Learning the notes on the neck of your guitar is a great way to elevate your playing. Knowing your way around the fretboard will help you take advantage of the full range of your instrument. And understanding the pattern of notes on the fretboard - the chromatic relationship between the notes at different string and fret intervals - is a key that unlocks a very practical form of music theory that provides an enormous boost to your abilities, whether you are improvising new riffs, composing songs of your own, or just learning new songs.
FATpick's fretboard chart is an in-app tool that's designed to help you master this skill:
Readily available - never more than three clicks away from any screen in the app, and directly linked from the tab player (game play) screen for an instant view of fret board layout for the current instrument and tuning.
Infinitely flexible - create a custom visualization for any instrument, any number of strings, any tuning in just seconds.
Clearly labeled - and color coded - to make it easy to recognize intervals and patterns and to make the connect the "abstract" grid of frets and strings to your physical guitar.
Interactive - explore the fretboard both visually and sonically - click to pluck, drag to strum, and choose from 100+ instruments to "voice" the notes on the chart
It's handy as a reference tool - a quick way to check the note at a given string and fret for the current tuning. But it's also an amazing way to explore the pattern of notes across the fingerboard, whether you're experimenting with an exotic tuning or learning your way around the standard tuning for the first time.
Accessing the Fretboard Chart
There are two primary paths to opening the in-app fretboard chart:
Via the Tools menu: Click the toolbox button in the top-right section of the header navigation buttons found on every main screen the app (or use the keyboard shortcut by pressing
Ton your keyboard) to open the main Tools menu. Then select the "Fretboard" option - or press the
Fkey on your keyboard - to open the fretboard tool.
From the song player: During game play you can open the fretboard chart for the current instrument and tuning with a single click. Click on the link labelled "Fretboard" under the track description at the center-top of the tablature view.
When you open the fretboard chart from the quick-link on the tab player, the instrument (string and fret count), tuning and voice are determined by the track you are currently viewing in the tab player. When you switch to another track in the song, the link will open the fingerboard chart for that instrument and tuning instead.
When you open the fretboard chart from the Tools menu (even when opening the Tools menu from the main game play screen), you'll see the fretboard for the same tuning and instrument you last used viewed in the tool, and you'll be presented with some additional controls that you can use to view the fretboard for any instrument or tuning.
In all cases, you can dismiss the fretboard chart window by:
clicking on the main window, outside the dialog frame
or by hitting the "close" button in the dialog's header (in the quick-link, stand-alone case), or the "back" button (to return to the main Tools menu, in that case), or pressing the
ESCkey to invoke the equivalent keyboard shortcut
or by clicking the "Dismiss" button, when it appears
Understanding the Structure of Fretboard Chart
The in-app fretboard chart is an advanced, interactive variation of our online fretboard diagram generator. While the in-app tool adds features and capabilities not found in the online version, since the basic structure of the chart itself is similar, the web version is a useful visual guide.
The chart is a direct illustration of each note on the guitar neck.
The horizontal lines represent strings, with the thickest (lowest pitch) string - E2 in the regular 6-string guitar tuning - at the bottom of the chart and the thinnest (highest pitch) string - E4 in the standard tuning - at the top. Note that the horizontal (string) lines on the chart are slightly thicker at the bottom of the chart and slightly thinner at the top, as a visual cue to this arrangement.
The headstock of the guitar is on the left - the thick vertical line indicates the "nut" at the top of the guitar. The body of the guitar (not shown) would appear on the right side of the diagram.
The grid defined by the strings and frets on the neck of the guitar are indicated by the grid of colored, square boxes. Each box represents the position of a specific string at a specific fret.
- We commonly call these positions "frets", but really they are the gaps between the frets. The actual frets - the little raised bars on the neck of your guitar - are not directly represented on the chart, but if they were they would be vertical lines, parallel to the nut, and like they nut they would run in-between the grid of colored boxes.
The letter that appears in (most of) the boxes indicates the note that is generated by when you hold the string down at that fret and pluck. That is, to play the note indicated by the G on the third fret on the bottom-most string, we would press down on the string in the area between the second and third fret on the neck of the guitar (and pluck or strum them string with our other hand).
Note that some of the boxes are unlabeled by default, like the orange box on between G and A or the yellow box between A and B on each string. These are the sharps and flats - like the black keys on a piano. There are two names for each of these notes - the one between G and A is known as both G# (G-sharp) and Ab (A-flat) - so we leave the labels off of these boxes to keep the diagram from looking too cluttered. We find it's actually easier to read this way - the other context cues make the identity of these notes clear even without an explicit label.
Each box is also color-coded to indicate its note or chromatic value.
A different color is assigned to each note. The color is used every time that note appears. For example every fret/string position the generates a D is marked by both the letter D and light blue background.
The spectrum of colors used reflects the relationship between notes. That is, notes that are close together on the scale have similar colors.
