Memorizing The Notes on Guitar | Hub Guitar

Memorizing The Notes on Guitar

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Hi. This is Hub Guitar.

Let's talk about how to memorize the notes on the guitar. This lesson will assume that you understand the basics about what notes are used in music and what sharps and flats are. You should also ideally know the octaves on the guitar before continuing, because that will make it a lot easier.

Some players act like it's unnecessary to know what the notes are on the neck. But I think that's a little ridiculous. If your dentist didn't know the names of the different teeth, you probably wouldn't let him put a drill in your mouth. There are some people out there who never learn this stuff, and then they make things worse by telling everyone else not to bother with it either. But you can learn the notes on the neck and decide for yourself what use it is.

We're going to run through three exercises that will help you to memorize the notes on the guitar.

Exercise 1 is to name a note, and then play it on every string. For example, for "F", I'm going to play one F for every string. When you repeat the exercise, pick a totally different note. Try to practice all 12 notes evenly.

Exercise 2 is to pick a fret, and name all of the notes across that fret. For example, if I pick fret V: When you repeat this exercise, try to pick a fret that is not close to the last fret you did. Otherwise it will be too easy.

Exercise 3 is to pick a random note, and identify it as quickly as possible. So put your finger anywhere on the guitar, and say the name of that note.

You can improve your performance in all of these exercises by using a timer. I've seen pretty surprising results, with many students being able to cut down the time needed to do exercise 1 or 2 by as much as one half, within just a 10 minutes.

Memorizing the notes on the guitar is a crucial step to understanding the fretboard, and it's a step that many players never take. So set aside some time to focus on these exercises and you'll see a real difference.

Why Memorize the Notes?

The accomplished guitarist needs to learn the names of the notes all over the neck, and this need gets more obvious with the passage of time. The visualization of scales and chords on the neck requires a point of reference. For instance, to play an “F♯ major scale,” where do you start? On Fret II? What if that’s too low, and you need to play the scale higher?

Ideally, there would be no “fingering pattern” for a scale; it should be accessible in any key and in any location, starting from any degree. This is also important for moving chords around. A chord is often thought of as a shape for fingers to make, but really it is just a particular combination of notes. Once you see it that way, you begin to have more control of the guitar.

The task of learning the notes should be taken seriously and repeated with discipline. In just a few minutes per day, your understanding of the instrument can be transformed.

The Fretboard Memorization Exercises

Tip: Use a stopwatch or timer to simulate positive pressure and improve your performance for these exercises.

Exercise #1 – Name a note, play it on every string

Example: play the note, “F” on the low E string. Then play it on the fifth string, the fourth string, and so on, until you’ve reached the high E string. Only play one “F” per string. Pick another random note, and repeat.

Exercise #2 – Pick a fret and name all of the notes horizontally

Example: starting at the seventh fret, name all of the notes going across the fretboard: B, E, A, D, F♯, B. Move far away from this fret and repeat. (If you don’t pick a random fret, it’s ‘cheating’.)

Exercise #3 – Pick a random note, and identify it as quickly as possible

Example: Using flash cards or a randomized note picker, pick any note on the guitar and identify it quickly.

Key Results

  • Make it your task to memorize the notes on the guitar neck.
  • You should be able to look down and see not only frets but notes.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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