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Lesson #18: Figuring out any Note

by Tyler de Witt posted on 1999-10-17
Topic: Fretboard Subtopic: General
Level: Intermediate Number of Readers: 73528

Figuring out any Note

Before you'll able to tell in a second what note a fret corresponds to, and have the two locked together in a mental association, you're going to have to go through a lot of practicing. And if you don't have a chart to tell you which notes are where, how will you do this if you don't have the knowledge to figure out where each note is?

The first thing you should do is become familiar with note names. The first lesson of the theory section deals with note names, so if you don't know anything about note names, you should read it.

The names of the open strings, from 1st to 6th(thinnest to thickest) are as follows:

E
B
G
D
A
E

I remember this using a stupid mnemonic.

E very
B ad
G irl
D eserves
A n
E gg

It's so stupid that you should never forget it :) Anyway, these are the names of the open strings, so now you know about 1/20 of all the notes on the fretboard.

What you're going to need is some way of figuring out what the other notes are. If you know the order of the note names, this is not difficult to do. Just remember that a distance of one fret equals a semitone. So if we take the 1st open string, which is an E, and then count our way up the frets, we'll get this:

notename:	E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C  C#  D  D#  E
fret:		0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12

When we get to the 12 fret, we've reached the octave, and after that the pattern repeats.

So if we wanted to know what the 3rd string, 5th fret was, we would do this:

1. Realize that the open 3rd string is a G
2. Count up the frets in semitones until we reach the 5th fret. This means that the 1st fret is G#, the 2nd fret is A, the 3rd fret is A#, the 4th fret is B, and the 5th fret is C.

Using this method, you can figure out what note any fret corresponds to. Also, you can figure out where a given note name was. If you wanted to find out where D was on the 3rd string, you would count in semitones up from the open G until you reached D. You would find yourself on the 7th fret.

The truth is though, that if you're playing along, and all of a sudden want to hit a certain note for some reason, you're not going to have time to figure out where it is using this method. All this method is for is a tool for building an association between every fret and it's corresponding note name. Eventually you'll be able to hit the 3rd string 7th fret and know right away that it's a D, without having to figure it out.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. The note names of the open strings are:

	E very
	B ad
	G irl
	D eserves
	A n
	E gg

2. To find out what note name any fret corresponds to, just count up in semitones from the open string.
3. To find any note name on a string, just count up in semitones from the open string until you reach the note name, then see what fret you're on.
3. The order of semitones is like this:

	...C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D#...

4. This method is only a tool that will be used to build a better association between frets and note names.


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