The 12 Notes In Western Music

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The key to learning the notes on the entire fretboard is first memorizing the 12 notes and their appropriate order.

There are 12 different notes in music. Imagine them as blocks:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

7 of these are primary notes called A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. If we assign them a number in our 12 blocks this is what it would look like:

A B C D E F G
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

The remaining 5 notes are secondary notes. They have dual names, meaning they can be called sharp or flat. Sharps are represented by a “#” and flats are represented by a “b”. Think of a sharp as meaning “go up one” and a flat as “go down one”.

The 5 secondary notes are called G#/Ab, A#/Bb, C#/Db, D#/Eb, and F#/Gb.

A#/Bb C#/Db D#/Eb F#/Gb G#/Ab
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

With all 12 blocks filled you can see a sharp
always follows a primary note and a flat always precedes
a primary note:

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/GB G G#/Ab
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

The notes will always follow each other in this order.

Note order: A,A#/Bb,B,C,C#/Db,D,D#/Eb,E,F,F#/Gb,G,G#/Ab

Important: What you see above is the ALPHABETICAL listing of the notes on the guitar. With each string comes a new beginning to the order so to speak. We’ll get into that later on in the course. What I am showing you in the boxes above is really just an easy way of looking at the familiar alphabet and how it relates to the guitar.

The Language Of Music

You’ll notice that there is no B#/Cb or E#/Fb notes. The reasons for arranging the notes this way can be explained by looking at a picture of a keyboard. The white keys are the primary notes and the black keys are the secondary notes. The language of music was created with the piano’s keyboard in mind instead of the guitar’s fretboard.

guitar fretboard map lesson

Notes On The Guitar

Each fret on a guitar is a note. You can locate any note on a given string if you know the name of the open string, because the notes always follow each other in the same order.

For example, the notes on the A string are as follows:

A(string played open)-A#/Bb,B,C,C#/Db,D,D#/Eb,E,F,F#/Gb,G,G#/Ab

The 12th fret always starts the pattern all over again. It’s the same note as the string played open.

At A Glance…