Fretboard Guru

Notes Trainer

  1. Get your guitar.
  2. Turn on the sound on your device.
  3. Press the play button (below).
  4. The trainer will ask you to play a note.
  5. Play it, then listen and see if you got it right.
Set thinking time:
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
Choose frets:
Quiz will take:
What is the Fretboard Guru Notes Trainer (FGNT)?

The FGNT is a quiz designed to help us memorise the notes on the guitar fretboard. Learning the names of the notes is hard, why? Because they all look the same!

Apart from the fretboard markers (those inlaid dots you usually see on the front and/or top edge of the fretboard), there aren't many visual cues as to the note names, unlike say, the piano which has the black notes in groups of two and three to help us quickly see where we are.

Enter the FGNT, a quiz which gives us a random set of notes to play, chosen from a pre-determined range of the fretboard. The quiz asks us to play the notes, one at a time, on a specific string, against a countdown timer. After the countdown the quiz sounds the note and reveals (in red) the fret number on which it is found, so there is both an auditory and textual "answer" to requested note.

Additionally the answer note's "scientific" name is shown in brackets, e.g. (C4), this is essentially the name of the note as it would be on the piano, in this case middle C. This helps us to identify the discrete note, since many notes are duplicated on different strings of the fretbaord.

The quiz notes are from a 6-string Stratocaster guitar in standard tuning, with 22 frets. This gives us a maximum of 138 quiz notes (22 frets x 6 strings = 132 + 6 open strings = 138). The stings are numbered 1-6 with 6 being the thickest (low E) string, then 5 (A), 4 (D), 3 (G), B (2) and finally 1, the thinnest (high E) string.

How to use the FGNT

There are various ways to use the FGNT depending on your needs and musical goals. The default setting (in the OPTIONS tab) of the trainer sets the quiz to the first 12 notes (frets 0-11) of the low E string (6). These notes are then shuffled into a random order.

The default setting will facilitate the memorising of the 24 E-shape barre chord names (see Why learn the names of the notes?).

However there are other ways you could learn the notes, e.g. you could start with learning all the notes up to the first 3 frets which will help naming the notes in many of the open chords, or you could start with just the fret marker notes which will give you handy anchor points for figuring out notes across the whole fretboard quickly. Of course if you like, you can start with the entire fretboard straight away!

Handily for us, the fretboard repeats itself, an octave higher, at the 12th fret, so for example fretting string 6 at fret 12 gives us an E(3) an octave above the note played on the same string in the open, unfretted position = E(2). Then fret 13, on the same string, gives us an F(3) an octave above fret 1 = F(2) and so on up to the 22nd fret (or 24th fret for some guitars).

Therefore learning the notes up to the 12th fret means we only have to duplicate what we know from the 13th fret onwards. Having said that, it's still good to test ourselves across the full range of the fretboard since the gaps between frets higher up the board are a little shorter and hence look a little different.

Once you've decided upon the notes you want to memorise, the next thing is to set a thinking (countdown) time in the FGNT OPTIONS section, this is the number of seconds you have to figure out the note being asked for in the quiz (the default is 10 seconds). Set this to a time that enables you to figure out the note comfortably, and only when you can play all your chosen notes from start to finish, without error, three times in a row, should you lower the thinking time until you get it to a time you're happy with.


Here are the various options available in the FGNT:

Set thinking time: This sets how long, in seconds, you have before the answer to the quiz question is revealed. Hint: you can change the thinking time part-way through the quiz by using the OPTIONS button again after changing the thinking time (as opposed to using the DONE button, which will also reset the quiz), in this case only the thinking time is changed, other options remain unaffected.

Choose strings: Tick the box(es) to select the string(s) whose notes you want to be tested on. Use the DONE button to confirm the change and reset the quiz.

Choose frets: This sets the fret number range from which your quiz notes will be taken. "From" is the start fret and "To" the end, with "0" representing the open, or unfretted, string. So for example, with string 6 selected and frets 0 to 3 selected, your four quiz notes will be E2, F2, F#2 and G2 (but in a random order).

Fret marker notes only: This limits the quiz notes selection to only those found on the fret positions with markers (usually inlaid markers or dots on the front and/or top edge of the fretboard) on them, in this case the: 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 21st fret positions. You can still set the fret range (From/To selects) with this option selected, in this case the non-marker frets are disabled. This option can be a useful starting point to learning the fretboard by providing helpful anchor notes.

Quiz will take: This is how long the quiz should take to complete in minutes and seconds. This can be useful if you're making the FGNT part of your practice routine and schedule.

What's special about the FGNT?

Many fretboard training tools and methods work by teaching a system of figuring out the note names based on other memorised "anchor" notes, or else they use an on-screen mock-up of a fretboard to learn the notes from. The problem with these two approaches is that using a system means that our brain still has to go through a calculation process to work out the note from another note and similarly, an on-screen diagram has to be translated into the real guitar you're holding in your hands, which adds another layer of complexity.

The FGNT encourages us to learn the notes, directly, using OUR OWN GUITAR. If you've ever tried learning the note names for any length of time, you've probably found that there are certain notes you just look at and instantly know their name, where with others you don't and you have to count up from the one whose name you do know. This is a bit like the process of learning to read music or written language, at first you have to figure out every note or word one by one, until eventually, your brain doesn't even see individual notes or letters but instead instantly recognises a pattern. You don't think about it, you JUST KNOW IT!

This is the aim of the FGNT, to teach the state of instant recognition by constant repetition.

Why learn the names of the notes?

Of course it's perfectly possible to be a great guitar player without knowing the note names, in the same way you could be a great singer without being able to read words. However, when it comes to playing with others or figuring out chords or scales, it's really useful to have a vocabulary to make sense of the jumble of frets (notes) in front of you.

If you don't play with others, you might want to accompany yourself on say, a recording of another instrument like a piano, so knowing the note names will help you to know what notes will go with the chords the piano is playing. Developing your ear and playing by ear is very important too, and this together with note/scale/chord name knowledge is the ideal combination.

As an example, if you know all the note names along the lowest E (6th) string up to the twelfth fret, and you learn the E-shape major and minor barre chord fingerings, you then have 24 named barre chords in your repertoire, since the root note (and thus chord name) for the E-shape barre chord is the note on the 6th string.

Likewise the root note for the A-shape barre chord is on the 5th string, so if you know all the note names along the A (5th) string up to the twelfth fret, and you learn the A-shape major and minor barre chord fingering, you another 24 barre chords, a total of 48!

Comments, questions and suggestions

Are you enjoying the FGNT? Have any questions, suggestions or feature requests? Then head over to the contact page on jelsonic, my royalty-free music site, and put FGNT in the Subject line and send me a message.

Show your love for the FGNT by making a dontation. This helps with hosting and maintenance costs and towards new feature development for the FGNT, and is greatly appreciated.

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