At some point in your guitar playing time, you will get so fed up of everyone mentioning the A on the 5th fret of the low E string… wait no, the high E string… Wait no, both E strings… Wait, there are two?
That you just want to dig a hole, crawl into it and cry.
But I’m going to save you that pleasure because it really shouldn’t be that difficult.
In this post, I’ll go over where all the notes are on the guitar strings, so that you can use them to master the fretboard.
What note is each string?
Alright, so let’s start with learning what string is where.
You may have already heard people mention the A string, the B string and the D string before and just been completely confused.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there before…
The order of the strings – from the lowest string to the highest string – is E A D G B E.
That makes E the lowest string and uhh… E the highest string as well?
Yup, there are two E strings.
But that’s actually great for us guitarists!
Once we know where each note is on the low E string, they are in the exact same order on the high E string.
You’ll also often hear people refer to the strings with numbers, particularly in YouTube tutorials.
Confusingly, the highest string is the 1st string and the rest are numbered downwards.
- The high E string = the 1st string
- The B string = the 2nd string
- The G string = the 3rd string
- The D string = the 4th string
- The A string = the 5th string
- The low E string = the 6th string
What notes are on each string?
There are twelve different notes in music, and each of the guitar strings contains all of those twelve notes:
They key difference is that each string starts somewhere else in this chain of notes:
E string – E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# (E)
A string – A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# (A)
This may all look hella-confusing for you in the beginning, but as you practice learning the notes, everything will begin to become instinctive.
Luckily for you, I’ve got some tips that should make learning the notes on the guitar strings as painless as possible…
A quick tip to make note learning easier
Alright, so you’ve been nicely bewildered by the mass of notes you realise you don’t know.
Now, before you dig yourself a hole again and cry until the guitar doesn’t exist, I’ve got a wee nifty trick to make your life easier:
When playing a note, you can find the same note exactly one octave higher by going up two strings and two frets.
For example, there’s a B on the 7th fret of the low E string.
If you shift up two strings to the D string, and also slide up 2 frets to the 9th fret, BOOM, you’ve got yourself another B.
The only exception to this rule is when the note you are finding is on the B string or high E string.
In these cases, you’ll want to go up 3 frets higher instead of 2.
E.g. G is on the 5th fret of the D string, and on the 8th fret of the B string. NOT the 7th fret.
This is because the B string is just weird and shifts all the notes 1 fret higher than they should be.
A game to memorize notes quickly
I’ll admit it, learning all the notes on the fretboard may seem pretty tedious… and boring.
But that’s why I’m making it fun for you wooooo!
Here’s an exercise I made earlier to make learning the notes on guitar strings more exciting:
- Chose 4 of the notes you’re trying to learn and order them randomly, e.g. with F# as the starting note
- Set a timer, and play every note on the guitar neck in F#, covering both F# notes on each string (the second one is past the 12th fret where the sequence of notes is repeated an octave higher)
- Move on to the next note in the sequence e.g. B and find all the B notes
- Keep going until you’ve completed all 4 notes and stop the timer.
(You may notice that I only play one F# on the G string. This is because I used a telecaster which only has 21 frets, and so I can’t play the 2nd F# note which should be on the 23rd fret.)
You can then repeat this exercises and try to improve your time with each attempt.
As soon as this feels easy, choose another 4 notes and repeat.
Once you’ve got all 3 sets of 4 notes down, you can combine them into a 12 note set to challenge yourself.
Soon enough, you’ll begin to instinctively know where each note is on the fretboard.
You can thank me later…
Let’s be honest, learning all the notes on the fretboard isn’t gonna happen over night.
However, it’s an invaluable skill.
It’ll help you endlessly when improvising, playing bar chords, writing your own music, doing the washing up and in so many other scenarios.
You’ve made the right choice by coming here and I hope I haven’t scared y’all too much…
Now go and get cracking!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning about how to play bar chords and why learning the notes on the fretboard makes life 10x easier when playing them, then click here to view my post on that.