Fretboard – Part 2

In the previous post Fretboard – Part 1,  we covered “diatonic” (unaltered) note names and positions. In this post we will cover all possible note names and positions on the guitar. This is referred to as the chromatic scale. It includes all possible notes that exist in Western music.

Before we proceed further, we need to define some basic concepts for navigating the fingerboard. Moving around the fingerboard is described in terms of distance and direction. Distance is defined as the number of steps between a starting note and the next note. This can be done in half steps, whole steps, or longer distances.

A half step on the guitar is the distance between two adjacent frets on the same string. For example, starting on the third fret on a string and moving up one fret closer to the bridge to end on the fourth fret is the distance of one half step. Similarly, starting on the third fret on a string and moving one fret down towards the nut to end on the second fret is one half step:


Moving one half step towards the bridge is referred to as raising a note because it increases the pitch or frequency of the note. Moving a half step towards the nut is referred to as lowering the note because it decreases the pitch or frequency of the note.

A whole step consists of two half steps or the distance between two frets with one fret in between them. For example, moving from the third fret to the fifth fret is a whole step up and moving from the third fret to the first fret is a whole step down:


Modifiers are used to indicate when a note is to be raised or lowered by one or more half steps. These modifiers are referred to as “sharps” or “flats”. Another name for these modifiers are  “accidentals” or “alterations.”  Sharp indicates that a note is raised by one half step and flat indicates that the note is lowered by a half step. For example, a “G sharp” means that the “G” note is raised by one half step and “G flat” means that the “G” note is lowered by one half step:


The music symbols for accidentals are: # for sharp and: flat for flat.  When written on a music staff, the symbol precedes the note head and when written in a paragraph, the symbol follows the note name, for example, G# or Gflat .  For convenience, sometimes the standard hash character ‘#’ is used instead of the sharp symbol and a lowercase letter ‘b’ is used for the flat symbol.

Note names can have synonyms. This means that the same note can be called by different names or represented by different symbols. When two notes have the same pitch but with different names, they are said to be “enharmonic” notes to mean that the two notes are equivalent. For example a C# is the same note as a Db. If you play a C# or a Db on the same string, then you end up at the same place and the pitch is the same even though the note can have different names. There are several reasons for using enharmonic names which we will go into later.

The following figures describe enharmonic note names and positions that were not covered in the previous post.




Note: The stacked notes in the tablature notation above should not be interpreted as chords but in this case, as alternative positions for the same notes.

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