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!

Leave a Reply 45 comments

DON - November 9, 2009 Reply


    Dr T - October 30, 2010 Reply

    EAD – GBE=
    eeead – geebee

    Dr T - October 31, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan has a cheat sheet available.

byron - December 12, 2009 Reply

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

    Dr T - October 31, 2010 Reply

    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 Boettcher - November 1, 2010 Reply

      Thanks Dr T – that’s a great analogy!

Juan - December 14, 2009 Reply

I like this simple stuff to learn from the beginning thanks

Bob - December 20, 2009 Reply

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!!

Jonathan Boettcher - December 21, 2009 Reply

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

Jack - December 31, 2009 Reply

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

Nick - January 9, 2010 Reply

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

Ron - January 14, 2010 Reply

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

roger daniel - January 18, 2010 Reply

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..!!!!!!!!!!!

Nick - January 19, 2010 Reply

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

kirk - February 10, 2010 Reply

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

Jonathan - February 10, 2010 Reply

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

barbara anne - March 9, 2010 Reply

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.

Nick - March 14, 2010 Reply

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˜€

Rudy - April 6, 2010 Reply

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 Reply


Donna K. Guyett - April 15, 2010 Reply

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,


H.Madhusudhan - April 21, 2010 Reply

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.


R.H. - April 21, 2010 Reply

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

Gene - May 14, 2010 Reply

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

Jimmy - May 22, 2010 Reply

How about this one for names of strings;

Big Early

jwieser - June 7, 2010 Reply


cherice - June 12, 2010 Reply

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

Donny - July 16, 2010 Reply

Every Aussie Dog Gets Bones Easily

Mark - September 22, 2010 Reply


Dr T - September 27, 2010 Reply

eeead – geebee

Joanne - October 3, 2010 Reply

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

Victor - October 27, 2010 Reply

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.

Kathy - October 30, 2010 Reply

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

riley - January 10, 2011 Reply

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

    Jonathan Boettcher - January 11, 2011 Reply

    awesome! Glad to hear it’s clicked now!

Sam - July 23, 2011 Reply

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

Julia Pegula - October 9, 2011 Reply

Thanks for the tip. Is all about repetition!

Len - February 15, 2012 Reply

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.

Erdoganessat897 - May 11, 2012 Reply

thank youvery much for free lesson god bless

Tujungatim - November 10, 2012 Reply

this is a great explanation…thanks

wameres - January 17, 2013 Reply

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

Harshapatil11 - March 2, 2013 Reply

thanku so much

layer100 - March 24, 2014 Reply

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

Douglas.allen120@gmail.com chi - May 7, 2014 Reply

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.

Luke - November 26, 2014 Reply

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

You rock Jonathon!


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