I am learning different scales and notes on the fret board using the white dots(marker) that's placed on 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th and so on, on my guitar.

Now when exercising I am locating a note using the relative position of the neighboring white spot. But, this seems bad to me. Because, if I use capo or any other tuning the notes are gonna change their relative position.

  • So, is it a bad idea to memorize note's position using this static markings on the fret board?

  • I have seen a lot of good acoustic guitars having this marking and lot who doesn't have. So, which is the standard one?

  • Most high profile acoustic guitarist plays guitar that doesn't have this markings. So, what one is better? Should or shouldn't I use this white spots to memorize notes?


5 Answers 5


I believe many other guitarists will agree that it becomes progressively easier to find notes and the absolute position of your hand on the instrument. For a beginner these markings are vital to develop this sense of location and you should exploit their potential. I don't think having them is a bad idea at all, you'll soon be bored of searching for them visually all the time and will become used to finding the notes.

I found that after some time playing scales and getting used to the overall "sound" of the notes it's almost second nature to know where I am in the fret. Today I feel confident enough to play a guitar with no markings at all. In fact I rarely need to look down at the fretboard.

This could be an exercise for you: for some minutes every practice avoid looking at the fretboard and think before you move your hand. Use the aural information and your memory to find your way and keep track of where you are.


It is fine - even when you are an expert, you will still use the markings on occasion. Excluding the occasional blind guitarist (they tend to use alternate methods) everyone looks at the fretboard occasionally - even Satriani, Vai etc

A beginner may look all the time, with more experience you may just find you need to look when carrying out a long slide, or are needing to put your fingers on at a high fret after doing something else.

It gets easier - you will use the markers less, but don't worry about it being a problem.


Most guitars, even those without markings on the fretboard, will have markings on the side of the neck. You may find it easier to use these rather than look around your fingers for the markings on the front.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing this; that's what the markings are for.

When playing with a capo, you just have to allow for the difference, and that too comes with practice.


Asking for a better than or worse than answer is really opinion based. In my opinion it is not a good idea to use these marks to learn scales and positions. It will just turn into a handicap that will be difficult to unlearn later.

If you have to adjust your expectations when using a capo or changing guitars you are creating more mental stress and one of the points of mastering a musical instrument like the guitar is to have it become natural, muscle memory. In my experience both as a student and a teacher is that this leads to a dependency on hand eye coordination and sight reading becomes impossible.

When learning violin or upright bass for the first time it is not uncommon for the teacher to put a small piece of tape at 2 positions to help the beginner learn to get a couple notes in tune correctly. Proper hand posture should do the rest. However it is only a double check. Really the student should be using their ear. Once that develops the tape is removed (usually vary soon after starting). As for guitar, well classical guitars do not have any markings on the finger board or on the side of the neck. You are not supposed to develop a dependency on these or on hand eye coordination. Ideally your eyes should be looking forward, at the sheet music. Even my first electric guitar teacher would "encourage" me to never watch my hand. He would say "I wish they never put those makes on the neck, it screws you up".

Think about this, unless you have some type of handicap people do not look at the stairs when they walk up or down them. You have the ability to "feel" the step size. If steps are slightly off that could cause a person to fall. Well the same is true of the guitar and other instruments. There are some very simple exercises that any trained guitar teacher would give a beginner to help develop the feeling of distance on the neck. As long as you develop the correct hand posture and that distance feel you should be able to develop the ability to play with your eyes closed. This is not some advanced virtuoso type of anomaly, this is a standard (or used to be).

I suppose if you are in a stage performance situation where you are moving around and may not be able to rely on your "hand ear" coordination an occasional glance at the fret board might be necessary, but this is the exception not the rule.

In short if you rely on the markings to know where you are you will likely get screwed up if you play a guitar with different markings (some have only 5, 7, 12) while others have (3, 5, 7, 12, etc). There is no standard for how many marks to place on the guitar. Different markings can make you think you are in the wrong place. For those who might say it's okay for a beginner since they need the help and will eventually not need them (like training wheels) I would say that in this case it can be more difficult to get away from the dependency than to not have it in the first place. Guitar isn't (or shouldn't be) as dangerous as trying to ride a bike for the first time.

Based on my experience I'd resist it. If you are not taking lessons and are self learning from books and videos I'd suggest taking lessons for a while. A good teacher will know how to put you on the right path to proper development.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.