Learn Your Bass Fretboard Notes (Easy Starter Method)

Learning your bass fretboard notes doesn’t have to be overwhelming. :exploding_head:

If you’re doing the Beginner to Badass course, this lesson would fit nicely during Module 6 (although you’ll already know the musical alphabet from back in Module 3).

Notes on the Piano Keyboard

The best way to visualize the musical alphabet is on the piano keyboard.
  • The white keys are named with the letters ABCDEFG (and then back to A, in a continuous loop).
  • As you go to higher sounding notes, you go forwards in the alphabet
  • If you’re going to lower sounding notes, you reverse the alphabet (AGFEDCBA)
  • Black keys are named with sharps (#) and flats (b)
  • Sharps raise notes, flats lower them

The Natural Notes on the First Four Frets

  • In standard tuning, your open strings are EADG (Eat And Drink Grapes :grapes: )
  • There are three natural notes (no sharp or flat in the name) on each string in our “money zone” of the first four frets
  • Memorizing these is a great starting point to be able to find any note someone calls out to you

All The Money Notes on the Bass Fretboard

  • Moving a fret = moving one piano key
  • You can find any money note by starting on a natural you have memorized, and then moving one fret

For those who already know their fretboards, what method did you use to learn it?


Feeling lucky that you’re putting these videos out right as I’m taking your course, Josh! The videos really stand out on YouTube btw, I like the orange color scheme that makes them pop. And the font that draws you to read it along the right column of next video choices.

I just started learning the notes by sticking my clip on tuner, then playing each note, and realizing what was happening as I went up the frets. And just seeing the patterns happen, like the 5th fret repeat thing you mentioned.

It feels great to have real progress - I realized playing bass is a skill that improves pretty quickly - I can play the fast version of the bassline now from last week’s video that I thought was impossible just a few days ago! Although I got my a$$ kicked with Billie Jean this week, just like many others, lol.

It’s a neat journey of getting glimpses of bad-ass-hood, followed by some real ego checks :slight_smile:


Well spoken, @Vik . . . :smile: . . . I know what you mean.

Every time I start to think I’m getting ahead . . . my ego gets checked real hard!

Keep at it, and good luck with Billie Jean :slight_smile:


Great video as usual, @JoshFossgreen . . . if my math professors taught me in the same relaxed style that you use here on Bassbuzz and on the Tube, I would have gotten an “A” in calculus! . . . :wink:

Anyway, years ago, I just used brute force to memorize the four strings and the first five frets. First thing I learned was any note on the fifth fret matched the open string “below” it (towards the floor). I had my terminology backwards, etc. . . . lol . . :blush:

It’s so great to finally get good lessons, and a MUCH more thorough grounding in my musical endeavors. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

All best and thumbs up, Joe


I learned it thanks to elementary school music teachers, and Paul Simon chord books my dad had.

An elementary teacher showed me how the piano and the fretboard lined up, so that I could accompany some of the class music on my bass. It was a real breakthrough.

Then - the Paul Simon songbook! Seeing the chord shapes on guitar, and having to translate that into a root note for my bass helped cement where C, D, G, F… (basically everything up to the 5th fret on my bass) - were. More on guitar than on bass… but - luckily - they’re the same dang thing.


Got a spare 5 minutes but no instrument in sight?



Like @Vik I purchased a small clip-on tuner so I could be reminded of the notes when I wanted to see where I was at. Also, I am at the same spot in the course, which means I was ALSO getting MY ass-kicked by Billie Jean, LOL!
Oddly, it was aaaalllllmmost easier than the 4-string crossing riff in the Lesson before; I think maybe because the other one forces you to use all 4 strings where this was just 2 strings and 2 frets. Though I am nowhere near playing it to the normal speed yet!

And thanks to @Korrigan, I downloaded that app and will play around with it as well! :slight_smile:


That’s great @Vik! Recognizing fretboard patterns is so much fun. :slight_smile:

Funnily enough I feel the same way, have a great gig or practice session, feel great, and then listen to Coltrane play Giant Steps and think “okay, back to work…”


Ha, that’s cool! Never heard of someone learning bass notes that way. When in doubt, go to Graceland.

@Korrigan thanks for the share, there’s a tool like that at MusicTheory.net too -
Fretboard Note Identification (switch to bass mode in the top right)


If this is not already a bumper sticker, you’re a genius, and you’ve just made your first million…


Hi everyone. Noob here. Loved the video, just curios, if the guitarist is playing a minor chord such as a Dm would I just play a D or does something funky happen?

Appreciate the information.


@Prestrock - Yes, if guitar, keys, anyone is playing to a chord, FIND THAT ROOT NOTE!
Dm = D is the root note.
As long as you’re on that, you’re doing 99% of the job of the bass player.

If you want to embellish and make it fancier, and make the bassline groovier/jazzier/funkier/etc-ier … then there’s lots more info to start adding. But it all adds onto the solid, sturdy foundation of FINDING THE RIGHT ROOT NOTE.

Happy playing!


Haha, if we’re in the Forrest Gump universe where everything I say becomes a million dollar catchphrase, then yes. :slight_smile: “It happens…”

@Prestrock, +1 to everything Gio said!