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Learning where each note is on the fretboard

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Sunshower, Aug 31, 2004.

  1. Sunshower


    May 26, 2004
    I have been playing bass for about 2 months now, and had my first lesson today. It seemed like my teacher expected me to know where all the notes are located on the fretboard, when I knew zero :meh: (I chose to get a teacher since practising on my own didn't really get me anywhere :rolleyes: ).

    Are there any good methods of learning where all the notes are on the fretboard (and learning it fast!)?
  2. Sunshower


    May 26, 2004
    Great, thanks :) but do you know any good ways to memorize where the notes are on the fretboard? I was a bit unclear in my previous post, sorry ;)
  3. I'm trying to memorize them right now too, my memory sucks so it's not going really fast.

    Remember the octave trick, two strings down and two frets up (up tonally, down the fretboard) is the same note an octave higher. So if you have your C on fret 3 of the A string, you will also have a C on fifth fret of G string.

    Also, 12th fret is same note as that open string. Another, fifth fret is always the same note as the open string below it. So D string fifth fret is G.
  4. It took me a little while to 'catch on' to the notes. what I first did was learn the "dotted" notes on each string(5th fret,7th,9th,etc). I find it easier that way to just go up//down a half-step(fret).

    Example(from low to high):
    5th fret: ADGC
    7th fret: BEAD
    9th fret(tricky due to the flats[ b ] and sharps -[#'s]):C#/Db,F#/Gb,B,E
    12th fret: EADG (same notes as open strings,except an Octave(12 notes) higher.

    Once you've sucessfully remembered those notes,than you can move on to learning the non-dotted notes.

    Good luck and take your time.
  5. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I used to have this paper which would be PERFECT, it had the whole fret board and every note written on it. it also had the notation for it too. sorry i threw it away because i dont need it.
  6. Too bad my Scanner is not working,I could scan a note-named fretboard for yah from a Bass Method book I have:-/
  7. sedgdog


    Jan 26, 2002
    Pasco, WA
    Try learning just the open strings and frets 1-5. After this learn frets 5-8. A basic Mel Bay book will help. Mastering these two sections will cover 90% of your bass playing. Then learn frets 8-12. Everything higher is the same notes as frets 1-12, just an octave higher.

    Best of Luck,
  8. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    These are all good ideas - except the one post that offered you nothing at all but a "i used to have a chrart . . .but now i don't" - that was helpful - thanks for the input dude!

    Anyway . . .

    The key - like others have outlined here - is to break the larger task into smaller ones.

    Learn the first 3 notes on each string. Get them down.

    Then the next 3 notes . Get them down. Then the next 3.

    There's only 4 groups of 3 (or 3 groups of 4 if you want to take a larger bite) to complete before your done. Not counting open strings.

    Oh . .. and if you need the chart it's easy to find - a simple google search yielded this . . .


  9. Tom P

    Tom P

    Aug 19, 2004
  10. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Keep an eye out for patterns. For example, take the A at the fifth fret on the E string. Move across to the A string and it's the open note (-5 frets). Go the other way to the B string (if you have one and you'll find it is +5 frets away. Now try a different starting note, like C (10th fret on the D string). That's also found at the 15th fret on the A string (+5) and the 5th fret on the G string (-5).

    More useful are the patterns that are in easy finger reach (+/-5 frets is a big stretch until you get towards the top of the neck). For example, you can always find the octave of a note by going up two strings and two frets or up three strings and back three frets. The fifth is up one string and two frets or up two strings and back three frets - the same number of frets but different numbers of strings.

    If you learn a few locations (which is where dot markers are helpful) and get a handle on the patterns, you'll find that any note is only a small reach away from your reference points. Before too long you'll know the fretboard without having to stop and think too long!

  11. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    This free fretboard excercise tool over on Active Bass may come in handy also:

    Name That Note

    Good luck!
  12. Sunshower


    May 26, 2004
    Wow, thanks very much for the great advices, I will definitely use some of these methods :D
    Patterns is clearly something I need to learn so I will use less time trying to figure out where each note is, and learning the notes on each string on the first five frets etc. up to 12th fret.
    The programs (and the link to activebass.com ;) ) seem like a good idea to test my knowledge and see where I need to practise more.

    Again, thanks :D
  13. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Here is a little html page a friend made for me. Its been pretty helpful to map out keys on it and just have it as a reference when Im improving to something.

    Template 5-string

    5-string C Major

    You can prolly download these htmls to your hard drive and mod them for any key you like. Its fairly easy to tell what to change to get the notes to highlight.
  14. Minimaul


    Jun 22, 2003
    I learned by patterns.

