Guitar Math - The Ultimate Fretboard Hack!

Guitar math is a visualisation technique that can help to speed up the process of learning the guitar using numbers to map the fretboard.

Why do you want to learn this? A good understanding of the fretboard allows you to play, create and communicate music through our instrument with clarity.

The fretboard can be daunting as a beginner there are 120+ frets on the average full sized guitar, this can make the task of learning every note challenging to say the least.

Most will learn the notes by memorizing each string individually. But this isn’t the most efficient method..

1.The musical alphabet and note values

There are 12 semitones in western music. A semitone is the shortest interval (space between notes) this is what happens when we move 1 fret on the guitar.

2. String names and values

Before we continue, you really need to commit to memory the values of the open-string notes on your guitar. From the bottom to the top string(thickest to thinnest) That is: E-A-D-G-B-E (you can remember this by saying Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears) can be represented as note values: 7-0-5-10-2-7.

To help remember this sequence, think “0-5-10 between 2 7’s”. Note that the B string value is simply its string number and the A string has a value of 0.

3. It all adds up

We can use the sum of the string value and the fret number to solve for our note


Add the fret number to the string value and your result will correspond with the note values (between 0-11) which we started of with. But what if the sum of the string value and the fret number is 12 or greater? Simply subtract 12 from your result to get a number between 0-11 to get your note.

For example, if I play the 3rd fret of the E string (string value = 7), then my sum is 7+3=10, which corresponds with the note G.

When you see “D”, you need to instantly think “5”, and you need to do this without counting from 0 (A).

This might take a bit of practice to get the hang of. However, you will find that making this association is certainly a lot easier than trying to memorize every note along every string, by ascending alphabetically

from the open string note.

4.Now you try

The 3rd fret of the D(5) string is which note?

The 6th fret of the G(10) string is which note?


Download this lesson as a pdf, check out links below for an awesome app called Fretuoso or check out the music theory site for a free game to help you practice guitar math while you don’t have one to hand.

Lesson pdf


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