Learning the Notes on the Fretboard: Tones & Semitones

Learning the string names on your guitar is an absolute must; there's no two ways about it. Understanding tones and semitones allows you to figure out what any note on your guitar is. This video hopefully will help clarify these things for you.

Watch on Youtube.

Download the Empty Fretboard PDF

The string names on your guitar are E-A-D-G-B-E.

Some fun acronyms you can use to remember this are:

Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie
Eat All Day Get Big Easy
Eat A Dog, Get Big Ears

Personally I just remember the letter names as is, there aren't really that many of them.

As I said in the video, download the empty fretboard diagram above, and fill it out completely. Practice doing this once per day until you know it. I'm sure it won't take you more than a few days before you start getting the hang of it!

As you become more familiar with the fretboard, start looking for patterns. For example, circle all the times 'A' appears, and see if you can see the pattern. Starting on the sixth string, you simply go up two strings and two frets, and you'll see the octave. That pattern holds true all across the fretboard, except on the B string. What other patterns can you find?

Comments or questions are welcome - just leave one below!

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46 Responses to “Learning the Notes on the Fretboard: Tones & Semitones”

  1. DON November 9, 2009 at 7:18 pm #


    • Dr T October 30, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

      EAD – GBE=
      eeead – geebee

    • Dr T October 31, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

      Jonathan has a cheat sheet available.

  2. byron December 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    today is the 1st time I picked up a guitar. I need some easy basic lessons to start with

    • Dr T October 31, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

      This is the place, especially the theory. Jonathan does an outstanding job of visually showing you the relationships.
      You DO need those concepts, whether you think you do or not.
      You CAN sail a ship without a compass, but you won't get far!

      • Jonathan November 1, 2010 at 7:53 am #

        Thanks Dr T - that's a great analogy!

  3. Juan December 14, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    I like this simple stuff to learn from the beginning thanks

  4. Bob December 20, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    Thanks J.

    You share your knowledge at the basic level, it is very needed by those of us that need ALL things discussed. Your a GEM!!

  5. Jonathan December 21, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

    Thanks guys! Yeah, understanding things at the basic level is so important and crucial to going further..

  6. Jack December 31, 2009 at 5:28 am #

    Eddie ate dynamite? Yeah, and then he blew the doors off with blues!!!

  7. Nick January 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Thank you for your fretboard John, it will be really useful.

  8. Ron January 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Thanks for the Tones & Semitones practice sheet. Its easier to
    remember & retain when you write it down.

  9. roger daniel January 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    donation on the way dude ... you seem to enjoy helping others and i would like to see you continue doing so . so come on people help me out and lets keep the j man doing his thing by helping us out !!!! keep it up brother..!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Nick January 19, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    I have finally one guit since only 4 days!!! Now I can practice all of this stuff, it's great πŸ™‚

  11. kirk February 10, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    hi Johnatan my nmae is kirk your videl are very help full i know my strings name and my major hords and my e-a barr chords i just cant seam to put it all together and do licks and riffs and stuff i just hasnt clicked yet lolo maybe you can help me put it togeher thanks your friend kirk

  12. Jonathan February 10, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Hey Kirk, I hear you... stay tuned though, I think you'll find it does start coming together more.

  13. barbara anne March 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Thank you Johnathan , awsome to have a guitar , and enjoy learning , truely a helper in these further along steps ..rifs fun to play on the whole neck, other than penatonic .I am haveing fun learning.Thank you for the help.

  14. Nick March 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi John! Since 2 months, I practice often with my guit so now I know how to tune it by ear. I'm happy πŸ˜€

  15. Rudy April 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi, Jonathan thanks for everything you do for all of us.

    Here is how I remember


    My teacher taught me that, it is a positive thought and it stuck!
    there you go thats my .02$

    • Dr T September 27, 2010 at 11:09 pm #


  16. Donna K. Guyett April 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi Johathan:

    Thank you soooo much for the empty fret board chart. It is so much better than the one I made up on Excel. I have printed out 10 copies and plan on filling one in every day until I learn at least the first five frets. Then, if I still don't know them, I'll just print out more.

    Thanks again,


  17. H.Madhusudhan April 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi John,

    I appreciate your sincerity in helping us with your novel ideas. I will take print-outs of the charts and start practising jotting down the names of the keys on the Fret-Board and get back to you after doing it successfully.


  18. R.H. April 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    I remember string names from 6th to 1st with the following sentence. Every Average Dude Gets Better Eventually". Which I hoe is true in my case. I am barely average and wast to be great! That's why I look forward to you tips, they really help a lot. Thanks

  19. Gene May 14, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    God lesson, I guess I started out with a really good instructor as he made me memorize Eddie ate dinamite, good bye eddid the first lesson. It was four years pluss ago, and I do not know how many times it got me our of trouble when talking to someone about my guitar. Keep up the good work. I have also been looking for a blank fretboard that is the size you are using. I have plenty of them but not one that is this large, and I do not draw well, even with drawing aids. Think I may have line dislexia or something when trying to draw a straight line. Gene

  20. Jimmy May 22, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    How about this one for names of strings;

    Big Early

  21. jwieser June 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm #


  22. cherice June 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    every goof ball does fine...:)
    every good boy does fine...

  23. Donny July 16, 2010 at 5:08 am #

    Every Aussie Dog Gets Bones Easily

  24. Mark September 22, 2010 at 9:03 am #


  25. Dr T September 27, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    EAD - GBE=
    eeead - geebee

  26. Joanne October 3, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    hey Jonathan,thanks for the strings, frets & scale info. I am a little slow on it but your clips have helped alot, being able to replay your lessons are great. Many thanks Joanne

  27. Victor October 27, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    You don't have to remember them all. Just remember the four letters in the middle and the other two are e. AD GB - do these letters look familer? A date designation(i.e. 350 AD) and Great Britian as seen on many bumper stickers as GB).

    My orignal memonic was: Eat A Dog Grow Big Ears

    It is simpler to just remember and be able to visualize the middle four letters.

  28. Kathy October 30, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Thank you so much Johnathan for your help. I am having fun learning and your lessons are easy to follow. You are great!!

  29. riley January 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    after months of watching video after video ,your the only one who broke it down so that i understood it .thanks

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      awesome! Glad to hear it's clicked now!

  30. Sam July 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    I didnt see this one ...it was the first one I learned. If you like the Blues this is for you, Im sure you know these guys!!
    Got the

  31. Julia Pegula October 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Thanks for the tip. Is all about repetition!

  32. Len February 15, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Making your own visual chart helps. I made a wall chart on 14X17 drawing paper for my Ibanez 7 string years ago: However, I moved many times since, haven't practiced for several years, and never thought about putting it back on a wall. Your video jogged my memory and I'll put it back in sight.

  33. Erdoganessat897 May 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    thank youvery much for free lesson god bless

  34. Tujungatim November 10, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    this is a great explanation...thanks

  35. wameres January 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    You write the Β note on the string, rather than in the "fret box".

  36. Harshapatil11 March 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    thanku so much

  37. layer100 March 24, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Thanks I think I have it down already. But will continue to practice what you are teaching. Great work!

  38. [email protected] chi May 7, 2014 at 6:23 am #

    You really do have a great nack for teaching the guitar. It says that you love what you play.It truly is important to know the fret board if you want to be a good player of this great instrument.

  39. Luke November 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Every Ass*%! Does Get Bashed Eventually - EADGBE, Learned this in my teen years LOL.

    You rock Jonathon!


  40. john .Schicker January 17, 2018 at 3:09 pm #

    still finding my way on the guitar easter bunny gets drunk after easter

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