Learning The Notes on the Fretboard

Guitar tuning & string (note) names.

Remember the string “note” names with this mnemonic...

Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie

Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar playing is dynamite...  No he didn’t eat any!

An introduction to Flats and Sharps

Up to now we've only concentrated on our 'natural' notes, i.e.  A B C D E F and G. However, as you'll be aware (especially if you visualise a piano keyboard) there are "white notes" and "black notes". 

Well, the 'natural' notes we've been talking about are the "white keys" on a piano. The Flats (b) and Sharps (#) are the black keys on a piano. 

As we ascend up the piano keyboard (from left to right) we name each 'black note' based upon its "white key" neighbour directly to its left - e.g. F sharp (F#).

As we decesend down the piano keyboard we name each black note in accordance to its "white key" neighbour directly to its right, e.g. E Flat (Eb). 

You may have noticed that because of this naming convention that the Black Keys can have two names, for example either F sharp (F#) or G Flat (Gb). We refer to these notes as enharmonics - i.e. tones (notes) that sound the same but are notated differently. (So, you can call these notes by either name - but in future lessons, we'll get into what to name it based upon the scale, or key the music is in - all that good stuff!)

Now, on your guitar this pattern is a little more difficult to visualise, but once you've played a few power chords and practiced your scales and chromatic exercises you'll soon have all the notes of the musical alphabet at your disposal and you'll be well on your way to fretboard mastery!

On your fretboard each fret represents a semitone (of half step - e.g. the distance between the "white note C" and "black note C#" on the piano). So, the same naming convention is in place (we just dont have those black and white keys for orientation). As such, knowing how to "spell" your scales will really come in useful as you progress with your guitar playing.

Below I've include 4 figures. Figs 9 and 10 show the notes from the open E including sharps (#) and flats (b) on the 6th string (it looks a little less cluttered shown over 2 diagrams!)

Figs 11 and 12 show the notes from the open A including sharps (#) and flats (b) on the 5th string.

Slash playing an Epiphone Acoustic Guitar (Poster)

Tuning down a 1/2 step (Slash style!)

“Down a 1/2 step” means to flatten the notes by a semitone.


E A D G B E becomes 

Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb

(or D# G# C# F# A# D# which are often the notes your guitar tuner shows). 

The notes are Enharmonic.

Enharmonic just means the note may be known as either Flat (b) or sharp (#).  For Example: - Eb is the same note as D#

It's good practice to make sure your guitar is in tune before playing. Now, of course you don't have to tune down everytime you want to play Gn'R classics... But, if you want to play along with Slash on the original records you'll have to tune your guitar down a 1/2 step! So every now and then practice tuning your guitar from standard tuning: -


to Eb tuning (down 1/2 step)

Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb 

...and practice strumming along with songs that are tuned down 1/2 step... GnR is a great place to begin! You'll get some more songs that use Eb tuning as you progress.