How to Find Notes on the Bass Guitar Neck - dummies

By Patrick Pfeiffer

After you understand the four types of musical notation, the next step to playing the bass guitar is to find out where the notes are located on the bass neck.


It’s also good to know what these notes look like on paper.


Finding notes over the entire bass range can be challenging (but not impossible), because each note occurs in at least two places on the neck of the bass. Knowing where the alternative notes are located allows you to play easily and efficiently anywhere on the fingerboard. You can use one of the three following methods to help you find the notes you want on any part of the neck:

  • The octave method

  • The handspan-plus-two-frets method

  • The marker method

The octave method, also called the two-strings/two-frets method is the most common way to find the same note in a different place. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place your left-hand index finger on any note on the E string and strike it with your right hand.

    You can find the same note an octave higher by letting your ring finger cross one string and land on the D string, the second string up. The ring finger naturally positions itself on the higher octave of the original note, two frets above the index finger.

  2. Press your left-hand ring finger down for the octave.

    Your octave note is two strings and two frets above your original note. This method also works from the A string to the G string, and you can use your middle finger and your pinkie. If you have a note on the G or D string and you want to find its lower octave, just reverse the process.


While the octave method helps you locate a note two strings away, the handspan-plus-two-frets method helps you locate a note on the adjacent string. Follow these steps:

  1. Press down a note on the A string with your left-hand index finger, and strike it with your right hand.

  2. Shift your left hand two frets toward the bridge, and move your pinkie from the A string to the E string.

  3. Press your pinkie down on the E string in the new position and play that note.

You now have the same note in the same octave as your original note on the A string. This process also works in reverse. You also can use this method when going from the D to the A string and from the G to the D string.


If you need to locate a note on the same string, use the marker method. With this method, you simply use the markers (dots) embedded on the side and face of your bass neck.

If you look at the neck, you can see one section — on the 12th fret — that has two dots in the space of one fret. This fret is your octave marker for your open strings. You can play the octaves for all the open strings (E, A, D, and G) at this fret.

For example, the octave of open E is directly at the double dot on the same string. If you want to play the octave of low F on the E string (the note on the 1st fret of the E string), you can find its octave one fret above the double dot (on the 13th fret).

If you want to play the octave of low G on the E string (the note at the first dot of the E string), you can find its octave at the first dot past the double dot (15th fret) of the E string. The marker method applies to all the other strings as well.

You can practice all these methods of finding notes by choosing a note at random, such as C, and then locating all the instances of that note on your bass neck. When you’re finished, move on to another note (A ♭ó, for example).

Repeat this exercise until you cover all 12 notes: C, C♯/D♭ó, D, D♯/E♭ó, E, F, F♯/G♭ó, G, G♯/A♭ó, A, A♯/B♭ó, and B. Note: A ♯ (“sharp”) raises a note by one half step, and a ♭ó (“flat”) lowers it by one half step.