Blues Guitar Institute

Learn the Fretboard: 3rd, 2nd and 1st Strings


Every guitarist should take the time to learn the fretboard.  Period.  The benefits are tremendous.

To that end, let’s continue our study of the fretboard by moving on to the three higher pitched strings, the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings.

If you haven’t quite gotten the 6th, 5th and 4th string notes completely memorized, go back and work on those strings before moving ahead with this lesson.

Before we get to the slick trick to learn the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings, let’s take a quick look at the 6 step plan to learn the fretboard just as a reminder of where we’ve been and were we’re going.

Follow These Steps to Learn the Fretboard

Six steps to learn the fretboard:

  1. Learn the open string names
  2. Learn the notes on the 6th string
  3. Focus on key frets
  4. Learn the notes on the 5th and 4th strings
  5. Use octaves to learn the notes on the 3rd and 2nd string
  6. Use the 6th string notes to learn the notes on the 1st string

After making it through steps 1 – 4, it’s time to move on to strings 3, 2 and 1.

Use Octaves to Learn the Notes on the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings

First, let’s make sure you have an understanding of octaves.

An octave is the note 12 half steps, or frets, above your starting note.

For example, play the F note on the 1st fret of the 6th string.  Then count up 12 frets and you land on the 13th fret.  This note is also an F, just higher in pitch.  The distance between the 1st and 13th fret is an interval and is referred to as an octave.

To say it another way, the 13th fret F note is said to be one octave higher than the 1st fret F note.

Wikipedia has some seriously technical explanations to offer.  Warning:  there are numbers involved.

Check out these two videos for a visual “how-to” on learning these strings by making use of octaves.

Notes on the 3rd String

Notes on the 2nd and 1st Strings


Review What You’ve Learned

There are a few bits of knowledge that every guitarists should have.  This is one of those fundamentals that can’t be overlooked. With guitar tab being so popular, it’s easy to play by the numbers and not pay much attention to the actual note names.

I’m not knocking TAB, I love it actually.  Still, studying the notes on the fretboard will help connect you to music in a much deeper way.

So take some time and learn the fretboard by devoting some of your practice time to learning the note names at each and every fret.

View this as a process.  It’s not something that you should try to learn in a weekend.  There is a ton of information to learn and for it to really stick, you should go slowly until the note names become second nature.

Good luck!

This is the 5th installment in a series of posts on How to Learn the Fretboard.

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

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