How To Learn Bass Guitar Notes
- Learn the names of the open strings – E A D G
- Understand the 12 notes in the musical alphabet
- Use 2 simple tricks to quickly find any bass guitar notes
- Expand your bass playing all over the fretboard neck
Hi – This is Tom Boyd and in today’s lesson we’re going to be looking at learning the names of the notes on the bass guitar fretboard.
It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it. It’s just a case of memorizing a few things and then putting them together to understand how the fretboard is laid out.
I’m also going to show you a quick and easy way to find any of the notes on a bass guitar fretboard.
Where To Begin With Learning The Bass Guitar Notes
So the first thing you need to learn step 1: Is to learn the names of the bass guitar string notes (open strings). It’s just four letters to learn and it’s just a case of memorizing them.
They go in order from the thickest to thinnest. E is the thickest the next thickest is A and then
D, the thinnest string on a four string bass guitar is G. So E, A, D and G.
Now you can use a phrase to memorize that for example some people use the phrase Every Adult Dog Growls. If you take the first letter of each of those words it gives you the the names of the open strings.
Understanding the Musical Alphabet
Okay so now we have looked at the names of the open strings we now need to look at learning the bass guitar neck notes. We do this by learning the musical alphabet. Each time you move up a fret on the bass you’re just moving along to the next note in the musical alphabet.
The easiest string to learn this on is the A string. The A string is the start of the musical alphabet (just like the regular alphabet).
So we have the notes A through to G. In between some of them are sharps and flats.
The first note in the musical alphabet is A, which we can play on the open string A string, the second thickest string. The next note is then A# which will be the first fret. But that’s also called a Bb.
Note: The “#” in music means “sharp” and the small “b” means “flat”.
When you have these notes that are between there either the previous note sharpened or the
next letter along flattened, if that makes sense.
So if you go open A string and the second fret on the A string is a B, the fret between that (fret 1)
is an A# or Bb.
So it goes A, A# or Bb, B and then there is no B# it goes straight to C (which is third fret of the A string).
Then we go to C# which is also Db, Then we go to D. Then we go to D# (or Eb) and then we go to E, 7th fret of the A string.
There is no E#, so we go straight to F. Then we have F# (or Gb). We then go from F# to G. Then we go from G# (or Ab) then when we get to the 12 fret, they are always the same note as the open string, so we go back to A.
So after G# we go back to A again and if you carry on going up the fretboard, it just repeats all over again. A# on the 13th fret, B on the 14th fret and so on.
Musical Alphabet Recap
Okay, so now that you understand that and it’s going to take a bit of practice to learn.
Basically you have the notes A to G and between those are sharps and flats
except B, which goes straight to C and also E doesn’t have a sharp. It goes from E to F. So that’s the musical alphabet.
Note: It also works the other direction, so if you go down the fretboard you go backwards through the musical alphabet.
Don’t let sharps and flats confuse you. Just think that they are either the previous letter sharp or next letter flat.
For example if we take the C note, the next note is then C sharp (C#) or D flat (Db).
A good way to learn the musical alphabet is to play along one of the bass strings. Say the names of the bass guitar notes and you move along one fret at a time.
Tricks and Shortcuts to Find All Versions of a Bass Guitar Note
Okay so now we know the open strings and how to move along the musical alphabet. We can now use some shortcuts and tricks to find all version of a certain note on the bass guitar fretboard.
So for example if you wanted to find all of the “A notes” on the fretboard, first find it on the E string. So start at the open E string and move along the frets until you find the A note.
Next we can use something called the octave shape. Which is an important pattern to learn for bass playing. The “oct” in the word octave means 8. Just like the words octopus (which has 8 legs) or the shape an octagon (which has 8 sides). The octave in the 8th note of the major scale.
The quick pattern to find the octave is go up two frets and down two strings. You can use this pattern anywhere on the neck and it works on the E and the A string.
So we now know where two version of any bass guitar notes are on the fretboard.
To find the other versions of the same note, we can use a simple trick of taking the note on the E string and going down one string and back five frets. This will give us the same note on the A string. From there we can then use the octave shape again to find that note on the G string.
Note: If you run out of frets when going “back 5” on the A string, you loop round to the 12th fret of the A string and carry on counting from there.
How You Can Use Your New Knowledge
So now with everything you have learnt in this bass guitar notes lesson, you now understand how the bass fretboard works. You can find any note you need and then using the octave pattern and the down a string and back five frets rule you can quickly find all versions of the note on the neck.
This now gives you the skills to move any bass guitar scales, riffs or patterns anywhere on the neck. It also means that you are no longer stuck playing in just one area of the neck. You can now move your bass lines all over the fretboard!
Free Bass Guitar Notes Chart PDF
If you enjoyed this bass lesson, then be sure to download the free bass guitar notes chart and cheat sheet. It will give you a quick guide you can use to master everything you have learnt today.