If you’re learning to play the guitar, you’ll likely have realized that there have never been more learning resources available than the current digital age. You’ve got online videos, virtual courses, and all sorts of mobile apps that can help you work towards the next level.
I grew up in the ‘90s and therefore did not have access to these kinds of resources, but I used something that I think is even better – blank guitar fretboards. They’re easy to use, versatile, and best of all you can use them without an internet connection.
If you’ve never heard of blank guitar fretboards and would like to know what I am talking about, read on to find out more. I’ll be explaining exactly what they are, how to find them, and what you can use them for.
What is a Blank Guitar Fretboard?
When I first heard about blank guitar fretboards, I assumed that they were physical guitar fretboards that contain no frets or inlays. I couldn’t have been more wrong, they are completely different.
Blank guitar fretboards are essentially illustrated charts that represent a guitar fretboard. Usually, the chart will begin at the nut of the neck and will cover the first twelve frets (i.e. an octave). It is as simple as that – it’s just a twelve-by-six grid, illustrated to represent the distances between each fret across each guitar string.
The purpose of these charts is to aid in the practice of guitar playing. They are blank and therefore are to be filled in by the guitarist who is using them and can be used to represent all manner of different things.
Blank guitar fretboards can be found in various forms, including workbooks such as The Fretted Friends Guitar Fretboard Blanks Workbook and even attachable accessories such as the HONGECB Guitar Aids.
So, how exactly are these things useful? Let me provide a few examples of what I use blank guitar fretboards for.
The Main Uses of Blank Guitar Fretboards
As I already mentioned, the key to these charts is the fact that they are blank. Guitar students can fill in the grids either on their computer or with pen and paper as a way to help them remember information. These charts helped me immensely when I was learning the instrument, and I never would have imagined that I would still be using them over 20 years later, yet I am. Let’s investigate exactly how you can start to use blank guitar fretboards.
Memorizing the Notes on the Fretboard
I had already learned the placement of the 88 notes of a piano by the time I picked up my first guitar, so I was pretty intimidated when I realized that the instrument had six strings, each of which had 20 frets – that’s 40 additional notes! Not only was the number of notes higher than that of a piano, but the patterns in which they increase in pitch across several strings simply did not make sense to me.
I was visiting my local Guitar Center one day when I found a guitar practice book containing blank fretboard charts. I’ve never been able to find the specific book again in shops, but it was almost identical to the recently published King’s Music House Blank Guitar Fretboard 24 Fret Book. My dad commented that I could write the name of each note on each fret and use the chart to help me in the future. He bought me the book, and I quickly got to work on filling in the charts.
This helped me hugely, I had been struggling a lot with the notation system and it helped me get to the point where I could more or less name any note on a guitar. However, if you’re a seasoned guitarist, don’t get the idea that these charts aren’t going to be useful to you.
Have you ever tried out a new tuning and felt completely disorientated? Some guitar tunings are weird, and it can quickly become confusing to remember which strings you detuned and what notes belong at which frets. Don’t be ashamed to use blank fretboard charts to memorize the notations of an unusual tuning. If they helped me learn the notes of standard tuning, then they’ll help you learn the notes of Drop C and beyond.
A final thing that I want to mention is that you do not need to go beyond twelve frets. I was initially a bit disappointed that my blank fretboard charts only included the first twelve frets, and I started cutting and gluing charts together to make up for the 20 notes on my fretboard.
The reason that only twelve frets are shown is that this represents an octave. The notes that you have filled in will be the same if you move to the twelfth fret, except for the fact that you may be missing the final two notes. Even if you find a 20 note blank fretboard, don’t bother filling the whole thing out as it will just be a waste of valuable ink!
After a couple of weeks of staring at my filled-in fretboard charts, I could finally have my father point to any fret on any string and name him the note. It was a great feeling and my guitar teacher was impressed, so much so that he suggested it was a good time for me to begin learning scales.
This was a whole different kettle of fish. My teacher would list the notes in the A Major scale for example, and I could confidently move my fingers to the correct notes. However, the moment that I returned home to practice alone, I couldn’t remember the notes that built up the scale.
I explained this to my guitar teacher the next week, and he suggested that I begin to fill in the note patterns of scales that he taught me into new blank fretboard charts. It was a great idea, and not only did it help me finally learn the A Major scale, but also the A Minor and pentatonic.
