How can I best learn all the notes on the fretboard?

Kung Fu
There are three steps to this process as I see it.

First: make sure you know your open string names.
This is covered in Lesson 0.1, though for non-beginners you may prefer just to pick this up off the printout

Second: make sure you thoroughly learn the chromatic scale (Lesson 8.2 in Intermediate section)

Third: Learn the CAGED system (Lesson 9.1 in the Advanced section).

The fact that these lessons span all three levels reflects the normal tendency for guitar students to acquire this knowledge on a fairly gradual basis as they discover they need it to progress further at each stage of learning tio play guitar.
Tai Chi
But don’t be put off if you are still a relative beginner – I don’t believe it is ever too early to learn your notes – it makes everything else easier to learn! The three lessons mentioned above are all reasonably easy to follow for guitar students at any level.

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Wing Chun

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2 Responses to How can I best learn all the notes on the fretboard?

  1. Yep, that’s a good start. Learning the open strings and then the chromatic scale will give you a way to figure out all the notes. But CAGED isn’t really used for learning the name of notes on the fretboard. It’s more useful for seeing the relationship between chords, scales, and finding other ways of playing the same chord, using substitutions, etc. My recommendation is to learn the notes one string at a time. Spend one week and learn the 6th string. Then the next week learn the 5th and so on. Then a few more things to realize: the notes on the 6th string are the same as the 1st string! And use the 5th and 12 frets as guideposts. The 12th fret and the open strings are the same notes. And the 5th fret’s notes are the same as the open string “above” it. So fret 5 on the 6th string is the same note as the open 5th string (A).

    Hope this helps.

    • Hi Johnny Lee,

      You’re right about the importance of spotting those various connections at the fifth and twelvth frets etc…, but I disagree with you about the value of the CAGED system as a method of thoroughly and instinctively learning where literally every note on the fretboard is. I have to disagree because this was exactly how I learned the fretboard myself!

      Yes, the CAGED system has a whole lot of really vital extra benefits and is as complete an orientation system as I have come across anywhere.

      However, I do find that it is often taught in a very confusing way. For this reason, over the years I have developed a very specific approach to teaching it that starts with simply using it as a powerful note finding tool.

      Then I teach the Sandwich exercise which expands this knowledge to be applicable to any scale. mode or arpeggio. I then find it relatively easy to add in the idea of using it as a chord shape locator.

      In itself I see the CAGED system as the single most important thing I learned about guitar playing and really enjoy passing it on to others – it often produces major breakthroughs in their whole grasp of understanding the guitar. Its a great bridge between music theory and application. Check out This lesson for more details :-)

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