Notes In The First Five Frets

You’ve memorized those open string note names, right? And you remember your Note Circle? Well, now you can easily work out the name of every note on the guitar neck!  However, to start with we’re going to focus on just the notes in the first five frets on each string.

Simple Note Finding Exercise

As I’ve said before, the best way to learn is to apply things to the guitar as soon as you can, so let’s start with this simple note finding exercise. I will show you a faster way to do this later, but right now I want you to do this exercise because it will help you remember the Note Circle AND apply that knowledge to the guitar.

Step 1
Randomly point to any note on the neck, on any string, up to the 5th fret. The higher up the neck you go, the further round the note circle you will have to count, which is why we will start in the first five frets and gradually work our way up to the ‘dusty end’.

Step 2
Count your way clockwise around the note circle, starting with the name of the open string your chosen note is on until you reach the fret in question. Obviously, you’ll need to make sure you know the note names of the open strings! (Remember: Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie etc.)

Step 3
Name the note you're on!

The JustinGuitar Note Trainer App

I also have an app which makes a fun game out of this exercise which you might like to check out - perfect for learning notes in your downtime. And it costs less than a beer! The JustinGuitar Note Trainer is available for Apple and Android! :)


  • Most students find it easiest to choose the note with the fretting hand and to physically count up the neck with a picking hand finger. This is fine when you start, but aim to do it just by looking at the fretboard and mentally choosing a fret. 
  • Say the note names out loud as you go. This really makes a difference. You could choose to sometimes only use sharps, and flats only on other times. Get used to going both forward (clockwise) and backwards (anti-clockwise) around the circle; do it with all sharps, all flats, alternate them, or use sharps in one direction and flats the other. Learning the Note Circle from memory is absolutely essential and this exercise will really help it sink in.
  • Some people find it helps to think of the Note Circle as a clock face, where each semitone is equal to five minutes.

Advanced Exercises

Don't get hung up on these, as they're just designed to keep more advanced players entertained - we'll be looking at easier ways of doing these things soon enough! 

  • The only reason I’m suggesting you start with just the first five frets is so you don’t have to spend too long counting around the Note Circle, but feel free to go all the way up to the 12th fret and beyond. However, we’ll be looking at better ways of doing this later on.
  • The 12th fret is exactly one octave (one whole lap of the Note Circle) above the open string notes. Feel free to pick notes above the 12th fret, but then you should start your counting from the 12th fret, starting on the same note name as the open string.
  • To get used to going anti-clockwise around the note circle, start at the 12th fret and count DOWN the neck (towards the nut) to your selected note. You should find this exercise a little more difficult than before - it is great practice for you.
Music Theory 2