    I knew that the open strings were E A D G

    I knew that there are 8 notes with the root. A B C D E F G a

    I knew that The B and C Were always a half-step away. IE: Right next to eachother. So is E and F. All the other notes are a whole-step away (1 fret).

    I'd start on the E string and use that pattern.

    E open, then the 1st fret is F. Then a whole step to G. Then a whole step to A. Whole to B, half-step to C, ect.

    I did that on each string. Saying the notes outloud as I went along. Forward, backward. Once I learned the patter of the E F , BC it was all pretty simple. Then I started doing scales and learned the notes that way too.

    *shrug* It worked for me. I'm not 100%. Meaning I can't sight read, or say a note as soon as someone ask's me to point it out. But I can get it within a couple of seconds.
  15. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    here's an exercise you can do by yourself. Do this for 10 or 15 minutes a day for a week and you will start to really know the fretboard. It's also a good way to get used to properly fingering the notes with your left hand.

    Do this at a slow pace with one beat and one pluck for each note below:

    First finger at first fret of E string - Play the "F" and sing "F" while you play it.
    Second finger at second fret of E string - Play the "F#" and sing "F#" while you play it.

    First finger at first fret of A string - Play the A# and sing "A#" while you pluck it.
    Second finger at second fret of A string - Play the B and sing "B" while you play it.

    Pinky finger at fourth fret of A string - Play the C# and sing it as you play it.
    Third finger at third fret of A string - Play the C and sing it as you play it.

    Pinky finger at fourth fret of E string - Play and sing the Ab
    Third finger at third fret of E string . Play and sing the G.

    Move the whole pattern up one fret and repeat. When you get to the twelfth fret. Move up one string and repeat.

    For the #'s and flats, say them as #'s while ascending and b's while descending.
  16. screwball


    Jul 25, 2004
    Manchester UK
  17. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I find it just comes naturally over time. Spending huge amounts of time trying to memorize the notes on the fretboard becomes very, very tedious.

    I remember them by where the same note appears on the fretboard. For instance, an open D can also be found on the fifth fret of the A string, and the 10th fret of the E string. One you get that down (remember it as a rule of fourths) and the rule of octaves, memorization of the fretboard comes quickly and naturally. The rule of octaves is that the octave of any given note can be found two strings up, and two frets up from the original note.

    Think of it like navigating by landmarks.

    Remember, on the E string: 3rd fret is G, 5th fret is A, 8th fret is C, and 12th fret is E. Then just fill in the blanks.

    Learning scales helps...a lot.
  18. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I've been practicing scales (and by extension, modes) and it's starting to increase my remembering of the fretboard. This is something similar to Pacman's surefire practice method (thread at the top of this forum, check it out, it's very highly recommended) and it goes like this:

    Using the C Major scale (since there are no #'s or b's it's a great place to start IMO) do this, start on the G of the E string (3rd fret on the fattest string on a 4string), and play the C Major scale starting from G. So you will play G (3rd fret) and A (5th fret) on the E string. Then play B, C, & D (2nd, 3rd & 5th frets) on the A string. Next play E, F & G on the D string (again, 2nd, 3rd & 5th frets). Lastly, play A, B & C on the G string (2nd, 4th & 5th frets). Then come back down.

    Next put your middle finger on the A (5th fret) of the E string & play A & B (5th & 7th frets) on the E; C, D & E (stretch back to the 3rd fret for C, 5th fret for D & 7th fret for E) on the A string, and B, C & D on the G string (4th, 5th & 7th frets).

    Again, move your 2nd finger up to the B on the E string (7th fret), and play B & C on the E (7th & 8th fret), D, E & F (5th, 7th, 8th) on the A; G, A & B (5th, 7th, 9th) on the D string and finally C, D & E on the G string (5th, 7th, 9th).

    Keep going up the fretboard until you're at the top, then work your way back down. My teacher calls this "modes by derivation" because by starting on the G note you're in G Mixolydian mode, starting on A puts you in A Aeolian mode, starting on B puts you in B Locrian, etc. So, as you're learning the scales and the fretboard, you're also learning fingerings for all the different modes available for each Major scale.

    I know there are easier fingerings for some of the modes I listed above, but this is helping get the idea of how to finger modes if my middle finger is on the root note of the scale.

    Once you've got the C Major (and its associated modes) down, just work through the rest of the Major scales. Doing this should help you in getting patterns under your fingers as well as really knowing the fretboard. I know it's helping me (or I wouldn't have bothered to post this here.

    If you want to check out a "5 pattern" way to play all the different modes, then check out this thread in the Ask Mike Dimin forum here at Talkbass.