When I was an intermediate player I wanted to learn all the notes on the guitar. Memorizing the entire fretboard represented a kind of guitar mastery to me.
Unfortunately, I did some basic maths, got spooked then abandoned this aspiration. If I had looked deeper I would have discovered a way to unlock the fingerboard much sooner than I did.
So, If you're here because you want to learn every note on your guitar, you can. It's not as hard as you think. I know that because I used to feel exactly how you feel right now. But don't worry, I've come up with a series of hacks that will help you totally nail this. But first the story...
The maths I did was as follows:
22 frets x 6 strings = 132 notes to learn
This put me off. Learning 132 of anything will take some serious hours, right? Call me lazy but who's got time for that?
So let's hack the crap out of this, so you can get started today on the road to becoming the guitar player you wanna be.
Fretboard Hack #1: You don't need to learn 22 notes per string
In later years, the first thing I realised was that the notes on a string repeat after the 12th fret. So the note at the 3rd fret is the same note as one 12 frets higher at the 15th fret. Same note, just one octave higher. (This probably sounds super-obvious.)
Truth be told I knew about the repetition of notes early on - as I'm sure you do - but as you'll see, its the "connecting of the dots" between several simple things that you already know which makes this so actionable and within your reach.
This means you only have to learn 11 notes on each string, not 22 (assuming you already know the names of the open strings)
NEW NUMBER OF NOTES TO LEARN AFTER THIS HACK: 66
But that still sounds like alot.
Fretboard hack #2: The first and sixth strings are duplicates
Your guitar is tuned EADGBE, which means the thickest string and the thinnest string are both E notes. Because of the duplication you only need to learn the notes on 5 strings, not six. So cross off another 11 notes.
NEW NUMBER OF NOTES TO LEARN AFTER THIS HACK : 55
Getting better, but there's a quite a way to go.
Fretboard hack #3: Learning the important notes means you can fill in the blanks with the others
Musical notes run alphabetically. In-between each of these notes (apart from in 2 instances) is a sharp/flat. E.g. between F and G is an F sharp (F#). This note is one fret higher than the F.
If you're using the G as your reference point, this in-between note can also be called a G flat (Gb) because you start at G and flatten the note by moving 1 fret lower.
Therefore by knowing the surrounding "important" notes, you'll automatically know the names of the others in between. This reduces the number further.
NEW NUMBER OF NOTES TO LEARN AFTER THIS HACK: 40
Fretboard hack #4: The unlocking key
This is where it all comes together. Using a simple shape (that you probably already know) you can unlock the other notes on your fretboard and drop from having to memorize 40 notes to just 16!
NEW NUMBER OF NOTES TO LEARN AFTER THIS HACK: 16
16 notes, that's more like it.
Do you think you can nail this now? Of course you do. Download the final piece of the puzzle now. There's a worksheet and an explanation video, want them?