However, I made a pretty silly mistake by filling in a fretboard chart for every different minor and major scale. If you already know these scales then you will understand why that was stupid – the finger pattern for each variation of a scale, whether it’s the A Major or C# Major, will always be the same. I had just wasted eleven blank fretboard charts when I only really needed to use one.
The best thing about this blank fretboard scale is the fact that they are almost infinitely useful. Sure, you might know all of the basic scales, but have you ever tried to learn the fifth mode of the melodic minor scale (otherwise known as Mixolydian b6)? No matter what level you are at as a guitarist, there is almost always another scale or mode that you will need to brush up on, and blank fretboard charts are there to help you.
It’s important to note that there are alternative forms of blank fretboards to print out books, such as the attachable accessories included in the HONGECB Guitar Aids pack. I must admit that these aren’t my cup of tea, I’ve always found that they can confuse a
After learning the notes and basic minor and major scales of the guitar, I was ready to move on to something new. I was aware that chords were made up of several different notes from a scale as I had learned this in my piano lessons, but I wasn’t confident enough to work the chords out for myself.
By the time I realized that I could use blank fretboard charts to help me memorize chords, I had already completed the book and had to purchase a new one. This time I went for Jirakit Somame’s 6 String Guitar Neck Diagram Notebook, an equally effective alternative to my original workbook! I decided that this would be my chord book, and I cannot explain how useful it was to me!
Using just the first few frets of each fretboard chart, you can represent any open chord by writing the names of the notes on the appropriate frets. It isn’t about memorizing the notes anymore, but memorizing which notes make up which chords.
This isn’t only useful for open chords though – blank fretboard charts are twelve frets long, so you can also log barre chords or any other type of chord. Doing this massively increased the speed at which I was able to learn new chords, but more importantly, the charts helped me recognize and understand the shape and structure of chords in relation to their scales.
The only problem with doing this is that you will end up using just a few frets of a blank fretboard chart to represent a single chord. However, I used to combat this by writing chord progressions (sequences of excellent chord combinations) in a single fretboard chart. Four chords were generally the limit, but I still use this technique today when I come up with a nice chord combination.
This may look a bit confusing as you will be writing open chords that begin on the fifth fret and beyond which is not technically correct. However, I find that if you simply make a note of what you are doing and indicate that all chords are to be played from the first frets, it should be pretty easy to understand.
How to Start Using Blank Guitar Fretboards
Now that you know how and why blank guitar fretboards are so useful, you’re probably ready to get started. Let’s take a look at where you can find these charts and how you can begin to use them.
You were probably chuckling away at how I purchased a book of blank fretboard charts, why didn’t I just download them online? Whilst the main reason for this was due to the fact that I didn’t have access to the internet at the time, I believe that hard-copy charts such as those found in King’s Music House’s Blank Guitar Fretboard Notebook are way more beneficial. You have everything together in a handy book, you don’t need a computer to access them, and they can be scanned and printed for additional copies!
You can also purchase digital charts online, meaning that you can write and edit your charts using a word processor or image editing software without requiring a pen. These can be useful if you find yourself studying on your laptop frequently, but make sure you print them out if you do!
The reason for this suggestion is that physically printed charts can be stuck on your bedroom wall, packed into your guitar case, and referenced whether you have access to your computer or not. You should have seen the state of my bedroom wall as a child, it was covered head to toe in just about every chord and scale that you could imagine.
I would highly recommend that you do the same thing – by pasting these charts all over the walls, you will be completely immersed in the material that you are trying to learn. You might not even realize it, but every moment you spend in your bedroom, you will slowly be absorbing the information on these charts. It really is an invaluable learning resource.
Choosing High-Quality Blank Guitar Fretboards
There is one last thing that you must consider before you purchase some blank guitar fretboards, and this is the quality and properties of the product. Whilst it may initially seem that every blank guitar fretboard booklet is the same, look a bit closer and you will notice some differences.
The first thing that you will need to consider is whether a booklet or attachable tool will work best for you. I have never been a fan of attachable tools such as the HONGECB Guitar Aids, much preferring my blank fretboards in book form. Attachments are just too fiddly for me! That’s just my opinion though and some people prefer more practical tools, so if you’re not much of a bookworm, physical aids might be more beneficial to you.
Next, you will need to consider the size of the product, both in terms of the page dimensions and page count. I have mainly chosen booklets that have a large number of pages, allowing me to store all of my scales or chords within a single booklet. It prevents you from having to buy multiple books, and it’s so satisfying to fill them all in.
