I really thought I was doing something!

Y ‘all want to hear a funny story? I am in my 50’s and I just started to play the bass guitar. I have had 4 bass lessons and the rest of what I know I got from some of the free bass lessons on YouTube and of course Josh. During these lessons the instructors would refer to notes and I would of course be lost unless he/she referred to tablature. I got tired of having to stop the video to search or wait for them to give me the fret number if the instructor said something “the root note is G#”. So I decided to stop being lazy and afraid to learn it so I gave it a try.

When I first took bass lessons I learned that if I go up the fret board then the notes past the whole notes are going to be sharps. If you are going down the fret board those same notes are going to be flats. When I started bass lessons two years ago I had also ordered from Amazon a set of stickers that label all the notes on a bass fret board from the open EADG to the last fret of the bass. I put the stickers on my bass guitar but it still looked confusing so I just went back to waiting on the tablature from the instructors.

So fast forward two years later and I was still doing the same thing. Just recently (like in the last two weeks of this post) I got tired of stopping the videos or waiting to be given the tabs for the notes. So looked at the bass that I practice with (that’s the one that I put the stickers on) broke it down in my mind to understand the fret board.

I started by saying to myself I am going to forget all the sharps and flats for now and only focus on the natural notes and identify certain patterns to use as a reference. I noted that frets 5, 7,9, 12, 17, 19 and 22 on my fret board all contained natural notes all the way across. For example fret 7 is BEAD on bass (to help me remember I call fret 7, BEAD7 because fret 7 spells the word “BEAD”. So when an instructors says the 7th fret and the note is “A” I know that the 7th fret spells BEAD so the “A” would be on the D string (or 2nd string) of the 7th fret. See it easy when you look at it that way

I also learned that notes B,C and E,F do not have sharps or flats notes between them it’s just BC and EF. keeping this in mind I Identified the areas on the fret board where BC and EF are together in a square on the fret board. This occurs on the bass fret board on frets 2 and 3, 7 and 8, 9 and 10, 14 and 15, and 19 and 20 on my bass.

Once I got this down I could use these natural notes and BC, EF patterns as references to identify the sharps and flats. Using this method I was able to identify every note on my bass fret board within 24 hrs. of figuring this out.

I thought this was a real revelation and I had discovered something that no one else had thought of because my bass teacher never mentioned this to me. So today (11/07/2019) I decided to see if this is an established method of learning the fret board or did I just get lucky and happen to figure it out on my own. I clicked on the first video in my search and after viewing the video had my answer. Man I had the name for the method and everything (I was going to name it after me). I was going to post videos of my discovery to help other beginners. I really thought that I had come up with something new!!!

This way of learning the fret board should be standard, how come nobody teaches this? It would cut down on a lot fear and ease the learning curve leaps and bounds. I thought I was a genius or had more musical intellect than I knew. Because of learning the fret board like this now when I hear instructors say things like “the circle of 4ths” now I can look at my bass have more of an understanding of what he’s talking about.


Isn’t it WAAAAAAY more fun and much more satisfying to work things out on your own, than to get it all spoon-fed by a teacher, whom you don’t listen to after he/she is droning on for more than half a minute about all those notes on the fretboard!?

Well done!

The only caveat I see is that at some point, probably when talking to other musicians/bass players, you might have to align your “system” with the commonly agreed-upon system, e.g., not everyone might agree with you (or, more importantly, understand you) what you refer to as the “second string”.

And, just out of curiosity, what IS the standard way of teaching the fretboard that you found in the video you mention??


Hello, in the video the instructor was pretty much saying the same thing I had discovered on my own. I thought I had come up with this cool and relatively easy way to learn the fret broad. So when I saw the video I thought ok what I discovered is not as original as I thought. I seems that everybody would be doing this though. Nobody told me to view the fret board this way. I could have learned this two years ago, Lol.

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@hogank Welcome back to the forum. It’s been a while since you posted.

I’m not sure I’m following. I get that you figured it out on your own and I get that this method isn’t real obvious from YouTube and other resources, but this is pretty close to what Josh teaches. Open stings notes, notes at frets 3-5-7, and using octaves. He also goes over BC, EF, and the relationship between sharps and flats. Are you saying his explanations didn’t work for you?


