How To Memorise The Fretboard

How To Memorise The Guitar Fretboard Fast: Three SECRETS that EVERY Guitar Player Needs To Know!

Whether you’re a total beginner guitar student, intermediate player or advancing axe swinger one of the best things you can do is learn how to memorise your guitar fretboard.

There are many benefits of learning the notes on the guitar fretboard, these include:

  • Being able to find any note on the guitar fretboard instantly.
  • Learning how to arrange your notes into scales and shift the scale patterns anywhere along the guitar fretboard.
  • Learning how to shift your guitar chord shapes around the fretboard so you can easily play multiple variations of your guitar chords.
  • Learning how to shift your guitar arpeggios shapes anywhere on the fretboard, which is particularly handy when improvising.
  • Being able to instantly move any lick or phrase to a new location on the neck when you break a guitar string.
  • Being able to bring any music theory concept to life using the notes on the guitar fretboard.

Why Most Guitar Players Don’t Learn The Fretboard

Unfortunately, too many guitar players ignore learning their fretboard. This is usually due to ignorance or incorrectly believing that learning the fretboard is music theory. If anything, the pattern based layout of the guitar fretboard provides us with a huge advantage over other instruments in that we can simply learn a single scale, chord or arpeggio shape and change it to a new key by moving it to a new position on the fretboard. No other instrument is as easy to play or transpose to new key as guitar.

Furthermore, most beginner guitar lesson books focus on teaching you the location of notes in the open position tied in with sight reading. After a year or so of playing, you might know the notes across the first three frets, but rarely anything beyond that. Not only is this extremely limiting, but it’s only really good for playing nursery rhymes and not very helpful for most guitar players.

Is It Easy To Learn The Guitar Fretboard?

The truth is that learning your fretboard is actually quite easy…

In fact, I am going to present you with 3 exercises that you can easily use to memorise the location of all the notes across the entire guitar fretboard in a matter of days.

If you use these exercises you will know your guitar fretboard inside out in a maximum of 6 weeks. This knowledge goes a long way towards allowing you to quickly and effectively learn guitar and will boost your theory knowledge and technique by allowing you to play the guitar more confidently and bring to life the notes on the page or the sounds you hear in your head.

My Top Three Guitar Exercises For Memorising The Fretboard

This is the routine I use with all of my students at Melbourne Guitar Academy to great results, and I am sharing it with you now in order to help you take your guitar playing to the next level.

Watch the video below for a beginner guitar lesson on How To Easily Memorise Your Guitar Fretboard.

Now that you’ve watched the video let’s break down the information and exercises I outlined so that you can learn your notes on the guitar.

First Things First – Three Music Theory Principles All Guitar Players Must Know

  1. The Musical Alphabet is comprised of the notes A B C D E F G
  2. The notes ‘E & F’ and ‘B & C’ are buddy notes, meaning they are immediately next to each other. Every other note has a one-fret gap.
  3. The same note repeats every 12 frets on the same string.

Using these principles you can find the locations of all the notes across any string. Simply apply these principles and you

Exercise 1 – Horizontal Memorisation For The Guitar Fretboard

This is by far the easiest way to memorise the locations of the notes along the guitar fretboard.

  • Pick a string
  • Play the natural notes along that string while saying them aloud
  • Play the exercise forwards three times, then backwards three times.
  • You can do all 6 strings in one session, one string a day for 6 days, or one string a week for 6 weeks and memorise your fretboard this way.

In this video I talk about several additional steps you can take to further challenge yourself. These steps are ideal for intermediate and advanced level guitar players who need to go beyond natural notes.

Exercise 2 – Vertical Memorisation For The Guitar Fretboard

This exercise is significantly more challenging than the first because it introduces sharp and flat notes. It also presents the fretboard vertically instead of horizontally so we are going to need to approach the fretboard from a new direction and build upon the knowledge we learned in exercise 1.

  • Pick a fret
  • Play the notes at that fret from strings 6 to 1 and back again while saying the notes aloud.
  • If you come across a sharp or flat note, pick either sharps or flats and stick to it.
  • You can do 3 or 4 different frets in a single practice session and cover every fret over several guitar practice sessions.

As with exercise 1, I give you several additional challenges to help you improve your guitar playing which more advanced players will find challenging.

Exercise 3 – One Note, Six Strings – My Favourite Guitar Fretboard Memorisation Exercise

The first two exercises focused on learning the fretboard while this exercise will focus on having you recall the locations of the notes from memory. Note that we are not practising with the aim of remembering the notes on the guitar fretboard here. Instead, we are training ourselves to find notes quickly. 

To complete this guitar exercise you must:

  • Pick a note (eg F)
  • Find the F note across all 6 strings in sequential order one at a time
    • F is found at
      • String 1 Fret 1
      • String 2 Fret 6
      • String 3 Fret 10
      • String 4 Fret 3
      • String 5 Fret 8
      • String 6 Fret 1
  • Play the F notes from string 1 to 6 and back again ONCE ONLY!
  • Pick a new note and repeat the exercise
  • Repeat this with 2-4 notes within the practice session.

Spend 5 minutes on this special guitar exercise each practice session over the period of 2 weeks. You will exponentially increase your knowledge of the fretboard and be able to find any note almost instantly.

Just like before there are additional levels to this guitar exercise which I talk about in the video. Make sure you watch it in order to get all the bonus content.

Grab Your Guitar – Now It’s Time To Memorise The Fretboard!

So now that you have three exercises that you can use to memorise the fretboard it’s time to grab your guitar and start practising! I hope that I made the exercises clear in the explanations above but should you get stuck just watch the video embedded above for full instructions.

Let me know in the comments (of this page or the YouTube guitar lessons video) how you went and if you found this helpful!

If you’re located in Melbourne and want to take your guitar playing to the next level then I want to help you. Whether you’re a total beginner or an old dog looking to learn a few new tricks I offer the best guitar lessons in Melbourne and want to help you become a better guitarist. Visit our home page to organise a FREE guitar lesson and make your dream of becoming a great guitar player a reality!

About The Author

Michael Gumley is a professional guitarist, musical educator and entrepreneur from Melbourne, Australia.

He is the founder of Melbourne Guitar Academy, the author of the Guitar Ninjas Curriculum and the Head of Guitar at the music educator website Topmusic Pro. Michael’s goal is to raise the standard of musical education globally by empowering both teachers and students with better tools and resources to learn guitar so that they can avoid learning guitar the hard way as he did.

Melbourne Guitar Academy is Australia’s highest-rated guitar school with a 5-star average rating from over 100 Google Reviews. Click Here to book a Free guitar lesson with one of our professional guitar teachers.

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