The page size is equally important as you will need sufficient space to enter your notes, scales, and chords. I’ve used some frustratingly small blank fretboards within which I can barely fit my handwriting, and this is definitely a property to avoid.
Next, you should check how many frets are available in a blank fretboard guide. Imagine finding a fretboard booklet that you wish to use to jot down every guitar note, only to discover that it only includes the first 7 frets – nightmare! I would recommend choosing a booklet that has at least 12 frets, but the standard is 20 or even 24 frets.
Last but not least, make sure that you are getting your money’s worth. Some blank fretboard books are sold at prices of $20+, and I personally think this is simply too much. Sure, they might include high-quality blank fretboards, but so do many books within the $5 to $10 range. Unless it’s a hardback book with additional features, you should never have to spend more than $20 on an excellent blank fretboard guide.
Best Blank Fretboard Recommendations
The previous criteria that I listed for excellent blank fretboards will be massively useful when making a purchase, but I must say that it’s a lot of information. In order to help you narrow down your decisions, I’ve put together the following list of the best blank fretboard recommendations in my opinion!
- The included diagrams cover 24 Frets, allowing you to write in the notes for every note across both octaves of a standard guitar
- Large 8.5″ x 11″ booklet size, leaving plenty of space for notes in the margin
- Very affordable, costing just over five dollars
- Whilst it is fantastic that the book contains 118 pages, this will only be useful if you are learning scales and chords (as opposed to simply learning the notes on your guitar).
- These blank fretboards come in the form of attachable learning tools for your guitar, aiding in practical learning
- Fretboard tools are color-coded, allowing you to work visually during guitar practice whilst decorating your guitar fretboard
- Ideal for learners who do not work well with books
- Some people find these tools fiddly and confusing to use
- Attachable tools such as this can make a cool-looking guitar look rather unusual!
- 120 Pages, leaving plenty of space for all the scales and chords that you could ever wish to learn
- Aimed towards teachers as well as students
- Minimalistic design containing no unnecessary music theory or information
- Every page contains seven fretboards, and I find that this can feel a bit compressed and difficult to use.
- Includes only five fretboards per page, providing plenty of space for notes to be filled in
- Plenty of additional space in the margin to write notes if you wish
- 600 Total Fretboards for under $10
- Only includes 17 frets per chart, making this booklet unsuitable for those wanting to note down scales on the final five frets of a standard guitar.
Before you order a booklet and get started using blank fretboard charts, stick around for my breakdown of the four most frequently asked questions regarding the matter. Hopefully, they will help answer any remaining questions that you may have.
Question: What is a Blank Guitar Fretboard?
Answer: Blank guitar fretboards are charts that represent a fretboard, allowing you to fill them in with notes, scales, and chords to help during guitar practice.
Question: Are Blank Guitar Fretboards Free?
Answer: Whilst there are some free options when it comes to blank guitar fretboards online, these are often of a lower quality than the charts found in physical blank guitar fretboard notebooks.
Question: What are the Best Uses of Blank Guitar Fretboards?
Answer: The best and most common uses of blank guitar fretboards are to fill them with the notes of the guitar, new scales, or new chords that you are trying to learn.
Question: What is the Best Way to use Blank Guitar Fretboards?
Answer: The best way to use blank guitar fretboards is to scan and print your charts onto paper, fill them in, and always keep them in your guitar case for reference.
Overall, blank guitar fretboards are incredibly useful tools that I have found invaluable throughout my career as a guitarist. You can think of them as flashcards that are useful for learning a foreign language when the foreign language consists of notes, scales, and chords!
I believe that these charts can be useful for guitarists of any level. Just because you have already mastered most of the basic scales does not mean that there is nothing left to learn. Choose an unusual scale, or if you’re feeling particularly creative, make your own custom chords and chart them.
There is a huge range of blank fretboard booklets available both in physical and digital formats, but I would recommend that you go for something physical such as the King’s Music House’s Blank Guitar Fretboard Notebook. It’s just such a comforting feeling to have all of your scales, chords, and notes written into a physical booklet, and you can literally take it anywhere regardless of whether you have a computer.
So, what are you waiting for? Get online, order yourself a blank fretboard booklet, and start filling them in! Try to take ten minutes out of your regular practice to go through your charts, I guarantee that if you keep this up frequently, you’ll see massive improvements in the efficiency of your learning.