The Basics

All About The Guitar Neck

The Western system of music divides the octave into twelve equal semitones, or half steps.  A whole step is two half steps.  These twelve tones are called the chromatic scale.

On the guitar neck, one half step is one fret and one whole step is two frets.  A note is sharp (#) if it is raised by one half step, and it is flat (b) if it is lowered one half step.  Many notes have the potential to be called enharmonic, when one note could be called by more than one name.  For example, G# is the same note as Ab, and B# is the same note as C.

On the guitar neck, these notes are arranged like so:

In order to achieve a scale that has no sharps or flats, we employ a pattern of half and whole steps.  The only half steps are between B and C, and E and F.  Memorizing this pattern will help greatly when it comes to learning scales:

A – B^C – D – E^F – G – A

It’s important for every guitarist to know every single note on all the strings.  By being completely familiar with your musical surroundings, you will be far more articulate, inventive, and intelligent in your guitar playing.  Knowing the names of the notes in the chromatic scale, it is possible to determine what every note on the neck is.  An excellent exercise is to play a note anywhere on the neck and try to name it as quickly as you can.  Another good exercise is to play chords with many different root notes, naming the chords as you go.  Try to be as random as possible in both exercises.

  • 1 half step = 1 fret
  • 1 whole step = 2 frets
  • 2 half steps = 1 whole step
  • Chromatic scale: all 12 tones in the Western music system
  • Enharmonic: when one note can be called by two different names
  • Half steps between B and C, E and F
  • Exercise 1: play a random note and name it as quickly as you can
  • Exercise 2: play a random chord and name the root note
    • Exercise 2a: name all the notes in the chord you played