Most beginners struggle with the fretboard during their first years of playing the guitar, not even beginners, intermediate players of the guitar do find it hard at times as well. Logical? Yes because the layout of the notes on the fretboard of the guitar is horizontal (like a keyboard) and vertical. Similar notes can be found in more than one place on the fretboard, this is a unique feature of the guitar not shared by the keyboard. It make the guitar flexible but also hard to master.
Before going into fretboard details here some basic musictheory refreshments:
The order of the musical alphabeth is:
C–D–E F–G-A–B C
All the notes move up-or down in this fashion: If you play an E, the F is the next note up, the D is the next note down.
The notes where you see a – use two frets to get from one note to the next one (for example C and D or F and G)
The notes where you see no – use only one fret to get from note to the next one (for example E to F or B to C)
What applies to single notes applies to chords as well. Very useful to know!
Next to knowing the order of the musical alphabeth, it is a must to know the names of the strings:
(From low to high—-E A D G B E—–)
When you look at the musical alphabeth you see the names of the guitarstrings reappearing: Each string is tuned to a particular notename. The lowest E is twice as low as the highest E. The tuning we end up with is very flexible for playing chords and single notes, similar as what you can do on a keyboard.
No need to ask yourself where those notenames come from, just memorise the notenames of the strings and learn how to use them.
Notenames on the low E and A and Rootnotes of Chords:
Among the the first chords you will have learned in the beginning were most likely the G, E, C and A.
Each of these chords do have rootnotes (notes where chord is being build on) Getting to know where the Rootnotes for each chord are is a must: It will help you understanding your chords better, it will also improve your vision on the fretboard.
Most of the open chords you already know do have their rootnote either on the low E or low A string. Knowing where these notes are located is a start to getting to know all the notenames of the low E and A.
These two strings should be your first two strings you should master. Take it step by step and start with these two strings.
Using notenames from open chords:
Instead of relearing what you have learned so far, why not use your knowledge to apply to new situations?
Here is a open A chord tabbed out:
G —–2– The open A chord does have two Rootnotes: The open A string and fret 2 on the G string
Move up the open A chord to fret 5. No need to worry about barring, leave the open A alone by not playing it.
Once on fret 5, what was a Rootnote on the G string fret 2 still applies: On the G string on the 5th fret we have now a C note, this makes the chord a C instead of an A, but the shape of the A is still there. Very useful. Look at this example, learn from it and apply it to some of your other open chords as well. Always ask first where the Root of the chord lies. Once you know this you can build upon it.
Do I Need to Know whole Fretboard?
Eventually yes, but it will come quicker than you think, but you may need to work a bit on it in the first place. Asking yourself questions about the chord-and notenames you play does help, it will speed up the process.
When you are a beginner, working with the low E and A string may be enough for now.
Depending on your development of your playing, the next stage could be the D and G string.
Find out ways which work for you, ask other guitarplayers and use your knowledge you already have about your chords to help you along the way.
Enjoy your journey and hope to catch you soon again,