So...about that fretboard!

I’ve been doing my best for a year or so, with Justin’s courses, Youtube and a few other “teachers” …even a real live teacher for a few months to learn how to play. Nothing fancy, just wanna strum away and go as I learn (for my 75yrs of age).

I see lotsa videos and lessons insisting that I know every note of the fretboard and can play my scales at 200 bpm (yah…right). So if i cannot read music (only a tiny bit), what is the use of learning notes on the fretboard. I DO know the notes of strings and can actually struggle my way through guessing notes on fretboard, but it has yet to gel in my soft old brain, why to memorize those notes, since I won’t be joining a boy-band soon or finding a campfire to sit around and play John Denver tunes :wink:

Thoughts? Thx…John

1 Like

You don’t need to know the notes on the fret board. This is an obsession with the internet generation. If you’re happy playing open chords and maybe a little lead you’re better off spending your time learning pattern. Everything on the guitar is pattern based.
Knowing the notes on the neck will help explain thing to some who knows the note on the neck but doesn’t do much for your actual playing.
At 75 I’d be more about having fun play/learning what makes you happy.


Hi John,
I agree that there comes a time when it is much more important to just enjoy the rhythm guitar and lay down some small solos with basic scale knowledge…

But as Rick puts it above, it is a bit short-sighted (and of course very populair for many to read :blush:)… even if it is only for the somewhat younger readers i like to ad , because before the internet (and still) music schools also insist on this, and O Yes Justin has in quite a lot of videos about that at it has a HUGE amount of advantages and he uses quite big words for it… and also big words for guitarists who, as the largest group of musicians, so often do not know their instrument and the notes on the guitar,

But don’t worry about it and have fun instead of all that theory, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it either for you …

Have fun

It depends on what you want to achieve. If you just want to strum open/barre/power chords, you don’t need to know the fretboard. Even in that case, I think notes on low E and A strings are useful (power chords, barre chords). Low E notes are the same as high E notes and that is helpful for triads with root on high E.

However, if you want to efficiently use scales that you learn to play melodies (improvisation) it is important to understand what notes you are playing so you are able always to fall back to things that work (i.e. root note or highlighting the chord which is playing, etc.). It is possible to learn this by copying others, memorizing patterns and finally playing fully by ear, but that is more difficult than knowing in advance “the rules” and what already works and then work around that and developing your creativity. I am very novice with this, so mostly theoretical knowledge. :smile: Why don’t you try level 1 of Justin’s theory course? It is very well put together.

1 Like

If you want to learn songs, learn songs, learn songs and get a sense that the 8 essential beginner chords (plus maybe a few unavoidable barre chords) for campfire fun and strumming then you’re not really going to stray to far beyond the first few frets. Knowing the notes that are the root notes of those chords on 6th, 5th and 4th strings is useful.
But the actual forming chords, making chord changes, strumming rhythmically etc. are your main focus. By a substantial amount.


Thanks fellow guitarists…all good feedback. I have reviewed many topics of the CAGED system and other theory and I do understand it…for the most part and feel that knowing this stuff is good.
I’m confident that when the time comes in my playing, I will have an “ahhhhaaa moment” and see and feel the connections. Meanwhile, I strum away and have fun.


The CAGED system is comparable to Master’s degree-level knowledge and capabilities. Nothing wrong with looking ahead, but your primary focus should be on practicing more “elementary” things, like what’s covered in Justin’s Grades 1-3.

I was skeptical of being able to learn guitar from an internet teacher, but I’m ~4 years into Justin’s course, getting ready to start Grade 4, and I’m amazed on what following Justin’s curriculum, combined with consistent practice, has done for me. I think you will be too.

Just start at lesson 1 and work through them. You’ll finish some lessons in an hour. Some will take weeks. A few will take months. But he’s put alot of thought into what to teach, in what order, to make the journey less difficult.


1 Like

Do you need too?

For some things yes, for others not so much.

But it’ll be more important later if you progress and as said knowing the root notes on the lower strings is very handy esp when you get into barre chords etc.

Don’t eat the cow whole tho you can take small bites, e string is easy to do the fret marker notes f/g/a/b etc then you’ve a solid start on two strings!

I found that I learned what I needed to know about finding notes on the fretboard as I progressed. As I moved into barre chords, I started learning to locate the root notes on the 5th and 6th strings. As I started learning to do little solo fills using the pentatonic scale, I needed to be able to find root notes on the 1st and 2nd string as well, to be able to move the “boxes” around the fretboard according to the key the song is in.

So, in my case anyway, it happened organically rather than by any special concentration on mapping the fretboard.


more good info…thx.

I like the “cow” example RobD…I do try that taking small bytes of info at a time and figuring it out is crucial too,
And Markr31’s comment about finding solutions "organically, rather than by memory or forcing it is a best approach

1 Like

I think it really depends on your goals and what you want to get out of playing guitar.

Some people are content just knowing some open chords and being able to play some songs, which you don’t need to know the notes on the fretboard to do.

Other people want to improvise or write music, and sure helps in that area.

My opinion of trying to memorize the notes for every string and fret position is that it’s kinda pointless. There is a system of how it works and your way better off learning how it works rather than trying to just memorize it. And you’ll get far more out of it if you learn how it works.

Above all whatever your goals are, the most important thing is that your enjoying it and having fun.


Its good to do it in small chunks, I think some people could do it in a few weeks hard work but …

Also note the structure and notes of the strings means you can find notes if you know where the note is on another string.

So on the low E to the D string is 2 frets forwards for the same note etc so once you’ve learned the E string ( 2 strings for 1!) you have the D string shifted by 2 frets too!

And that in the first 12 frets the note you are after is only on each string once, so if you are on the A string and want an F note you know its not going to be way down by the nut

Interesting thread, and great comments. :+1: also relevant for me.

All great ideas…thx guys