This color-coding is a very effective tool for discovering patterns on the fretboard. For example you can easily see that in a standard guitar tuning moving 2 strings and 2 frets up - or 1 string down and 5 frets up - yields the same note by looking for the repeating color patterns.
Each fret is numbered (across the top), with
0indicating the "open" string - the note you play without pressing down on any fret.
Inlay symbols - the little dots or pips typically marked on (or on the side of) the guitar neck at frets 3, 5, 7 and so on - are listed at the bottom of the chart. They provide a useful visual landmark, especially when you're going back and forth between the chart and your actual guitar.
Note that in both the online and in-app versions of the fretboard diagram you can flip the guitar around so that the headstock is on the right and the body is on the left by toggling to "left handed mode".
Controlling the Fretboard Diagram
You can customize the fretboard diagram using various form controls found in the dialog.
You can create a fretboard diagram for an arbitrary tuning on an arbitrary instrument - any tuning for any number of strings.
To change the Tuning, simply enter a description of the tuning into the text field provided. The Refresh button can be used to trigger an update (force a new rendering of the diagram) but it's generally not necessary: pressing
ENTER or tabbing-away from the field will usually suffice.
Enter the tuning by specifying the pitch of each open string, from low to high. For example to generate the standard guitar tuning you could enter
E A D G B E.
To generate a fretboard for an instrument with a different number of strings, just enter a different number of notes. For example for a standard 5-string bass tuning, enter
B E A D G
# to indicate a sharp note or a
b to indicate a flat note. For example, enter
E A C# E A E to generate the fretboard for a 6-string guitar in the Open A tuning.
You can specify not just the note but the octave of a given string by appending an octave number to the end of the note. (This is sometimes known as the "scientific notation".) For example, when octaves are included, the standard six-string guitar tuning is written
E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4. It's not strictly necessary to specify the octaves when entering a tuning description - the fretboard tool is pretty good at inferring the right octave based on the tuning and string count - but the option is available if you need it.
(Incidentally you can also specify a tuning by entering MIDI note numbers as base-10 integers. For example, the standard guitar tuning in this format is
40,45,50,55,59,64. But why would you do that?)
The tuning parser is pretty forgiving - whatever you enter should "just work" most of the time (and when it doesn't the "normalized" form that the your tuning is converted to should make it clear how to enter the tuning you're trying to get to). You can get away with just
eadgbe for example, and the parser is pretty good at disambiguating when you mean
b to indicate a flat note and when you mean
b to indicate the note B. But you can help the parser along by following these basic conventions:
Use capital letters - especially a capital
B- to indicate the note name, and a lower case
bto indicate a flat note (or
#to indicate a sharp)
Use a space or a comma (
,) to separate the pitch of each string. For example, while something like
eadgbewill usually work, entering
e a d g b ehelps the parser figure out whether you mean one string with a flat note -
Gb- or two strings
When necessary, append the octave number to the note name (with no space in between). For example,
The last tuning used in the fretboard diagram is "sticky". The fretboard will default to that tuning (when opened from the Tools menu) until the chart is reset or the tuning is changed.
The behavior of the Reset button changes slightly based on how the fretboard viewer was opened.
When opened directly from the tab player (game play view), the reset button will revert the tuning and instrument (voice) for the fretboard chart to that of the track you were last playing in the tab viewer.
When opened via the Tools menu the reset button will revert to the standard six-string guitar tuning (EADGBe) and the default guitar voice (currently "Electric Guitar - Clean").
Clicking this button (in the lower-left corner of the dialog) will toggle the fretboard chart between the default "right-handed mode" (headstock on the left, guitar body on the right) and the alternative "left-handed mode" (headstock on the right, body on the left).
This setting is "sticky". Once you enabled left-handed mode the fretboard diagram will continue to display in left-handed mode - even after you close the view - or the entire app - and reopen it later - unless or until you toggle it back.
Playing the Fretboard
Clicking on any of the "fret boxes" - the colored squares that form the string/fret grid in the diagram - will play the corresponding note (key and octave) using the currently selected instrument.
You can also "strum" as opposed to "pick" the notes on the fretboard by holding down the mouse button and dragging the cursor across the fret boxes.
Incidentally there is a subtle difference in the sound generated by plucking versus strumming for most instruments.
You can change the virtual instrument that is used to generate the sound of the fretboard by selecting an instrument from the "Voice" drop-down menu.
There are over 100 different voices to choose from - the same instrument collection that is used to voice individual tracks in the song player.
When you open the fretboard chart directly from the game play screen, the voice will default to the instrument used for the currently selected track. (But can still be changed using the drop-down if desired.)
When you open the fretboard chart via the Tools menu, the default instrument is selected based on the specific tuning you have entered - e.g. a four-string tuning will default to a bass guitar sound, a six-string turning to an electric guitar.
Once you have selected an alternative instrument to voice the fretboard however, that selection is "sticky". Your previously selected voice will be used by default the next time you open the fretboard diagram.