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Fretboard dots: what are they for?

"Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along." - Paramahansa Yogananda

It's a pretty common sight to see the fretboard, but how about those elusive dots in it?

They are some kind of marking, but what could it be?

In this lesson, I'm going to show you why those dots exist and the benefits you can take advantage of if you learn to use them.


Some guitars do not have those dots...or do they?

Well, all guitars have them, though some don't show them on the fretboard itself, rather on the side.

Those dots are called Fret Markers, and they are there to serve as a reference to find the intended frets faster and easier while playing. If you did not have any sort of reference, you can tell easily that all frets are pretty much the same, so it would be very hard to "jump" to a distant fret if you cannot tell which one it is that you have to land on.

The standard frets that are referenced with dots are:

The fret marker on the 12th fret is usually marked differently than the rest. Why is that?

Remember that there are 12 notes in total, counting the natural notes and the sharps/flats? Well, that means that for any fret, if you go 12 frets above it, you'll end up in the same note, an octave higher. That being said, the 12th fret then has the same notes as the open strings.

Depending on the total number of frets the fretboard has, you'll sometimes see more or less markers. Some electric guitars have up to 24 frets, and for that 24th fret, the marker is usually the same as the one on the 12th fret, for the same reason.

As you gain experience with the guitar, you'll learn to use the markers by heart. If you are learning a new song, it's easier to find the adequate fret: if it's one of the marked frets, then just jump to it, but if it's not, you can easily tell by knowing the distance (if you need to find the 10th fret, just jump to the fret above the 9th marker).

When I first started to play with my first guitar, a borrowed acoustic from a neighbour, I used tape and small pieces of paper that I stuck to the fretboard to make the markers, since most acoustic guitars only have the dots on the side and I found it easier to see the markers on the fretboard rather than on the side. This is true when playing while sitting down.

Sitting down y ou can see the fretboard very clearly.

If you are standing up, you'll find that because the fretboard stays parallel to your body, it will be easier to see the markers on the side, unless you bend a little bit over the fretboard, which is fine as long as you do not hunch.

While standing up, you get a much limited vision of the top of the fretboard.

Additionally, you can always use the 3x3 Box Technique to find intervals, which is very easy to visualize within the 3-5-7-9 region (as well as the 15-17-19-21 area), because the markers are separated the exact same distance.

That's it for this lesson!

As you gain experience you'll find out that you use the markers almost subconsciously.

Good luck!

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