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Memorize the fretboard using the Circle of Fifths.....
by drolfs on 2010-02-25 19:04:02

One of the hardest task I found as a new guitar player (I'm 57 and began learning the guitar 4 years ago) was learning the fretboard; especially the notes across the fretboard.  I used commercially  produced flash cards that I reviewed on a daily basis for about 2 years (yeh...I'm a dentist, so I'm a slow learner....) and they worked well for me.  Robert Luther Dietz has an excellent text on the BEAD System, which uses the circle of fifths (no, I don't know him and he didn't pay me for recommending his text); but I would like to add a small enhancement to his system.

Spend some time looking up the Circle of Fifths on the's all over the place and explained very well.  Take a few minutes and memorize the sequence of the Circle of 5th's.......BEAD GCF Bb Eb Ab Db F#(Gb).......all that you are really memorizing is BEAD GCF....just repeat it with flats.  I get hung up at the bottom of circle with that F# (Gb) thing (enharmonics)....but you'll figure that out in your head after awhile.


If you have memorized the strings from top the bottom (EADGBE), you can now start reading across the fretboard starting at the low E (6th) string.

This is the sequence you follow to read across the fretboard:

1) Find your 6th string note on the Circle of 5th's (let's use open E)

2) Read counter-clockwise around the Circle of 5th's for 4 spaces ( that is,   EADG).  These are strings 6,5,4,3

3) Now, find the note that is one space clockwise from your starting 6th string note (in this case it is B).  This is string 2.

4) Of course, your 1 string is the same as your 6 string.

This sounds difficult, but if you memorize the BEAD GCF BbEbAbDb  thing, you can quickly figure out any note on the fretboard if you know the 6th string.  This is the formula:

4 notes counter-clockwise, 1 note clockwise, followed by the beginning note on the six string.

Try it out......go to the G fret (3rd fret on the 6th string).  4 notes counter-clock wise is GCFBb, 1 note clockwise is D, add the starting note G.

You have GCFBbDG

(Why does this work? Counter-clock wise on the Circle of 5th's the notes are spaced by 4th's, notes on the Circle of 5th's that are 5 spaces apart clock-wise are 3rd's...hummmm.....3rd's and 4th's.......sound familiar).

Beat this into your head.....the light will come on!

Re: Memorize the fretboard using the Circle of Fifths.....
by kshri on 2010-04-26 18:05:12

The Circle of fifths is an important THEORY concept.

Now, you've confused yourself and you think that BEAD GCF or it's flattened flavour is the circle of fifths.  This is just ONE pattern of the circle of fifths, starting on some form of B major or minor.

What is the point of this if you don't know music theory?

I think one of the best ways to learn the fretboard is to learn it through octaves. Start on the low E and play all the octaves above it that you can possibly think of, and say the note name out loud everytime you find a new octave.

This system is bound to confuse beginners who want to learn how to memorize the fretboard and probably off-putting for most amateurs. This circle is also confusing for most people. This is a complex circle that also shows the relative minor keys of all the major keys as well as enharmonic equivalents. To understand your concept you only need to read the outer circle. If I didn't understand music I would be so intimidated by this circle and I think a lot of people here probably are, which is why nobody responded to your post...

Re: Memorize the fretboard using the Circle of Fifths.....
by sunkiss619 on 2013-03-17 18:43:12

....long ago I studied the Co5 (baroque and a myriad of other useless tidbits) but decided it was taking away too much time playing what I wanted to play that had me picking up the guitar in the first place. Math is indeed  fundamental to all arts, but I'm in this for the art form. I feel my guitar more than anything...

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