Fretboard – Part 1

The following diagrams show the names and positions of notes on the guitar. One of the challenges of learning to play and read music on the guitar is that the same note can often be played in several different positions on the fingerboard.

We will cover more on where to play specific passages on the fingerboard in a future post. For now it’s more important to develop a thorough knowledge of the fingerboard and memorize the note names and positions.

This can seem like a daunting task at first but it will become easier as you progress. Like with anything new and unfamiliar, start by breaking the task up into smaller chunks and don’t try to learn it all in one go.

Diatonic* notes and positions:



The corresponding keyboard diagrams are:


*Diatonic notes are ones that are unaltered by sharps or flats. You can think of these as the white notes on the piano keyboard. The next post will cover the chromatic notes that include all note names and positions.

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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Copyright © 2014 Luis Rojas. All Rights Reserved.

Notation Styles

There are a number of ways to notate music for the guitar. The most useful one to learn is the standard musical notation that is used by all musicians universally regardless of what instrument they play. For beginners and intermediate players, it’s also useful to be familiar with tablature notation (abbreviated as tab) and fretboard or chord diagrams.

The biggest issue with tab and fretboard diagrams is that they are not specially helpful for sight reading music, in other words, to be able to read and play in time with a group of other musicians or with a recording. However, they are good visualization tools for representing scales or chord diagrams.

Before we begin, we need to cover the standard string names for guitars: E, B, G, D, A, and E starting from the thinnest string towards the thickest string. The strings are sometimes also referred to by number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 from thinnest to thickest. See diagrams below.


Tab notation is a graphical format where each horizontal line represents a string, with the  high E string at the top and the low E string at the bottom:


Numbers located on a line indicate the fret position to be held down at that string. For example, a 3 on the second line from the top means to hold down the B string at the third fret. A zero on a line means to play an open string for the indicated string:


When numbers appear one after another, this indicates that they are played in sequence from left to right. If two or more numbers are stacked together, then this indicates notes that should be played together at the same time, for example, as a chord (more on this later).

Fretboard Diagrams

Fretboard diagrams are similar to tab notation. Each horizontal line represents a string, with the  high E string at the top and the low E string at the bottom. Vertical lines represent frets. The leftmost vertical line represents the nut. White circles outside the diagram on the left indicate that an open string should be played. Black circles between two frets indicate that a string is to be held down at that position on the fretboard.

The diamond symbols below represent typical fret marker positions on the fretboard; however, not all guitars have fret markers or may have them in a different position. In most guitars, fret markers are located at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets.


Putting both examples together, we get:


Standard Musical Notation

Standard musical notation uses a staff consisting of five horizontal lines to represent the pitch for notes. Pitch is the frequency or relative “highness” or “lowness” of a note.


A clef sign at the beginning of a staff indicates the range of notes that are represented on the staff. Guitar notation uses a G clef (also known as a Treble clef) to indicate the range of notes. The vertical position of a note on the staff indicates how high or low that note is to be played. So a note appearing lower on the staff will have a lower pitch than notes appearing higher on the staff.


If necessary, ledger lines are placed below or above to extend the range of the staff. Notes are played from left to right indicating a sequence of notes. If two or more notes are stacked vertically on the staff, then those notes are played together at the same time. For example, as a chord or a harmony (more on this later). Putting together the three systems of notation described above, we get:


In the coming posts, I will cover guitar musical notation in more detail.

Copyright © 2014 Luis Rojas. All Rights Reserved.

Parts Of The Guitar

The following illustrations show common parts of the guitar:


Arch-top guitars with different cutaways:


Side views:


Copyright © 2014 Luis Rojas. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction To The Guitar

The guitar is part of the chordophone family of instruments. That’s a fancy way of saying that guitars are stringed instruments. Chordophones are musical instruments that produce sounds through vibrating strings. The strings are usually at tension stretched between two points and the sound is made by plucking, bowing, or striking the strings.

Acoustic instruments usually have a cavity or resonator that amplifies the sound of the strings. Electric instruments can have either a hollow, semi-hollow, or solid body and one or more  electro-magnetic pickups that convert the movement of the strings or the vibration of the body to electrical signals that are then converted to sound using an amplifier.

Guitar Types

Guitars come in all kinds of styles and variations. If you are trying to decide what type of guitar to play, the best thing to do is to listen to as many recordings and artists as possible and visit different music stores that will have a wide variety of instruments to try.

While some of the guitars shown below are more traditionally associated with jazz, you can play jazz with any guitar. Jazz is a language, not an artifact. Choosing what type of guitar to play is about what you want to say with it rather than the mechanics of the instrument.

Acoustic Steel String Flat-top Guitars


Acoustic Nylon String Guitars


Electric Archtop Guitars


Electric Solid Body Guitars

strat les-paul      7string double-neck    synth-guitartravel-guitar

Every guitar has its own unique sound and feel. Even two guitars of the same model coming out of the same factory or handmade by the same luthier will have variations in sound and feel due to differences in materials. Other factors contributing to differences in sound include the size and construction, the type and gauge of the strings, the age of the guitar, the electronics, the amplifier, and the signal path or sound effects used.

You may need to try a variety of guitars to find the one that feels and sounds right to you. Your tastes may vary over time and different playing situations may call for different instruments. Try to find as high a quality of an instrument as you can afford and then experiment with other variables such as different gauges (thicknesses) of strings, round-wound, half-round, or flat-wound strings, different alloys, and other factors. Read interviews of your favorite artists to find out what gear they like to use and why. And above all, have fun while you’re at it.

Copyright © 2014 Luis Rojas. All Rights Reserved.