Lesson 2 – Fretboard Logic


  1. Physics of the Guitar

  2. The 12 Tone System of Western Music

  3. The Grid Method© (Learning the notes of the fretboard. Every one!)

  4. Tuning the Guitar

  5. Single Note Identification Chart

The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize you with the fretboard and train you to quickly and accurately recognize any note on any string.
This lessons includes essential knowledge that forms the foundation of good guitar playing.

Physics of the Guitar

Parts of the Electric Guitar

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Parts of the Acoustic Guitar

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The guitar can be thought of as six separate instruments, with each string being viewed as an individual instrument. Each string is said to be monophonic, or capable of producing only one note at a time. Since the guitar contains six strings, it is called a polyphonic instrument, capable of producing multiple tones at the same time.

A string produces a tone when it is vibrating. The pitch (frequency) of the tone is determined by the length of the vibrating portion of the string, the thickness of the string and the tension applied to the string (by the tuning pegs). Varying any of these parameters will change the pitch of the string when it is played. Tuning the guitar changes the tension on the strings, and thus the base pitch that the open (unfretted) strings create. You will also notice that the lower sounding strings are thicker than the higher sounding strings. This is so that all the strings can have about the same tension on them, but still sound at different pitches, even though they are all the same length.

When you press down on a string in the process of playing a note on the guitar, the string makes contact with the fret directly to the right of the finger pressing down on the string (for right handed players). This changes the length of the portion of the string that is vibrating, thus changing the tone the string produces. Fretting a string closer to the bridge shortens the “length” of the string and the pitch gets higher. Fretting a string closer to the nut increases the “length” of the string and the pitch gets lower.


  1. The Guitar can be thought of as six separate instruments – each string can be viewed as an individual instrument.

  2. Each string is monophonic – capable of producing only one note at a time.

  3. Since the guitar consists of six separate strings, it is a polyphonic instrument – capable of producing multiple notes at a time.

  4. The tone produced by a vibrating string depends on the length of the vibrating portion of the string, the thickness of the string, and the tension placed on the string.

  5. Tuning the guitar is accomplished by adjusting the tension placed on each of the strings.

  6. When you fret a string (press down on it), you shorten the vibrating portion of the string, producing a higher tone.

The 12 Tone System of Western Music

There are seven natural notes in the western system of music. These notes are represented by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. In addition to the seven natural notes, there five other notes, designated either by sharps or flats, which occur between the seven natural notes. The seven natural notes and the five intermediate tones make up the twelve tones of the western system of music.

These concepts are illustrated in the following two tables. As you can see, sharps are designated with a “#” and represent a note that is a half step higher. For example, A# is a half step higher than A. Conversely, flats are represented by a “b” and represent a note that is a half step lower, so Bb is a half step lower than B. As the table shows, A# and Bb both correspond to the same note. These notes are said to be enharmonic equivalents.

Seven natural notes


















Chromatic Series (12 tones of Western Music)










  1. There are only seven “natural” notes in the Western system of music.

  2. There are only twelve tones altogether [including the sharps (#’s) and flats (b’s)] in the Western system of music.

  3. These twelve tones consist of seven natural notes and five sharps/flats.

  4. The sharps/flats are said to be enharmonic equivalents. The Enharmonic equivalents are shown above as follows; A# = Bb, C# = Db, D# = Eb, F# = Gb, G# =Ab.

The Grid Method©

The Grid Method© is a system I have developed which will help you memorize the name and the location of every note on the fretboard. Every note – Every string – Every fret. It can be done, and this method shows you how to do it! It is critical for any guitarist to be able to quickly locate or identify any note on the guitar fretboard in order to develop the following skills:

  1. Reading music

  2. Constructing and identifying chords, scales and arpeggios

  3. Improvising

  4. Transcribing music (writing down music as you hear it performed)

  5. Composing music

The task of memorizing the notes on the fretboard sounds daunting. Trust me. Hundreds of my students have successfully used this method to accomplish this. Just follow the directions as I have laid them out here. Soon you to will know the fretboard inside and out.

Step 1: Draw a Blank Fretboard Diagram


































Although asking someone to draw a blank fretboard may seem like a waste of time, the process of creating a diagram of the fretboard from scratch is a useful visual tool. It leads to a better conceptual understanding of the guitar. There are many points in this series of lessons where I will ask you to draw a blank fretboard diagram. You should ALWAYS follow this standard procedure when drawing these diagrams. DO NOT JUST REFER TO THE DIAGRAMS ON THIS PAGE RATHER THAN DRAWING YOUR OWN. If you do so, you are cheating yourself. Your knowledge of the instrument will suffer and your progress will be slower. Years of teaching experience has taught me this. Trust me. Use a straight-edge so that your lines will be neat and orderly.

  1. Indicate where the strings will appear on the page – mark six equidistant points approximating the actual distance between the strings at the nut of the guitar.

  2. Draw vertical lines from these points to the bottom of the page.

  3. Label each string with it’s proper letter name and string number.

  4. Indicate where the frets will appear – mark twelve equidistant points down the length of the low E/6th string. Draw the frets in at these points.

  5. Number only the following frets to the left of the strings: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 12. We will refer to these particular frets as the “grid frets”©.


Step 2: Label the Grid Frets


























The frets that you labeled on the blank fretboard diagram you have just drawn (draw it now if you haven’t!) are known as the “Grid Frets©”. These are the frets that you will memorize for the Grid Method©. Take the time now to fill in the note names on the appropriate frets. When you are done, your diagram should look like the one just below.











