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One to Ponder as You Figure out How the Fretboard Works

One to Ponder as You Figure out How the Fretboard Works

Question about Notes on the Fretboard

Ask and you shall receive. Matter of fact, it is really helpful to me if the student freely asks about things he or she is confused about. Got this one earlier today from one of my awesome students. This one illuminates how terms can be cause for confusion, so it is important questions like this are a stepping stone on the road to reaching understanding of the fretboard.

Ariane when you’re in a band or are recording a song and you’re told to start on a certain key, for instance G, how do you know what string to start on?


First you want to figure out which notes you need to play (like the roots of the chords or the chord notes of the beginning chord); then determine which range you want to play in (talking in bass register):

  • low: the lowest octave; on a four-string from E1 (the open low E) to E2 (this note is found on the second fret of the D string as well as the seventh fret of the A string).
  • middle: the 2nd octave from E2-E3. E 3 is the 9th fret of the G string (or the 14th fret of the D string).
  • high – which is unlikely unless you start with a fill or solo – but that would then be the range above the 9th fret of the G string (or the 14th fret of the D string, respectively).

When in doubt:

Start with the lowest octave because it gives the others the most room. And it is always easy to shift higher quickly if required.

Two more things here regarding terms:

  • Starting chord is not necessarily the key a piece is in. The question how to figure out what key a piece is in is another important one. I will tackle this in an upcoming post!
  • And lastly, to answer your question with two words: any string. A G is a G on the E string, is a G on the A string is a G on the D etc. make sense? Pick the one that comes easiest in the context of what is next and which octave you want (low or high, sounds different).

And in order to find the notes on the strings and practice them in a systematic way I suggest you do

All the note naming exercises in the first chapter of my book are also killer to get the basics down. Actually quite tricky if you do as prescribed 🙂

Happy grooving, you are asking great questions on the way to getting that fretboard down!



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One Reply to “One to Ponder as You Figure out How the Fretboard Works”

  1. I can’t wait for your next lesson on how to determine what key a song is played in. I am still an amateur and although I can play over 150 songs, I still don’t know how to figure out what key is a song is in. Almost every gig we do, some one yells out a song and the guitar players take off and there I am trying to figure out the key and the chord progression. Please get that lesson out soon.

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