Effective Methods of Memorizing the Guitar Fretboard

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Memorizing the guitar fretboard can seem very intimidating and difficult. Many guitarists try to approach it head on, memorizing and drilling in all the locations of the notes at the same time. This often leads to the player becoming simply overwhelmed and quitting.

The best way to memorize the guitar fretboard is to approach the task in gradual steps, practicing just a little every day. This Hub will outline some very effective methods that will help any inspiring guitarist learn the fretboard.

A's and E's on the Guitar Fretboard
A's and E's on the Guitar Fretboard

The image above shows the placements of all the "A" notes, and of all the "E" notes, on the guitar fretboard. The first thing you should notice is that the A's and E's on the first 2 strings repeat themselves on the 12th fret. This is because all of the notes on the 12th fret are an octave higher. So why is this important? It's important because if you learn all the notes on the first 12 frets, you already know all the notes on the second set of 12. This effectively means that you only have to learn half of the fretboard to learn all of it!

Another useful tidbit of information is that the very lowest string, and the very highest string, are both "E" notes. Learning the notes on one of these strings is learning them on both!

Now, back to our image. The purpose of the image is to serve as a placeholder so that you can recognize every position in which an "A" and an "E" are side by side. This is extremely useful because if you memorize the notes surrounding a pair of "A" and "E", then memorize the locations where the two notes are side by side, you will have an easier time locating various notes. This is because the "A" and "E" notes will would work as reference notes. If you don't yet know the relation of notes on the guitar fretboard, you can refer to the image below.

Location of Notes on the Guitar Fretboard
Location of Notes on the Guitar Fretboard | Source

Memorization Drills and Exercises

Now let's go over some exercises and drills that you can do to memorize the guitar fretboard.

One of the easiest things you can do is find a sheet of paper with 6 lines on them. These lines will represent the 6 strings of the guitar. Draw in another set of 12 lines crossing over the 6, so that you have a diagram of the first 12 frets of a guitar fretboard. Now, all you have to do is start filling in the notes on the fretboard. Each time you do this, start at a different, random location on the fretboard. This will be more effective in drilling in the locations of the notes. This drill is useful to do when waiting in line for something, or when you're bored and have a spare sheet of paper within reach.

The second drill that you can do is probably the most effective drill possible for memorizing the fretboard. Follow these steps to perform it:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Play a random note on your guitar
  3. Open your eyes
  4. Try to figure out what note you just played (this is invaluable ear training, and is necessary for any guitarist/musician. Why not learn it now?).
  5. Try to find all the placements of that same note, and play them all

Do this once, per day, for just one note. It may not seem like you're learning much at first, but within a few weeks time you will have mastered the guitar fretboard, with very little stress at all! Just make sure you're doing a different note every day! Another useful tip is to also say the note out loud when you figure out what it is. You may think it's okay to just say it in your head, but it has been proven that by saying it out loud, you are learning and memorizing it faster.
With these tips and exercises, you should be able to memorize the guitar fretboard effectively. Hopefully, within a matter of weeks the fretboard will be second nature to you. Just remember, don't try to fit it all in in one day! The most important thing to do is to approach it gradually!

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