I know the names of the notes up to about the fifth fret on each string. I play from sheet music occasionally, but mostly from tabs - so is it necessary to learn the names of the notes for each fret to be able to play the majority of songs?

  • 1
    IMHO, sure you have to. You should know your instrument inside out, whether it is a guitar or not. It is not that difficult after all, within a week you will be able to memorize the whole fretboard.
    – Chiron
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 21:57
  • Django Reinhardt seemed to manage rather well not academically knowing any of the notes / keys by name.........I'm convinced he's not alone.
    – tim
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:57

7 Answers 7


If you learn from tabs, as I began and still do, then no, definitely not. You will find however, particularly when you start playing barre chords, you will begin to learn the note names without making a conscious effort to. Then, as you start to tab songs, your knowledge will become more steadfast, and by the time you are writing songs, (using scales,keys etc) it will eventually become second nature. Thanks.


Absolutely not. Some people learn and remember songs best through visual, aural, or tactile methods, and knowing the notes isn't necessary if you know how it "looks", sounds, or feels.

That said, learning the notes can be very useful. What if you want to improvise on something? Or you start writing a song, do you really want to be testing a bunch of notes to see if they're in the key you're using? And again, it might help you learn depending on your learning style.

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    As Matthew mentions, I've found learning the names most useful for writing songs. When I was starting learning banjo I labeled every fret. It helped me get a feel for which frets give the same note but on different strings, and also to find chords higher up the neck.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 22:23
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    Glad to see this answer get votes. Almost any player will get value from knowing the names of notes, but it's by no means a necessity. I sense that some of the best improvisational players in the world don't know the names of the notes or scales they're playing. (As if BB King thinks to himself "OK, G Dorian for this solo")
    – slim
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:07

Of course it is not necessary, but WHY should You not to do this?

If You play a lick in one place on fretboard and just want to try it one octave up or one octave down? What would You do? If it's start on G note, You can locate another G note maybe You have to adjust fingerings and voila! Or do You play different strings up and down to find this another G?

Another example: You're jamming with friends, and someone asks: "Hey let's play blues in G", do You really want to hear explanation: "Hey this 3rd fret on six string"

There are plenty of benefits from knowing the names of notes on fretboard. I've posted some guidance on how to learn this in another question

After a week or so the topic will be irrelevant for You - because it so easy :) My advice is go for it - You would learn it twice in time You spend to wondering whether to try. It's worthy.


You can get by without, as others have pointed out. But you'll be thankful you put in a bit of work and learned the names, along with a bit of theory (just enough so that you basically know what's going on).

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    It also depends on if your playing with other musicians. Keyboard players for instance use note names and its way easier when working with them if you know the names of the notes.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 14:24
  • This is why I don't play with keyboard players. Pedantic jerks! ^^
    – Pif
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 8:39

If you know the first 5 frets on each string you know the entire fretboard. The more you play the more this becomes absurd.


You can get very far without knowing, but it is a great advantage to know the names of the fret notes. At least for the first 5 frets. It will be very helpful understanding how chords are built up. Also when playing with others, it is very useful to know the names just to have a common language to communicate what you play.


Well, obviously, on tabs it is irrelevant so long as you know what tuning you're supposed to be in.

So long as you know how to read the notes on a music staff and understand the makings of a scale and of chords... it's not too important to know all the notes on the neck.


Because, as guitarists, we change our tuning rather frequently... well... at least I do. And the most important thing to know is what note each of your strings is tuned to and which intervals are functional in the tuning you are using.

As long as you know how to get around your tuning, it's fairly easy to know how to play in the right key with others.

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