Notes In Open Position

Let’s check out some music theory and learn notes in the open position!
View the full lesson at Notes In Open Position | JustinGuitar

Please keep posts relevant to the topic, thank you.

I’m definitely one of the students whom didn’t focus on the note wheel, I appreciate the graph showing where they all are, since I can follow and memorize more comfortably this way. And off I go larnin’ !


I should have paid more attention to this, I’m happy to go back to it.

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We call this the open position, the first three frets.

Well, that’s a basic misunderstanding resolved for me. Until now I’d thought playing notes in ‘the open position’ was synonymous with playing the open strings. :laughing:


@Juniperus I was confused too and I’ve been through at least a dozen beginner method books and video courses and a beginner book on music theory in the last 40 years. I had skipped over this lesson video because I had watched it a few months ago and I thought I already know the open notes on the guitar. I even worked out a pattern for me to pick and play the open notes because it was a long time allocated to work on open notes. (I was picking and calling out the notes as EAD ADG DGB GBE and then backwards) :slight_smile:

I looked through a few books and online and realized the source of my confusion. The terminology is fuzzy in many courses. I know that all the chords we have used are called “open” chords and that the barre chords are “closed form”. I found on a jazz guitar instruction web site that the word position was used for both the hand position (location of index finger) or the scale position (location of low notes of the scale - I think). I saw in another book that position is usually defined as the fret where the first or index finger is located. That definition works pretty well for barre chords and positions above the first fret, but seems to fail in this case. At first I thought that Justin was using a nonstandard usage of the word position, but now I know that it is my misunderstanding.

I guess if you are fretting an F chord or doing the one finger per fret exercise starting at the first fret or playing a closed form scale with no open strings and the index finger on the first fret, you are playing in the first position.

If you are playing in the first 3 or 4 frets and there are open strings involved, like “open’ chords or the E minor pentatonic scale then you are playing in the open position.

So have I finally reached an understanding of this fuzzy topic or do I need more enlightenment? :smile:

P.S. Now I have to go back and edit a few posts where I clearly used the wrong terminology.

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It is interesting that in grade 2 of the music theory course Justin specifically says learn the notes of the first five frets which i readily understood

Perhaps this module lesson could say learn the notes in the first 3 frets to go with the open notes already learned

Next time i will rewatch the videos again before the practice session :slight_smile:

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Glad you guys shared your knowledge about it, I did not really stress out understanding this, I even thought open position was just notes from first to third fret, just that, until you guys shared about this and went to research more about it and found out calling something open position doesn’t only mean that it’s the notes from the first three frets but it’s more than that XD. Well that’s some new knowledge I learned today.

Edit: Well just one thing though because I tried learning triads before but didn’t really dive further unto it but through those lesson I learned the d major and minor open chord that we learn early on is movable. Does that mean that the chord is still considered in open position even though it moved to higher frets as it has one unfretted note?

There is a great deal of use, misuse and sloppiness in guitar instruction videos across the interweb.
Position and pattern get used as though they are interchangeable.
Justin made a conscious decision long ago that scales would be ‘patterns’ based on CAGED and a 1-5 numbering system and not positions. This was discussed extensively in the old forum.
Position refers to location on the neck, not a chord-shape or scale pattern
I hope that helps.

Cheers :smiley:

| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator


The D major and D minor triad shapes are movable but the D major and D minor chords only become movable if you consider their root note moving with them which entails playing a note on the D string below the start of the triad shape.

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Here’s a pretty good definition of position given by William Leavitt (highlighted by me):


The triad shapes taught in the Practical Music Theory course are all movable since those grips omit open strings. There, the grouping is not really by position but by inversion, i.e. it depends on which note of the triad is the lowest (root, third or fifth). This can be applied to extended chords like sevenths or ninths that Justin calls quadads.

It also follows from the above that the same chord grip with open strings becomes a different chord in a different position. This is illustrated wonderfully in this lesson, check it out:


Position = place (fret)
Pattern = shape

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I found this fretboard note quiz tool online and thought I’d share for anyone else who might find it useful for practicing without a guitar in your hand. It shows you a dot on the fretboard and asks you to identify the note (I don’t think Justin has a tool like this - correct me if I’m mistaken).

Hi Hilary,

Indeed Justin does have such an app, and an excellent one too - Note Trainer. I used it extensively early on in my journey, and still use it today. Highly recommend it.

Cheers, Shane


Ah, missed it since it wasn’t under the “Tools” tab with the interval trainer. I stand corrected!