How to Fret Notes on the Guitar - Video Guitar Lessons | StrumSchool
Lesson Summary: Fretting Notes
Here's a review of what was covered in this video lesson. Feel free to print this page out so you have something to review while you practice.
Press a string down until it is firmly pressed against the frets. As a reminder, the frets are the little metal bars laid into the fretboard, which is the thin piece of wood glued across the top of the neck.
How to Fret a Note
Place your left hand in the proper position on the neck.
Place the tip of your finger onto one of the frets.
Slide the finger back so it is placed slightly behind the fret.
Press your finger down until it rests firmly against the fret.
Tips for Fretting Notes
Don't Press Too Hard: You don't need to make the string you are pressing touch the fretboard. If you press too hard, your hand will get tired very quickly.
When to Press Harder: If the string you are fretting makes a "buzz" sound or no sound at all, you need to press a little harder.
Keep your Fingers Close to the Fretboard: If you can keep your fingers hovering over the fretboard, you will have an easier time pressing the right fret at the right time.
The Spider Exercise:
Using your right hand, either pluck the first string with a pick using all down strokes, or play using fingerstyle and use rest strokes with your 1st finger.
Align your hand so that each finger can easily touch a fret in sequential order (similar to the exercise in lesson 24).
Fret and pluck one note at a time, in order; starting with your first finger and ending with your pinky while trying to get an even and consistent tone from each note.
When you fret a note with your pinky finger move your first finger to the next string up and repeat the same motion.
When you reach the top (6th) string, work your way back down the strings until you reach the fret that you started on.
FAQs: Fretting Notes
This is where we answer your questions so that everyone can read them. If you have a question, enter it into the Ask a Question box and we'll do our best to answer it.
Do I need to trim my long fingernails?
Yes, you should keep the nails on your left hand fingers relatively short (under 3mm). When you press a string you don’t want to scratch your fretboard or have your fingernail interfere with your ability to press the string against the frets. As long as your can press the tip of your finger against the string and so it hits the fret with out your nail scratching the fretboard, you should be ok.
How can I play guitar with correct form while still being able to see my fingertips?
Playing without seeing your fingertips all the time can actually be a good thing. The best way to learn how to do this is called position playing. This is when you play a note with your first finger and then, while keeping that finger on the original fret, you play the next note with a rest of your riff with your other fingers without looking. Position playing will help you get used to playing without constantly looking at the neck of the guitar. That said, it's ok to look at your fingers every so often.
Resources: Fretting Notes
This is where you can find the resources that we mention in our videos. Check here to find important tools, articles and websites related to the video lessons.
We've talked about right hand technique, we talked about left hand technique. Now we are going to actually apply both hands to the instrument, and start playing some notes. To start out doing that, we got to talk about Fretting Notes. As you remember from the anatomy, the Frets are metal bars running up and down. Any time you take a string and you press it against the fret, you're fretting a note. I am going to take my number 1 finger, and I am going to go to number 1 string, the E string. And I am going to count up to the 3rd fret... So, 1st fret, 2nd fret, 3rd fret. And I am going to fret this note.
Here is how we do it. Start out by pushing the string directly on to the fret, and then slide back slightly, until you are right behind the fret. That is where you want to be ideally. You don't want to be in the middle of the fret, and you certainly don't want to be as far from it as you can. You want to be as close as you want. Or as you can. I am going to take that string, and I am going to push it until it touches the fret. Securely. But that's about it. If you go beyond that, like if you're pressing the string onto the wood, that's kind of going a little bit too far. You don't need to press that hard, you're just going to tire your fingers out. And if you don't press hard enough, the notes not going to sound right.
So, let's listen to what this fretted note sounds like. 3rd fret, I push down [Plucks the 1st string at 3rd Fret]. Rings kind of fine. This is what it sounds if it's not fretted hard enough [Plucks the string few times]. Or maybe [Plucks the string few times], no sound at all. So, you have to press a little bit tighter, and remember think about sort of hanging by the cliff, that is where you're going to have a lot of energy in your finger, by really flexing that tip joint on the fretting finger. Of course, if you look down, and your finger is kind of white from pressing as hard as you possibly can, you might be pressing a little bit too much. Lighten up the touch a little there.
Initially your fingers will want to kind of fly away, or they might want to tuck under the Fretboard, or something like that. Those are habits that you want to avoid. You want to try to keep them close to the strings, in the playing position. Fingers curved, hovering over the strings. Again, these are all things that you will practice, and develop. They're going to be difficult at first, but, you'll get the hang of it.
In the previous lesson, we ended with this exercise, where you were touching the strings, and kind of bouncing on them, like trampoline. And then, moving on to the next. What we are actually going to do here now, is involve the right hand, and play those notes. And that is the exercise some people would call the Spider Exercise. Just to review quickly… If you're playing with the pick, you just want to pluck the string with down strokes. [Plucks the string with the pick]. Little arcs. If you are playing Fingerstyle, just use your index finger for now, just one finger, and try the Rest Stroke [Plucks the string with the index finger], where you're going to come to rest on the string above it.
Here is the Spider Exercise: Each finger plays a different fret, one after other. You can do it anywhere on the Guitar. It is little bit harder down here at the 1st fret, because the Frets are so far apart, and some guitars are really high action up towards the 12th fret, so could be high up there. Could be tricky. Let's start around the 5th fret, maybe the 3rd fret. I am going to do the 3rd fret. My 1st finger is going to be on the 1st string, 3rd fret. I will fret that note [Plucks once], and pluck the string. The next finger plays the next fret. And again, I am going to try to get right behind the fret [Plucks once]. Here we go. Then the next finger [Plucks once]. And finally the pinkie. [Plucks once]. You want to shoot for clarity of sound, and that nice, relaxed touch, if you can. Don't worry about going fast or anything like that. [Plucks same string, different Frets]. At first your notes might come out sounding a little broken, kind of like [Demonstrates broken sound of the notes]. That is ok for now.
Developing that smooth sound is all about coordinating the hands, so that the second a new finger comes down, the right hand plucks it, and that is the skill that just takes time to develop. The way the exercise works is you want to do that on each string. [Plucks string by string, fret by fret]. I am going fast just to demonstrate, but you should probably think about this speed to start out with. [Plucks them in the slower manner]. No faster. [Plucks them in the slower manner].
In the beginning, you should probably just go one finger after the next, letting the other fingers hover above the strings. Also in the beginning, when you start to get to these thicker strings, the pinkie is going to be really difficult. So you might have to start leaving that out. You can almost hurt yourself, you have to be careful here. If you get to these thick strings, and you feel like you are pressing as hard as you can, that is probably not worth, and you can add that in later. For example, maybe on the thick strings, you might get your 1st note. You may get the next note, and with your 3rd note you've got trouble. Maybe the 4th one is not going to happen. It's all right. Leave it out for now. So when I get to the 6th string, I am going to start coming back the opposite direction, [Plucks back in the opposite direction]. So on and so forth. Again, not about the speed. I am just demonstrating. Go nice and slow, and for good tone try to keep the fingers under control.
One last detail that you can think about is, in the beginning you're going to go one finger, then the next. Once you get used to it, what you can do is, try adding the fingers on, and keeping the old ones in place. When you get to the pinkie, that is when you need to move in the index finger onto the next string to prepare it, and then repeat. I would be going finger 1, 2, 3, 4… 1, 2, 3, 4. That is the spider exercise. It is the time tested exercise to coordinate both your right and left hand for playing with one another, and to develop strength in your left hand, and just familiarity with plucking strings. So, enjoy, but take your time practicing this one.