorry if stupid question. And thanks for the lessons.

    • Guitar Wizard profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Edward Fitchett 

      2 years ago from Long Beach

      Totally influenced by a combination those body building adverts and the perfect pitch ads you see in the music mags. Thanks!

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      2 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      That's the way to do it! Enjoyed your spoof "you too can have a body like mine" version too ;)

    • josetuliao profile image

      josetuliao 

      3 years ago

      Nice article and this is very practical guide for people looking for a guide who doesn't have any cash to buy those fancy lesson books found in the internet.

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