No, I am not saying that, I just never saw that Josh’s video on the subject. I looked at the entire fret on my bass and Identified the repeat BC, and EFs patterns and all the frets that have only whole notes and used those as reference points to apply the “up down sharp and flats rule”. It feel if I can do it and learn the entire fret board in a day then anybody can, lol.


That is news to me! Do you mean that not all bass players view it G string as the 1st string, D string 2nd, A string 3rd, E 4th string. Some bass player view it the other way around?


Hm, yes, I would! But, I guess, to avoid exactly that kind of confusion, we (the collective of bass players) usually refer to them as the E, A, D and G string, respectively (to be expanded with, typically, a B sting below and a C string above on a 5-string or a 6-string). I think they are called that even when they are tuned to another pitch, as in “I tuned the E-string to D”…


I love this.
You’re describing the way I teach the fretboard - but the BEAD7 thing is awesome!! What a great way to remember those.
I’m going to borrow that for sure.

My instruction goes this way:
1st: half steps and whole steps - it’s how we measure distance.
2nd: The musical alphabet: A-G,A-G to infinity.
3rd: The distance between those notes.
4th: Student maps out their fretboard using above info.

I don’t know how the rest of the world does it.


Hello and thank you! I don’t know either but after I realized this I was like “why didn’t my bass teacher tell me this and how come everybody isn’t learning the fret board this way”? At first student may still have to think about it but after a while they won’t even need the reference points.


Very cool observation, @hogank . . . :slight_smile:

Would you believe it? All this time, and I never really noticed that. (I’d only been using those fret markers to remember where certain notes were and didn’t think very much more about them).

So yes, you were “doing something”, and I’m looking at those markers in a whole new way now. . . . :wink:

Cheers, Joe


That’s how I first learned my fret board, by memorizing where all the Cs and Fs are located. From there, it’s pretty easy to navigate to other notes. Also knowing that the notes on each fret are ordered the same helps: C,F, Bb, Eb,Ab,Db,Gb, B,E,A,D,G. So, if you are on a C, you know the next note up on the fret is F, and the next note down on the fret is G. The neighboring notes are B and C#
If you can remember CFBEADG, you’ve got it made.


Very good, @PamPurrs . . . :+1:

Yet another thing I never really noticed before! . . . It’s interesting how each of us learn or discover things in different ways, and I’m often amazed at how something can be right under my nose without my fully realizing it.

It’s a scream, isn’t it? . . . :slight_smile:


@Jazzbass19 another interesting tidbit…

Every time you go up a string on the same fret, it’s the equal to 5 frets (Half tones). So, if you want to do a major 3rd from C to E (4 half tones), you go up one string (+5) and down one string (-1) and you land on the E. If you want to do a perfect 5th from C to G (7 half tones), you go up a string (+5) and up 2 frets (+2), and there you are on the G.
I love playing around with mathematical stuff, and somehow figured this out.


Thank you kindly sir!!!


This post has inspired me to work on a new note exercise. Create a 3x3 grid and put a whole note in the middle. Then fill in the other whole notes within that 3x3. Do that enough with all the notes and boom you can dipsy-doodle all over the fret board in C at least. Haha. Obviously it has some much larger implications too though.


“natural” note, not whole note, if you mean notes with no sharps/flats. Whole note is a rhythmic duration. /basspoliceout :stuck_out_tongue: :police_car:


Yeah…that’s what I meant. Smh. My bad. Natural is indeed what I meant. Terminology got all mixed in my head at that moment.

I appreciate the police keeping me in line and not letting others stray due to my stupidity! :rofl:


@ChrisThomason You’re lucky you got busted by “good” bass cop, Josh and not “bad” bass cop, Bassbot. If Bassbot would’ve busted you, you’d still be in the interrogation room.


Thanks Josh, I realized sometime afterwards I was call them "whole notes’’ instead on natural notes. I guess I should edit my comments to not confuse others who may just learning theory like me.


Same here! I noticed sometime later after other people were commenting on what I posted that I screwed up the terminology for “natural notes” by calling them “whole notes”. I thought wait a minute whole notes are notes that