Guitar fret-board basics

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Guitar Lesson 1– Guitar fret-board basics

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First off, welcome to Guitar Secrets. The first few lessons, are the most important lessons and should be completely understood before moving onto the more advanced lessons. In this guitar lesson, I would like to introduce you to the guitar fret-board and strings. There will be a few assignments to complete along the way and it’s recommended that you complete each of them.

We all learn in a different way. I’m more of a visual person and need to see what is going on. You might be that way as well. That’s why I came up with, A Visual Learning Experience. I used to write out different scales and notes to help me understand everything, this really helped me along the music journey.

To become a successful guitar player, you must learn the basics. Music, is very repetitious. As you begin to learn each note and practice guitar fingering exercises, you are etching the notes and patterns into your brain. By practicing just the most basic fingering patterns, your brain will begin to store that information and it will grow. It’s almost like when a computer stores data. The more you practice, the faster your brain outputs the data. You won’t even have to think about it anymore, your subconscious will do some of the work for you.

Another very important thing to realize, is that music is very mathematical. Once you learn a fingering pattern, guitar chord, guitar scale or mode….. it can be repeated up and down the fret-board. Once you reach this point of understanding, you have climbed over the wall and nothing can stop you. This has been my goal for over 20 years of teaching here on Guitar Secrets. I have literally helped thousands of musicians see the light.

My goal is to help you become the best you can be.

Guitar fret-board and strings

The image below, is a picture of the guitar fret board and strings. To understand how this diagram works, you need to hold your guitar out in front of you. The strings on the guitar should be directed towards your face. This view should be the exact view that the image below depicts. Look at the image below and visualize, that this picture is your guitar facing you. There’s also a video, at the bottom of this lesson to help you understand the basics.


You may have noticed that there are dots or inlays on the face of the guitar fret-board. Each dot, represents the different frets on the guitar, look below. The first dot is on the 3rd fret, the second dot is on the 5th fret, the third dot is on the 7th fret and so on all the way up the fret board. Most guitars will have these dots, but some may not. These dots are very beneficial and can be used to quickly identify the location of each fret as you’re playing. You might be playing lead guitar and need to quickly jump to the 7th fret, you will know that the 3rd dot or inlay is on the the 7th fret. The dots are also at times located on the top edge of the fret-board, check out your neck. When you’re jamming away, you can see these dots on the edge of the neck and jump to the fret you need without looking at the fret-board.

Guitar Fretboard

The numbers that I’ve included below the fret-board, are for quick reference for each fret and are numbered 1 through 19. Count the frets on your guitar, some guitars may have as many as 24 frets. Only 19 frets have been shown on the image below. Just a quick secret, all notes on a string repeat every 12 frets. Every scale pattern also repeats ever 12 frets as well. We will learn more about this subject later as we progress through the lessons.

Guitar Fretboard

Look at the image above and find the strings, E A D G B E. These are the 6 strings that make up the guitar. Notice that the thickest string is red and we call that string the Fat E. Colors will be illustrated on some images to help learn the strings and with placement of the notes to the particular string. Each of the 6 strings should be memorized. You may have noticed that there are two E strings? One is the Low E, which is the Red E and is the thickest string, look above. The other E string is the high E string, which is the thinnest string; check that string out. Look at the 12th fret on the image above. Notice that I’ve included the notes on the 12th fret. Those are the same notes as the 6 open guitar strings, 12 frets lower. Its important to remember that all notes repeat after 12 frets.

Each string is at times referenced by number in our lessons. These numbers are standard throughout the industry and are listed in the table below as follows:

 1st string High E string Thinnest
 2nd string B string
 3rd string G string 
 4th string D string
 5th string A string 
 6th string Low E Thickest

When you buy a set of guitar strings, they might be identified as 1st, 2nd, 3rd………and also by color.

  1. You should now know the 6 strings on the guitar are: E A D G B and E. Say them out loud and remember them.
  2. You should know that there are 2 E strings. The thickest or fattest string is the Low E string and the thinnest is called the high E string.
  3. You should know that all notes repeat after 12 frets.
  4. You should know what the dots or inlays are used for other than looks
  5. You should have printed out the blank fret-board illustrations to complete the up coming assignment.
  6. Watch the video below. Once you’ve completed this lesson, move on to lesson 2.
  7. Go to Guitar Lesson 2 covering the guitar fret-board notes.

It’s vital to know every note on the fret board and that will be covered in the next lesson. Here’s a link to the blank fret-board illustrations of the guitar fret board, you will use these illustrations to fill in all the notes of the fret-board. Click on the blank illustration link above, print out these illustrations and have them handy to fill in each note as you study the following lessons.

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Good Luck,

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