Step 3: Memorize the Grid Frets©

The last step in the grid method is to actually memorize the Grid Frets©. This will not be as difficult as it seems. First of all, you only have to memorize 12 frets because the notes repeat themselves starting with the 12th fret, ie. the notes of the 12th fret are the same as the open strings, the 13th fret is the same as the 1st fret, the 14th fret is the same as the 2nd fret, etc, etc…

“12 Frets!!!” You exclaim. Don’t worry. It’s even easier than that. The beauty of the Grid Method© is that you only need to memorize every other fret. The others can be inferred as being a half step above or below a fret you will memorize. For example, you won’t memorize the 6th fret, but you will be able to quickly name a note on the 6th fret since you will know the notes on both the 5th and 7th frets. It’s easy! You only need to memorize the open strings (EADGBE), and 6 more frets. You can use the following mnemonics to help you with the memorization. Note that two-syllable words represent sharped notes.:

Fret 3: Great CatFish Always Dive Good

Fret 5: And Dave’s Gray Cat Eats Ants

Fret 7: Bill Eats Al’s Dog Feeling Bad (note the word BEAD)

Fret 8: Carl Feels Awful Driving Gray Cars

Fret 10: Deb Grabs Carl For A Day


  1. You only need to memorize the first twelve frets. The fretboard repeats itself after that.

  2. You only have the open strings and 6 more frets to memorize: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10.

  3. Raising each of the open string tones by one half step gives the tones of the first fret.

  4. Use the mnemonics if you need to. Two-syllable words are for sharps.

  5. Go up or down a half step to identify the notes in non-Grid Frets©.

Just to Put It In Perspective

When the student cannot recognize notes on the fretboard instantly, the guitar simply appears to be a series of metal wires. Often, guitar students do not appreciate the full benefit of really knowing the entire fretboard. Surprisingly, many of my most advanced students, even graduates of music schools, still didn’t have the fretboard memorized to the point where they could perform the above mentioned skills rapidly or adequately. You now have a skill that even some advanced musicians do not! Congratulations!

Suggested Practice Routine

Practice Memorizing the Grid Method© as follows:

  1. With guitar in hand and your Grid Method© diagram in view, finger the notes on each string. Do this on one string at a time in sequence (from the 6th. to the 1st. string) for one given fret (i.e.: the first fret), and say them out loud as you play each one.

  2. With the guitar only – do not look at the Grid Method© diagram, call out each note, on each string, in sequence for each fret.

  3. Use the Grid Method© diagram only and say each note aloud as described above.

  4. Do the Grid Method© in your head while visualizing the fretboard. Do not look at the guitar or the Grid Method© diagram while doing this step.

Total Practice time per day: 5-7 mins. daily. (approximately 2 mins per step.)

Tuning the Guitar Using the Fifth Fret Relative Tuning Method

Developing and having a good ear is very important to a musician. Practicing the act of tuning your instrument will aid the development of your ears. A tuned instrument is also essential for practicing and playing. Tune your guitar every time you play it. All you need to tune your guitar is a single, stable reference tone.

A stable reference tone can come from one of many different sources. Some common sources for this tone are a tuning fork (preferable an A 440, meaning 440 Hz in frequency), a keyboard or piano, another guitar known to be in tune, or a pitch pipe.



                     TUNING FORK                                                    ELECTRONIC TUNER                                                    PITCH PIPE










Personally, I prefer to use a tuning fork for my stable reference tone because it forces me to use my ear with more sharpness (awareness). I don’t like to use electronic tuners unless I’m at a live “gig” and then I’m forced to tune electronically because I can’t hear the guitar. Follow the following instructions to tune your guitar:
























Find a stable tuning tone. Let’s assume you are using an A 440 tuning fork. If you are using something else, adapt this technique to the tone you are using.

  1. Compare and tune the open A sting (5th string) to the tuning fork.

  2. Press the 5th fret of the A string (5th string) to produce a D note. Compare and tune the open D string (4th string) to this note.

  3. Press the 5th fret of the D string (4th string) to produce a G note. Compare and tune the open G string (3rd string) to this note.

  4. Press the 4th fret of the G string (3rd string) to produce a B note. Compare and tune the open B string (2nd string) to this note.

  5. Press the 5th fret of the B string (2nd string) to produce a E note. Compare and tune the open high E string (1st string) to this note.

  6. Compare and tune the open low-E (6th. string) with the fretted E note on the 2nd string also. Note that the two tones will be two octaves apart. Alternatively, you can tune the low E string by fretting the low E string on the 5th fret and comparing it to the open A string (5th string). Be sure to adjust the low E string and not the A string here!

Important note – If you can’t hear the string sounding, then don’t turn the tuning key for the string because the only way you know when to stop turning, or which direction to tune, is by hearing the string you are trying to tune.



Single Note Identification Chart






































This is an extremely useful tool for rapidly locating and duplicating:

  1. any individual note on the entire fretboard

  2. the roots of chords

  3. different potential starting points for scale patterns on the fretboard, riffs, licks, arpeggios, etc.

This is also useful to help visualize the geometric pattern of note displacement from string to string – meaning the intervalic distance between strings because of the guitar’s standard tuning. This diagram applies to any and all of the twelve tones in music. The pattern remains constant.

This particular diagram shows the C note on each individual string. This diagram is also useful to help you visualize how you actually move a finger from one particular note (let’s say C for example) to the same note on the next string. Then repeating this process going from the next adjacent string over to the next adjacent string and so on.










Click here to go back to Lesson 1 – Technique

Click here to go forward to Lesson 3 – Standard Music Notation For The Guitar



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