Tip: A Helpful Chart

If you’re more comfortable thinking with fret numbers than note names, the chart in this tip will help. Use it the next time you learn a tune’s chords from sheet music.

Here’s how to use the chart. You pick off two chords from the sheet music. Let’s say the chords are C major and A minor. Find the distance in frets between those two roots in the chart that follows. Then, you can write on your sheet music, in between the C major and A minor chords, the number of frets between the two chords.

By doing this, you don’t have to play C major and A minor. Instead of C, play any major chord, and follow it with a minor chord whose root is 9 frets up. Or, instead of going up 9 frets, you can go down 3 frets. The chart shows how to go up from one root to another; to go down to the next root, subtract from 12 the number you pulled from the chart. In our example, C goes 9 frets up to A, and 12 minus 9 equals 3 frets to go down to A.

Remember that going up or down a certain number of frets can mean traveling along a single string, but often involves moving from one string to another. For example, going from string 2, fret 5 down three frets can mean going to string 2, fret 2, or instead to string 3, fret 6. If this is mysterious to you, take the time to learn how intervals are laid out on the guitar.

Here’s the chart:

Distance Between Roots


Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2010 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – September 1, 2008 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.